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Converting a 4 string bass to 5?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tuBass, Nov 19, 2012.


  1. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    I'm not having much luck in finding the kind of bass I want, so I'm wondering how hard it would be to order a warmoth short scale bass, but instead of putting 4 strings on it, put 5. I realize the string spacing would be tight, but that's quite alright, I like tight spacing.

    It's not short scale, but I would also consider doing the same thing to my t40
     
  2. xaxxat

    xaxxat Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2008
  3. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
    A short scale B string is particularly problematic to get a combination of reasonable tension to have stability of pitch and good tone and sustain so the string is not so large that the mass of the string does not over-damp overtones.

    I suggest you simply keep looking for a suitable 5-er. It only took me about twenty years to finally find one that suits me. I'm sure with the market and internet access being so much wider now it shouldn't take you nearly that long.

    In addition to the criticism about the B string, there are several other problems with the above bass:
    1) the 3+2 instead of the 2+3 tuner configuration to make sure the B string leader has enough wraps to seat properly and not bind or overlap;
    2) The reversed P pickup will cause inconsistency of string response in that the B and E strings won't have enough fundamental and the other strings enough overtones to blend;
    3) The body is too small and it will probably have neck dive as a result.

    The good things about the above bass:
    1) the upper horn is elongated to help with strap balance.
     
  4. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    I looked at one of those LTD basses as GC. I liked them in concept, but I would want different pickups, and something that wasn't so darn ugly. It's really very plain.

    I like the 5 I play now, but I have chronic back problems and was hoping to get something very light, which is why I was looking at a custom bass, preferably out of basswood.

    Yeah, the lightness issue doesn't jive with my t40 I know. I did lighten it by chambering the body, but it's still a 10 pound bass.
     
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  6. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    I just realized one of the main problems with my plan is finding a bridge that will accommodate the tighter spacing. Most short scale necks have 1 1/2" nuts, so the bridge spacing would have to be tighter as well
     
  7. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2006
    Location:
    west suburban boston
    Contact Ric5 this seems to be his life's work- and his basses look awesome!
     
  8. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
  9. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    I'll add this here. Taking the short scale out of it.... what does it take to convert a 4 string bass to a 5? For example, I like the look of the Dinky P body at warmoth, but it's not available in a 5 string. Can I make it into a 5?
     
  10. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    Somebody call me??

    Check out this link here -->> http://www.3dentourage.com/425/425.htm
     
  11. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    The short scale 5 is an interesting concept...

    In addition to the ESP there is this one here ...

    [​IMG]

    I bought my daughter a 4 string Ibanex Mikro. At first it seemed like a toy. But after about 10 minutes my hands adjusted an it sounded OK.

    I have never played a 28" or 30" 5 string bass. The obvious concern is the tone on the low notes. You will probably lose some of the piano tone when playing the first 4 frets on the lower strings. But you may also gain a sweet mellow tone on higher notes.

    I have a couple of Rickenbacker basses that are 33 1/4" scale and they are 5 string basses. The low b is fine at that shorter scale.
     
  12. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    Pretty much any 4 string Fender bass can be converted into a 5 string bass.

    You will need the following:

    1 - a 5 string bridge
    2 - a new nut
    3 - a 5th tuner and room to put it in the headstock
    4 - a few tools - Drill, Dremmel, screw drivers

    I also like to change up the string tree and sometimes add a preamp and a battery box.

    here are a few of my conversions.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    I usually get a 2 1/2" +/- spacing at the bridge and a 1 5/8" +/- at the nut. This is great for someone with medium to small hands.

    Also I quite often use a 4 string pickup, and sometings a modified 4 string pickup, and sometimes a 5 string pickup.
     
  14. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    I was wondering if the strings would fall off the sides of the fretboard on the higher frets with a bridge that wide. Guess not. Thanks!

    Any problem with necks not being strong enough to handle the extra tension?
     
  15. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    You can get a bridge that is too wide and put the strings off the edge. You have to use the right sized bridge for the bass. Also some of my conversions have the strings close to the edge of the fretboard. Some people won't like that.

    Almost all modern 4 string necks can handle a 5th string. Remember the low B has the least tension of all of the strings.
     
  16. tuBass

    tuBass

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2002
    Location:
    Mesquite, Texas
    What 5 strings bridge has the most narrow spacing? My schecter has individual saddles and it's 16.5 mm

    I wouldn't mind going even more narrow
     
  17. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    The OLP style stingray bridges are 2 1/2" which is about 16mm between strings. Also the Schaller 5 string bridge has adjustable width as does the Kahler bridge.

    When you get below 16mm it gets harder to play fingerstyle.

    The tightest I have ever played was 13.5mm ... that is a pick players bass.

    The tightest that I can play comfortably is 15mm ... but that is pushing it.
     
  18. bound'n'blocked

    bound'n'blocked

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2010
    I can attest to Ric5's conversion abilities. I bought one of his Fenderbird 5's from another TBr here and the concept is really genius.

    BnB
     
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    Thanks for the compliment ... by the way ... That Fenderbird that you now have was a really fun bass to play. It gets a great Quadrophenia tone.

    [​IMG]
     
  20. RobbieNuke

    RobbieNuke

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    Wilkinson used to be a company that made 5-string conversion kits; I had one but sold it on e-bay awhile ago. The ball end anchored on the headstock (device installed on the string tree location) and the bridge had the 5th tuner. Completely retrofitted on Fender basses without any modification to the bass (except for the nut, which also came with it), so it could easily be restored to original stock set-up if you didn't like it. String spacing was tight, however one would eventually need to upgrade pickups for optimum performance.

    Obviously, this came out at a time when 5-string basses weren't readily available and the curious didn't want to invest/commit. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the time, effort, and $$$ converting when so many are available. But for your requirements, finding the right 4-string and converting may be the only solution; so one of these Wilkinson kits may be the way to go. They are obsolete and rare, so finding one would be difficult and it wouldn't fit on a contoured top (i.e. hollow-body bass), only flat surfaced bass guitars.
     
  21. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Location:
    Colorado
    Some of the early 5 string basses were essentially "conversions" even though they were made in a factory. The Rickenbacker and Steinberger 5 string basses were pretty much 5 strings put on a 4 string neck.

    [​IMG]

    Some of the ibanez basses have pretty slim necks.

    [​IMG]

    Then some 5 string basses are really wide ... with a full 19mm spacing at the bridge and a full 2" at the nut.

    [​IMG]
     

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