4, 5, or 6 strings...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Greenantgods, Oct 19, 2004.

  1. Greenantgods


    Oct 18, 2004
    i play the french horn for like 5 years now and it is old and i want to learn the bass...which is better: a 4, 5, or 6 string bass?

    -Thanks :D
  2. Stevious G

    Stevious G

    May 5, 2003
    None is "better." It's just what you prefer/actually use.

    I'd strongly suggest starting on a 4, though. Cause if you can't play on a 4, you shouldn't be playin'bass. I'm a 5 stringer with two 6ers on the way. But I'm always sure to keep the good ole'4 string chops up.
  3. Hollow Man

    Hollow Man Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Springfield, VA
    Four string basses will probably be the easiest to learn on because the spacing between the strings is wider, which makes it easier to work on your fretting and your fingering/picking. There are also fewer notes to try to memorize. Better to develop your technique gradually rather than go from scratch to ultra-tight six string basses.
  4. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    IMO its no easier to start on a 4 string than on a 6. it's just a different approach to learning depending which you choose. I also believe it's easier to adjust to the larger spacing (going back to a 4) than to adjust to a tighter (5 or 6) spacing. But it's all personal.
  5. jammadave

    jammadave Rudderless ship Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    I'm personally finding that while I love 4, and I love 6, I'm not getting along with the ubiquitous five-string basses. So I'm evolving to a pair of 4s (frets and no frets), plus my 7 and I hope a new 6 soon, because I stupidly sold my favorite 6 ever when I ordered the 7, realizing now that I need the 6 too.

    What's my point? Simply, I use different string counts for different purposes. If your musical bent requires 4 strings to make you happy then rock on - same with more strings. They're more parallel roads, not necessarily stepping stones, though 4 is probably the first bass for lots of people. Hint: look at some tabs (gasp - blasphemy!) for your fave tunes, to see what they're played on or arranged for originally.
  6. Worshiper


    Aug 13, 2004
    New York
    Although i learned on a 5, it is best to learn on a four. Easier to do basic stuff. The only thing that's easier to do on 5 and 6 string basses, in my opinion, are chords because the strings are closer together. But you don't even have to concern yourself with that yet and it doesn't make that much a difference.
  7. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    It depends on what kind of music you have your heart set on playing. That makes a huge difference, as least I think so.

    If you want some really low notes, 5 strings would be good. If you want some chords, 6 strings would be better for that. I started on a 4 sting and do not like the tight spacing of most 5's and 6's (this only applies to ones that I have played). I also think that it might be easier to switch from a tighter spacing to a wider one.

    So there you go, a complicated answer. Ultimately, you gotta make the call, not us.
  8. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    I figure you ought to start where you want to end up... If you want to play chords and guitar like solos then a 6 would be where you'd want to be. Otherwise, a 5.

    I love my 4 strings to death (and back in the dark ages when I started that's all there was), but for someone just starting out, they need to learn to play the form of instrument that they'll naturally move towards...
  9. +1
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I strongly suggest starting on 5 or 6. So much modern music uses extended range... you will limit your opportunities if you play four. I don't believe it's right to deny a bassist a gig simply because s/he plays four string only, but it does happen. If you don't believe me, check the Rickey Minor article in the new BP.

    There are "wide" spaced 5's and 6's that have the same string spacing as fours. And as noted, it's as easy to start on 5 or 6 as it is on 4.
  11. 5stringDNA


    Oct 10, 2002
    Englewood, CO

    I learned on 5's, then switched to tenor tuned 5's exclusively. I don't own a 4 (my bro does though) and I rarely have a desire to use one unless I'm slapping. I think it is far easier to move to a 4 from5 or 6 than the reverse.
  12. Someone who has heard of Ricky Minor, & he's in the latest BP, no less?? :hyper: :cool:

    Ricky played bass on one of my all time favorite contemporary jazz albums:

    Neil Larsen

    "Through Any Window"
  13. There's no reason to start on a 4 if you think you may later move to 5 or 6. A 5 can do everything a 4 can do, and a 6 can do everything a 5 can do. If string spacing is an issue, there are plenty of 5s and 6s with P-Bass like string spacing. The extra strings may force you to develop better technique, but that's never a bad thing. I personally no longer play 4s, because there's just no reason to when I have a 5 and a 6 that can do everything the 4 can, plus more. I always find it odd when people say stuff like "I'm gonna sell my 5 (or 6) and go back to basics, 4 is where I belong".. I just don't get it... :confused:
  14. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I recommend you start out on a 5-string. The low-B string is very useful IMO.

    I switched from saxophone to 4-string bass in 1976. When I tried switching to a 5-string 10 years ago, it was really frustrating. I'm now playing a 6-string. It's been a challenge for me, but it's been fun. My opinion is that it would be easier to switch to a 4-string or a 6-string if you already have a solid foundation on the 5-string.

    I've said it before, if either of my daughters want to learn bass, I'll strongly suggest they start out on a 5-string. IMHO the 5-string is the standard for electric bass, even though I suck on one! :p

    Just my 2 cents. -Art
  15. I started on a 4, and after about 6 months of playing, I've recently moved to a 5.

    I've been playing the 5 for a day or two and it almost feels as natural as the 4.
    I'm glad I started out on a 4 simply to get a decent footing in the world of bass.
  16. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I recommend starting out on whatever you want to ultimately play. After all, if we should start off with the basics, maybe we should all have started on a one string?

    Seriously, if you want to play a 4, start with a 4. If you want to play a 6, start with a 6.
  17. TaySte_2000


    Jun 23, 2001
    Manchester, UK
    Endorsing Artist: Mojohand, Subdecay, Overwater, Matamp
    I would say probably best to start on a 4 but that depends on the style of music you play, I play what ever I need for the music when I play in a woodwind section out opf the 6 songs we do only one can be performed on a 4 string the rest need the low c (1st fret low b string), so if your going to be playing in any school bands and stuff it might be better to start on a 5 string.

    Heck I'd say buy both a 4 & a 6 and learn them both at the same time then you'll be sorted and be all cool and things because you have 2 basses.

    Hope this helps
  18. Greenantgods


    Oct 18, 2004
    thanks...to the post that was talking about most modern music would need a 5 or 6, i do not like most modern music...so i will go with a 4. :D
  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Well, to clarify, I wasn't referring to a specific genre. Fact is, a whole lot of *traditional* music such as blues and C&W that is being made today (the modern era) contains bass lines that go below low E. No matter: if you want to play 4, you should start on 4. Have fun! :)
  20. Funkize you

    Funkize you Guest

    Nov 4, 2003
    Westminster Ca.
    Ok... It all depends on what you wanna play...

    Ok, when my friend started playing bass it got me really interested... He had a 4 string at first Then got a Ibanez BTB 6 string. He is a good musician but he was having problems with Running into the "C" string and tapping the "B" string when playing because he was used to the 4...

    So one day I picked up his bass and started playing... And he was blown away. But it wasnt that I was abnormally skilled or anything, He was impressed with my Tecnique... I never had a Problem with the "B" or "C" strings getting in the way because I knew they were there, and my hand wasnt trained any other way...

    Then I decided to buy my First bass a 4 string. A year later I picked up a Cirrus 6 string and had all the problems my friend had...

    So if you wanna play a 6, then start with it, if you wanna play a 5 START with it, But I would advise not to start with less then you plan to use...

    When I started I knew that I wanted to play a 6 string. The only thing stopping me was my wallet...

    Good luck.