We're all on the same team
Teaching beginner guitar lessons, a fairly common question is whether or not it's easier to just play bass. My response, and you gotta love when someone answers a question with a question, is always: 'is it easier to be the running back, or the linebacker, on a football team? Is it easier to be the guy with the ball, or to be the guy chasing the guy with the ball?'
In modern pop and rock music, it is typically easier to play even 8th notes on the root notes of a simple chord progression. Funk and reggae, on the other hand, has a great deal of syncopation and playing more than just the root note. Once barre chords are mastered, reggae is a pretty easy style of music to play on guitar. All in all, the best bands (at least ones I think are the best) incorporate many styles so that the players and the audience stay interested.
For some reason, there is a lot of denigrating the bass player in rock music circles, and I can't figure out for the life of me why.
1.) Bass is fun
Playing the bass is a completely different role than playing the guitar, like the aforementioned analogy of the running-back and linebacker. You're really the person with their foot on the gas pedal, or the brakes. If you play harder, the whole band feels that and comes up with you. Likewise when you start to play more quietly.
The bass is the melodic link between the drums and the rest of the group, and a well crafted bass-line can make a song. Just think of all those classic McCartney lines like in Oh-Blah-Di and I Want You (She's So Heavy), and what they'd sound like with a simple line playing even 8ths [disclaimer: in no way am I implying that simple is bad].
Jaco Pastorius did to the electric bass what Hendrix did to the guitar-- he completely changed the role of the instrument and what it does in the band. If you have a hard time stomaching Weather Report's rendition of 'Teen Town', try finding one of the bootlegs of Jaco playing it with Mike Stern, or Hiram Bullock's version. And since we're on the subject of great basslines, how can any musician listen to 'I Want You Back' by the Jackson 5 and not want to learn that bass figure; regardless of what instrument you play?
2.) It's important
The bass and drums are what makes people dance. I saw a band recently here in New York where there was not a bass player, and they sounded terrible. The non musicians there were unable to put their finger on what it was, but it was the lack of bass. It fills in the sound and makes you feel the music, and the lack of it just makes things sound unprofessional.
Given its importance for the sound of a band, and the huge number of people who play the guitar, bass players are always in high demand. Being a bassist will pretty much always guarantee you work, because every asshole sings and writes songs on guitar (see: Matt Groening 'Those who can’t do'). The only bassists I've ever known who only play in one band are the ones who are leading their own bands.
3.) They are your fretted brothers
Every knowledgeable musician knows how every aspect of music works. Every great singer I've ever known plays guitar or piano. Every great horn player I've ever known plays piano. If you play guitar and write songs, you should have a good understanding of what should be sitting underneath your songs so you can at least give the bass player something to work with.
So as a guitarist, with access to modern recording techniques (GarageBand is standard on the iPhone now), how do you not have a bass that you can at least experiment with? The 4 strings are 4 strings that are on the guitar already, and a Squier bass can run you as little as $150. That's $37.50 per string. You could pick up a few gigs as a bassist to cover that cost, if it's that much of an issue. And to learn songs from that perspective would be invaluable to the music that you try to create.
It's another tool you have in your arsenal to create. The notes are the same, just an octave lower. Maybe all the memes making fun of bassists are just the result of self conscious guitarists, intimidated by a musician who knows more than them who gets less of the spotlight.
If anything, why not make fun of horn players? What is this whole 'change the shape of your mouth and it's a different note' thing?
Adam Douglass has been playing guitar for 25 years and teaching for a good 20. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where he is an instructor; and plays with his band doing his original music, jazz standards, or whatever other gigs might come his way. His guitar of choice is the Fender Stratocaster, though if money were no object he'd have 3 or 4 of everything. He prefers tube screamer-like overdrives and clean boosts, with touch of analog delay. Hit him up at email@example.com, as he is always happy to discuss interesting topics.