A Real Alternative To A Five-String?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Misterwogan, Jan 24, 2013.


  1. Misterwogan

    Misterwogan

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
    I started a thread here last week asking: "Did anyone regret purchasing their fivers?".

    The response was overwhelmingly "No".

    Before I press then button on a five, I want to do a little trial. I do not want to buy a cheap bass to try out. If I buy a 5 it would have to sit alongside my other premium fours.

    Here's the plan. I take one of my four-string basses, say the Am Std P-Bass and tune the strings to B-E-A-D and see how I get on. This avoids me having to trial a cheap bass that be off-putting for other reasons and allows me to get used to the new patterns.

    I might even discover that I don't need a new bass, so long as I can live without the G-string.

    Has anyone else done this?
  2. tomnomnom91

    tomnomnom91

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2012
    I actually did this just the other day. Personally I think it's a great alternative and I'm glad I didn't buy another bass instead. It's all down to personal preference though, and how much you use the G. Plus, if you're tuning to BEAD it kinda has to be relatively permanent, because you need to get some heavy strings (I'm using 130, 105, 85, 65), which means filing out the nut grooves - if you want to switch back to lighter strings for standard tuning, you'd need another nut. Definitely worth it if you have multiple basses and are willing to have one permanently drop tuned, though.
  3. Misterwogan

    Misterwogan

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
    Ok, I've just done the deed. Any yes, you're absolutely right about he strings. The P has a 8250M set fitted, 45-110 and with the down-tuning the bass is unplayable, the looseness of the strings being far more severe than I was expecting.

    But I am really liking the C Major scale on the bottom string.

    So 130-65 does the trick?
  4. lowendfriend

    lowendfriend

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2008
    Location:
    Outer Cape Cod
    I have a 4 string beater I strung up BEAD.....works fine lasts a long time.

    I have 2 5 strings, a Warwick Corvette $$ 5 and a Lakland 55-01 fretless. I just recently (like 2 weeks ago) bought an American Standard Jazz bass 4 string to use in a blues setting. I see so many pro players using the Jazz and never owned a Fender so I popped that bubble finally. Love the bass. Learning to play a 4 string after essentially learning on a 5 string is a challenge.....Low fret keys drive me nuts. The Jazz neck is so playable that I'm hanging in there despite E/F key madness and open string exceptions.

    If I ever give up on the 4 string Jazz, it'll get recommissioned as BEAD.
  5. lowendfriend

    lowendfriend

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2008
    Location:
    Outer Cape Cod
    Yes....BTW, enjoy consistent fingering positions for every key starting on a B-string fret.
  6. adamafurious

    adamafurious

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2009
    Location:
    West Hollywood, CA
    I was just in this situation this past year. I played 35" active 5ers my whole life & after years of 3-hour shows, my neck, shoulder and back couldn't take the weight anymore.

    I BEADed a G&L SB-1. Worked great! Definitely felt strange at first and takes your brain a second, but well worth loosing that weight in scale-length, extra string, on-board preamp, etc.

    Plus, I never played anything super high on the G anyway, so those notes were covered by simply moving up the neck.

    I'd definitely say try BEAD first. You're only out a set of strings If you don't like it. Or get a 5-string set and keep the G. Then just use those on your new 5 ;)

    Also, if you BEAD, just make sure to check your neck as the string tension will be different.
  7. Misterwogan

    Misterwogan

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
    For Blues in the key of E. The root, 3rd, 5th and 6th patterns are a lot easier to do on a 4-string because of the open strings (the 5th and 6th are on the same string two frets apart).
  8. Solarmist

    Solarmist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    15 miles from Mt. Rainier
    You know you will have to file your nut to accept the larger diameter strings, and reset the intonation.

    Once you have enlarged the slots, and if you want to go back - you will need a new nut. Are you OK with that?

    I know you're a bit aprehennsive on getting a 5er, but you just might like it - you can do a 2 octave scale straight accross the fretboard, and it just feels so natural. If you want the lowest string to be a "C" just capo the first fret.
  9. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2005
    Location:
    west coast
    The 5th and 6th are always on the same string "two frets apart" on any bass, and in any key....maybe I'm missing something?
  10. Misterwogan

    Misterwogan

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
    Ok I'm really impressed. Despited the rattling strings, I've played through Foo Fighters - Learn to Fly, and the B, E and F# thing is divine.

    My hand size and finger length means that I can manage 34" scale length in 90% of situations, a real 35" fiver would probably reduce that percentage quite a bit, so I'm really hoping that this approach is workable. Am a bit concerned about the issue though.
  11. Misterwogan

    Misterwogan

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
    Sorry, what I meant was that if you play in position say in G - the 5th is on 3rd string 5th fret and the sixth is on 2nd string 2nd fret and also of course on 3rd string 7th fret - bit that takes you out of position.

    On a four string, playing in E. The 5th and 6th are on the 3rd string and enable you to stay in position.
  12. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2005
    Location:
    west coast
    I see, because you don't have to fret the open E you can keep your hand in the higher position.

    You know, with the right technique you should be able to play a major(or dominant)scale keeping your hand in the same position. It's easier the further you move up the neck which is an advantage to having a low B string...if you're playing in E you can grab your low E on the 5th fret and pretty much play any note in the scale without having to change positions.
  13. 2meterbassman

    2meterbassman

    Joined:
    May 18, 2012
    Location:
    Münster, Germany
    Interesting thoughts.

    Mmmmh, I used to play 4-stringers in the past.
    When I returned to the bass in the last year, I got myself a 5-stringer.
    I just wanted to have the option of the lower notes.

    But my style of playing changed with the 5th string:
    1. my thumb isn't resting on the neck pickup anymore, but now on the B-string. But the thumb isn't "wandering" to the next string when I play on the G-string for example.
    2. I used to play some former deep tunes at the 5th fret now, it makes me play faster and more comfortable.
    3. I used to play the B-string only with the thumb, not only for slapping but also for regular fingerstyle. I watched Sting's playing style and found it very comfortable and logic. I combined it with the few slapping fill-ins I sprinkle in my tunes.

    So - the low B-string was the perfect step for me.
  14. Catbuster

    Catbuster

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2010
    Location:
    Varied places around the world
    Drop C (CGCF). You only lose the low B, and an uber high D & Eb...
  15. Misterwogan

    Misterwogan

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    Oct 12, 2012
    Location:
    London, United Kingdom
  16. bassbenj

    bassbenj

    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2009
    I tried BEAD. I thought I didn't need the G string. but that soon proved wrong. I only wish I'd tried Drop C too as I didn't think of that and it seem like a much better compromise that BEAD which trims the whole top string off.
  17. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 6, 2000
    Location:
    Groom Lake, NV
    Disclosures:
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    A 4-string tuned BEAD is not that similar to a 5-string.
  18. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    Not necessarily, as far as filing the nut. I have done it on several basses without having to file the nut slots. Try it first before automatically filing the nut.
  19. Catbuster

    Catbuster

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2010
    Location:
    Varied places around the world
    I already play in D standard a lot, and I was short funds for a fiver, so Drop C was a natural progression. And it works surprisingly well
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass Gnarsty bass tones Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2001
    Location:
    Maryland, between Bawlmer & DC
    The G string (no jokes plz) is my least favorite due to the tone, but it's a necessary evil for me... without it, I couldn't play a lot of cover tunes without extraordinary gymnastics or bass line rearrangements.

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