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4/5/6 String Bass...What to choose?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TRAX, Sep 16, 2005.

  1. TRAX

    TRAX Guest

    Sep 16, 2005
    What kind of bass is recommended if I'm buying a new bass?
  2. By no means is there a "right" answer for this question, it is merely a matter of preference.

    But just understand that there is no real advantage to owning a 5 or 6 string instrument unless you are proficient enough to PLAY them.

    Try and decide.
  3. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    With regards to the 6, yes...but for the 5, I respectfully disagree.

    A typical 5 string has pretty much the same string spacing as a Jazz. So what you've got is basically a Jazz with one extra string down low. The back of the neck doesn't feel the same, of course, but that does not affect playability at all unless you're in the habit of reaching over the neck with your thumb...bad habit anyway IMHO.

    If you can play 4 strings, you can play the upper 4 strings on a 5 just as well. The fifth string adds a LOT of flexibility, especially when it comes to transposing songs downward. It also lets you play complex lines in one position, rather than having to fly up and down the neck to grab those low notes.

    But a 6 requires you to reach over that high C string constantly. Therefore it's a fundamentally different beast, unlike the 5. My hands just aren't big enough to do that comfortably. Every time I've picked up a 6 I've put it down again after about two minutes. I'm very comfortable with the 5, though, and there was no transition/adjustment period needed.

    Bottom line: Unless you have a really good reason to get a 4 instead, there's no reason not to get a 5.
  4. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Trax, it would have been helpful if you had mentioned a price range.
    I agree with everything adouglas said, but would like to add that, if you have to choose between a great 4 string and a good or simply ok 5 for the same price, You'll be better off with the 4.
  5. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Pretty good logic in the previous 2 posts. I play a 5 for basically 2 reasons; 1) I need the extended range for some smooth jazz stuff and 2) I'm in a band with a singer that likes to transpose, often on the fly so having the additional fingering/position option there is really helpful.

    I don't really notice the B string until I need it. When I had a 6, I noticed the C string. For the handful of songs that I "needed" that high stuff, I decided it wasn't worth it.

    I'd like to have a 4, but I can't justify it right now as my 5 handles everything I need.
  6. I have 4's a 5 and a 6

    I play alot of punk, so they dont really need the extended range, with hardcore its nice to have the lower D without throwing off the standard tuning, and ive just recently started on the actual theory work and some jazz for the 6 string, its all down to the user really
  7. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast

    What kind of music are you looking to play?

    Do you have REALLY, I MEAN REALLY small hands?

    Is your AMP going to be able to handle a LOW B string, and if not are you able to UPGRADE?
  8. Hey man, it's your preference so it's cool :)

    Personally, and I've owned 4/5/6 string bangers, I've always noticed the B and oddly enough never the C. I also find the C much more accommodating for remaining in position, not to mention improved improvisation, as opposed to whenever I had the B, I would only use it to drop "DA BOMB" so to speak.

    As of right now, I own two fivers, one that is short scale and tuned with a high C (actually, multi-scale fanned frets from 30 - 32 1/8) and a 35'' scale tuned for a B, and I find myself using the short scale for music I'd generally use a four stringer on. It's as though the C is transparent until needed. Now, when the time calls for something that needs "DA BOMB," well, you get the picture.

    Once again I must stress the following: Jumping from a 4 to a 6 will be a strenuous process as you will now have two other elements between you and what you were used to.
  9. TRAX

    TRAX Guest

    Sep 16, 2005
    well from what u guys have told me...it looks as if a 5 is appropriate. im learning from a jazz player so i play jazz sometimes. the stuff im into playing is alternative metal. most of the bands i listen to seems to use a 5 string bass. the bass im thinking of upgrading to is the yamaha rbx775 model.
  10. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    As marcusalan said in his first post, try each one for a bit and decide on that basis. If you're like me at all, you'll know pretty much right away whether a six would work for you.

    I can see where a six would be pretty cool for some stuff, but I just couldn't handle it unless my fingers magically grow overnight.

    Something else to consider...IMHO sixers are something of a special-purpose tool. Look at the top bassists: Who plays a 6 exclusively? I can't think of anyone. Lots of people use 5s as their main instrument. If you can have only one, a 5 strikes me as more usable in the real world.
  11. gruuv


    Jan 23, 2004
    Amen to that! Singers. . . :rollno:

  12. gruuv


    Jan 23, 2004
    Well, that all depends on who you view as the top players and what genre of music we're talking about. John Patitucci uses 6 string as his main electric bass, for jazz. Anthony Jackson ONLY plays 6 string electric, never has played a 5 at all. Alain Caron, Oteil Burbridge, etc... there are a lot of guys who are mostly, if not totally, 6 string players. Even Andrew Gouche uses his 6 almost exclusively in the gospel/R&B realm I believe.
  13. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    I bow to your superior knowledge. I stand corrected.

