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Starting out with a 4 or 5 string

Discussion in 'Ask Adam Nitti' started by scottie65, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. scottie65


    Jul 31, 2013
    Hello Adam,
    I am wondering is it just best to start learning to play on a four string bass or should I just buy a 5 string. The reason is that I see most people playing 4 strings and am not sure if there is that much music that a 5 string would be needed for. Can you enlighten me?
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Unless the music you want to play asap requires a 5 string bass, starting with a 4 and even spending your entire life on a 4 is perfectly fine.
    Also keep in mind that a good 5 string bass and the amplifyier to correctly render it are considerably more expensive than a basic 4 string setup. You are likely to be disappointed with a cheapo 5 stringer.
  3. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    i don't think there is a right or wrong answer with this one, per se. a 4 string bass is not 'inferior' to a 5 string, and vice-versa… however, if you have an affinity for learning bass lines from players or genres in which the extra range of a 5 string bass is relevant, then you could argue jumping into the 5 string right at the beginning is a worthwhile move. (a lot of music these days features the 5 string bass, actually, but it depends what/who you're listening to.) the benefit is that you learn to manage the extra muting responsibilities and slightly modified hand positions from the get-go and it becomes a part of your playing discipline immediately, without having to undergo 'modification' if you decide to change to a 5 string later on...
  4. scottie65


    Jul 31, 2013
    Thanks for the advice Adam. Your explanation is the best thus far I have gotten from anyone. Is there any place on the web where I might find out about the muting responsibilities and any of the hand modifications you have mentioned? I had the thought in the back of my mind about the muting because even with a four string as a new player I have seen where you need to stop the vibrations on even a string that is vibrating due to the sound waves put off by other strings. I just do not want to pick up any bad habits that I have to unlearn as many would say.
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  6. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    hi frank-

    this video should help you with a muting strategy:


    for more in depth technical studies like these you can also check out my instructional site at www.adamnittimusiceducation.com

    hope that helps!
  7. Yehuda777


    Oct 2, 2010
    If go for 5 strings, take in account what the neck is best for you: regular or broad. For example, if gonna play slap it's better to go for a broadneck. Me now want to switch from 4 strings to 5 and because of my fingers are used to the space of 4 strings, it looks like I'm going to order the broadneck. The same is if you play on the 5 strings and switch to 4 the fingers should switch to the different distance between the strings
  8. I tried both early on and concluded my preference was for 4 strings. Things were going fine and now these guys want to play Swamp Diddy.
    Adam, you don't go lower than D on that do you? I was hoping I could get away with down tuning.
  9. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    hmmm… i think low D was the lowest note in that song. you should be able to play by down-tuning no problem! :D
  10. Thanks Adam, that's what I was hoping for. I'll try to work up a transcription and share it here.
  11. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
  12. After a little work, I've discovered some interesting things that still pertain to the OP's question. One can play Swamp Diddy by detuning a 4 string but it would be ideal to play it on a fiver. Why? Because the open strings, especially the E and A becoming D and G change the whole technical approach to the bass line. I will probably use the original track only as a guide for my own interpretation of how to play the song because I don't need to buy another bass at the moment. Eventually I think I will get a 5 string because as this instance has proven to me, some things you just need a 5 string for.

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