Does the "E" string really sound better on a 4-string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by taylor16, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. taylor16

    taylor16 Thank you, Mr. Miner. Supporting Member

    Dec 25, 2012
    This is something that Paul Turner mentioned in an interview and considering I only have 5-string instruments, I'm wondering if I'm missing anything by not playing 4-string basses. What do you all think?
  2. sotua


    Sep 20, 2004
    US Northeast
    I'd wager that probably falls into the realm of "stuff only Paul Turner notices", and file it just alongside Stu Hamm's "I switch my pickguards because they give me different sound".
  3. I used to have a bunch of Peavey 4, 5, and 6 string basses. I didn't really notice a difference in E strings between any of these basses.
  4. I don't know, but to me, a low D sounds much better on a dropped-D 4-string than on a 5-string.

    Not that it's supposed to be relevant or something.
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  6. Gearhead17

    Gearhead17 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2006
    Arlington Heights, IL
    It's going to depend on the bass you play. I have noticed on Spector's, Stingray's, and Fenders - the 4 string model usually sounds different than the 5 string above it. The 5’s have more oomph in the 30-150hz category (or something similar) when compared to the 4 string model directly below it. I feel 4 string basses have a different sounding E string when compared to the same model 5 string. 5’s usually contain bigger bodies, a different neck, and different pickups. It is not an even playing ground. However, this is mostly what I hear on stage, in practice, in person and so on. Once you get the band mix together, start recording, adding EQ/effects, the differences will likely not be heard.

    Are 4 strings better with the E string? It’s all in your head man! Play what sounds good to you.
  7. mmbongo

    mmbongo Chicken Pot Pie. My three favorite things!! Supporting Member

    Oddly enough, I've always felt that 5 string basses had a better sounding E string. My Spector NS2J is about the only 4 string I've found that has an E string as powerful as my 5 strings.
  8. CrashClint

    CrashClint I Play Bass therefore I Am Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Wake Forest, NC
    There is more head mass on a 5 string so I tend to lean toward a 5 string having a better sounding and sustaining E.
  9. I keep a lot of my 4 strings in dropped D and with a thicker low string. It simply made sense to leave them in dropped D if I had 5 strings with an E string.
  10. jasper383

    jasper383 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    There is a real anti- five string bias in the very limited musical circles I run in, and I have heard that argument used a couple times.

    I think it likely depends on a lot of factors, and can't be narrowed down to the number of strings on the instrument. I think the E sounds fine on my Stingray 5 basses.
  11. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Courageous Fowl Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Don't know if it sounds better, but I can tell you that a lot of the 5'ers I've played have had E strings with less tension than their 4-string counterparts. Some people prefer that, I kind of like tighter tension on mine. Totally personal preference though.
  12. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    What about the G string? Is it better on a four string, a five string, a three string, a two string, or a stripper?
  13. +1 Ridiculous.
  14. This is literally impossible. For a given string at a given length, tension is constant when tuned to a given frequency.
  15. I routinely vacillate between four- and five-string electric basses. 34" to 35" scale. I am equally adept on both and sensitive to any minor variances between them.

    IME, there is nothing to indicate that the E is weaker on my fivers, or any significant difference for that matter.

    On a well-made, properly set-up five-string, I'm having trouble imagining why this would ever be the case.
  16. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    I would wager that this is because you're comparing an open string to a fretted string. Open string notes sound 'richer' and cleaner than the same note fretted IMO.
  17. Marihino


    Mar 25, 2010
    One thing I know is that Paul Turner is by no means "anti 5-string". He's got at least four 5-string basses that I know of, and is soon getting another, after me, and one more of his bass playing friends, recommended the same bass to him unbeknownst to each other. Having said that, I vaguely recall that interview. Will have to ask and maybe suggest a blind test :)
  18. I'm not sure, but I do know that 5's have much better low B's than 4's.
  19. two fingers

    two fingers You tahkin 'uh me? Yeah, you. You tahkin 'uh me? Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I would love to know what model bass that Paul used to compare an exact matching 4 and 5 string when coming up with the ridiculous statement. Because without comparing apples to apples how can he even claim this?
  20. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    One more factor: When playing a 5 with your fingers, they'll hit the B after you play the E, which is a different sound than playing the E on a 4 where there's no B string to hit.

    Not better or worse sounding, but audibly different. At least in my playing.
  21. Templar

    Templar Supporting Member

    I think scale length makes a difference in timbre. I love what a 35" scale does for my B string, but prefer how 34" scale E-G sounds, especially open notes. Not a huge difference, but I always seem to notice it.

    Different strokes, some players prefer 30", 32", 33", etc basses. I think these preferences are at least partly due to a fundamental difference in sound caused by scale length.