    I do think it would be fair to say, though, that there are a lot more people who use the 5 as their main bass than the 6....
  14. Juniorkimbrough


    Mar 22, 2005
    Mississippi / Memphis, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland Basses
    Personally if I were just starting to learn to play I'd go with a 4 string, but that's just my opinion.

    BUt like someone said earlier, just go out and try all three and see which one feels the best to you.

    My local music store had a used 6 string that I had been eyeing everytime I stopped by so one day I decided I'd pick it up and see if I liked it since I'd never played a 6'er before. After a couple minutes it was very obvious that I'll probably never find myself playing a 6 string. The neck was too wide, string spacing WAY too tight for my personal preference, etc....

    It's all about personal preference.......don't try and get something to impress, get something that YOU like and YOU feel comfortable with.

    Good luck!
  15. gruuv


    Jan 23, 2004
    HA! Superior knowledge. . . that is very charitable of you :D

    I think you're absolutely right. The guys I mentioned are actually the only ones I can think of off hand. I just threw them out there for the sake of argument because you couldn't think of any. . .
  16. Tom


    Sep 7, 2005
    Davis, CA
    The only 6-string metal bassist that I can think of is John Myung, and that's progressive metal. On an interesting note, his signature bass is the 6-string model for the Yamaha RBX line you're looking at: RBXJM2

    For metal, the B string has become very useful. Downtuning a four-string bass to hit the low Eb and D can be a hassle unless you play exclusively in drop-D or detuned Eb Ab Db Gb. However, at this year's Ozzfest, I saw only one 5 string in all the bands on the second stage (I couldn't see the main stage to check). So a 5-string is hardly essential. But it's helpful if you want to stay in standard tuning without switching back and forth. For certain styles, metal players might not even move around much, so the added positions aren't as necessary as the low notes.

    On the other hand, sometimes certain songs are much easier to play with your bass detuned and you also may prefer the tone of the detuned E string over the tone of a B string, the latter of which some 4-stringers hate. You could try learning some of those songs with your 4 string and then go to a music shop and play it with the B string; see what you prefer.

    Having a 5-string doesn't hurt anything unless you can't handle the neck or muting the B. It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

    Also, if you get a 6-string, your bass will literally be "more metal." :bassist:

  17. thedoctor


    Jun 20, 2005
    I own more 4-strings than 5-strings but I play the 5-strings more often, especially if I am playing with people I haven't played with before. You never know when they are drop to a tune in B or C# or D. In that situation, the 5-string will make you sound better and give you more flexibility. IMHO. Believe it or not, I have never had a 6-string in my hands. Nothing against them but I have never even tried one.
  18. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I've been playing a 6 string for over a year now. It's my main axe, but I still take a 4 string along. I've been a 4 stringer for so long, it's my home.

    For some reason, I couldn't get the hang of the 5 string, I don't know why. Mental block(?), I'm not sure.

    But if I were starting out fresh on bass I'd buy a 5 string. IMO from there a future move to a 4 string or a 6 string shouldn't cause much difficulty.

    I strongly believe the 5 string is the standard these days. 4 stringers: before you flame me, please re-read my statements above, and remember I don't play a 5 string. This is my advice to a beginning player.

    - Art
  19. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Having ability to play both a 4 and 5 is useful, I think. A lot of popular music these days uses drop-tunings so a 5 is quite helpful in that regard. And being able to play stuff in E from the 2nd position without having to do a major finger stretch is nice.

    But being proficient on a 4 is useful too, since the good majority of music was done on a 4. In addition, you may encounter situations where others will be insistent on you playing a 4 and if you can't or won't, you could lose the gig. I'm talking if you're doing studio or sideman work or pinch hitting for another group's bassist...etc.

    I've played 4's, 5's, and 6's. I don't think I'll go back to the 6. I am primarily a 4-stringer these days (I just love the feel of 4-strings and am extremely picky about my low-B, since the only 5's and 6's I played were budget) but if called upon to play a 5, I could. I wouldn't really want to, but I could.
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Given that scenario, I *highly* recommend 5-string bass, or maybe even 6. If you get a four, you'll be frustrated by its limitations.