4 or 5 string as a transition bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassoABD, Jan 20, 2002.

  1. BassoABD

    BassoABD Guest

    Jan 20, 2002
    Cleveland, Ohio
    My cousin suggested I join and post this question.

    I play upright, classical style, in the Cleveland area. Community orchestra stuff; I'm not a professional musician.

    I want to take up bass guitar to play in a company jazz band. I wonder whether I should begin with 4 or 5 string. I borrowed a 5 string, took one lesson, and found myself confused by the extra string. It seemed the transition was easier on 4; I felt more comfortable with the 4 and could find my way around easier. It seemed I could use some of the jazz lines I'm learning and also apply them on the upright (fingering is different but the concept is the same) (my upright has a C extension, so i was use to going for lower notes on the "E" string).

    But I'm being told 5 is the only way to go. I'm not sure; most of the method books only point out 4-string basses.

    Thanks for your suggestions.

  2. I don't know much about how the multi-string basses fare in jazz but it seems to me that if you're more comfortable with the four stringer, then that's what you should get. There's a trend now to get a bass with as many strings as you can and if you can make it work for you, then that's great, but there are still many players who swear by the four string bass. (Mostly by repeating endlessly that Jaco played a four). :D

    I have a four stringer, I'm very comfortable with that and while I've tried five and six string basses I don't rightly know what to do with the extra strings. Not yet anyway. Go with what feels right, become comfortably numb. :p

    And don't forget: Jaco played a four string bass!

    Oh, and welcome to talkbass.
  3. BassoABD

    BassoABD Guest

    Jan 20, 2002
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Thanks for your comments. I've heard that if you're going to start on bass, and ultimately use a 5-string, you're better off starting right away with the 5-string. That's why I struggle over this issue.
  4. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    But who knows if you'll eventually shift to 5? I say if the 4 seems like the right one for you, go that way. You're not really a beginner anyway since you're used to upright. Totally different beasts, but like you said you're used to four strings.

    I actually went from 4 to 6, I didn't like fives because the "normal" strings were off-center! :)
  5. 5 is not the "only way to go".

    This is a personal decision, like what colour underpants you wear.

    I have 2 basses, a five and a four. They do different things. When I am playing the 5, the extra string doesn't throw me. When I am using the four, the lack of a B string doesn't throw me either.

    The clincher may be that good quality 4s are on the whole cheaper than good quality 5s.
  6. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    From your original post, you seem more comfortable on a 4 string, so that's probably the way to go. You can always get a 5 later if you feel the need. That being said, you probably would adjust just fine to the 5 with the additional practice time. Follow your gut because you WILL be buying more basses in the future anyway, we all do.

    All my underpants are white, yeah I know, boring.:D
  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    5 is not necessarily the only way to go, but it can be, if your band plays the kind of music that requires it. If you know you won't need the 5, then get a 4. However, as mentioned, if you're pretty sure you're going to need the 5 then it is better to start off on 5 right away.

    FWIW, I got my first 5 last year after over 20 years on 4. Three months later I was gigging exclusively on 5. My fours have been in their cases nearly untouched ever since.
  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Yours is a rare case in which I might recommend starting on a four, then switch to five later. The differences between upright and electric bass are significant, and you'd probably be better off making that adjustment first.

    That said, five string is the only way to go. I picked the bass up again about seven years ago, and went with a four string. I switched to five a year later. Now I own six five-strings along with the one four-string. It's easier to play, ultimately, because you can play further up the neck. My four-string spends a lot of time in its case.

    As all the right-thinking people in this forum agree, a four-string really isn't an option in the professional bass-playing world these days, and most pros don't even consider a four-string to be anything but a novelty.
  9. BassoABD

    BassoABD Guest

    Jan 20, 2002
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Thanks for everyone's comment. I do play in church once in a while, and the demand for the low C, D and Eb appear often. Ironically, a 5 string EUB wouldn't bother me...you have to shift virtually for every damned note anyway. I noticed all the other bass players in church have drifted toward the 5 string. I think in their hearts they'd stick with a 4, but they know the demand is there for a 5. Perhaps I ought to just get some courage and start with a 5.
    Thanks all for your thoughtful comments.

    Regards, Brian
  10. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    FWIW, I switched to five after 15 years on a four for the very reason you mentioned. Playing in church, I very often run upon the Eb and such. With all the key changes we do, I am not interested in drop tuning. I switched to five and had no problem.

    The comfort level on a five comes quickly. If you are used to the mass of a URB neck, I don't think you'll have any problem at all. A few days and you will be cruising.

  11. 4 were enough for Jaco...


    Seriously, Munjibunga, you should drop Jack Bruce an e-mail and let him know.No wonder his career is on the rocks.

    Basso, oou will of course need C,D and Eb, but the thing to ask yourself is, do you need them down there?
  12. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    If you're covering Gospel tunes (i.e. Ron Kenoly, Fred Hammond...), you might as well just jump right into a fiver (you'll only end up getting one sooner or later anyway). Just check out and play a few before you actually purchase one to make sure you feel comfortable (especially with the string spacing).

    - Frank.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Inactive

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    BassoABD, you took one lesson. Are you surprised that a five did not immediately feel comfortable?

    It may take some time to get acclimated to a five.

    Do you "need" a five. Depends. I doubt that Jack Bruce is playing covers in a local club or playing Contemporary Gospel at church. OTOH if you'll be doing that and the music calls for lots of below E content, you can put yourself at a disadvantage by not being able to do it.

    I took to fives immediately (about twenty years ago) because I wanted the ability to go lower. There are other benefits. If you "want" to do something IMO it comes much easier than if you're doing something you really don't want to do. The decisiom is yours alone.
  14. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    You should be confused, going from a 4-string basso to a 5-string EBG. Double confused.

    It seems that a 4 would be the proper starter for you.
    Just to confuse you a little bit more, I hereby inform you that the BIG basso STAR of my city allways use a four string contrabasso for classical work. But a five string contrabasso for jazz and folk music...
  15. BassoABD

    BassoABD Guest

    Jan 20, 2002
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Thanks all.

    I'm going to start with 4 string...I'm not going to play bass guitar "publically" for a while...so I'm going to embark on a less confusing approach of learning the 4-string.

    Regards, Arnie
  16. mgood


    Sep 29, 2001
    Levelland, Texas
    For a dozen or so years people have been asking me when I was going to get a five-string. Like they assumed that was the natural progression to move from four to five. I kept telling them I was perfectly happy with the four strings I had. Also, the few times I had played fives, either basses belonging to friends or basses in stores, they just didn't feel right to me. Now, more recently, I've found a couple of five-strings I really like and I can't wait to get one of my own. You see, it wasn't five-string basses I didn't like, it was the basses I had tried. I just had to keep trying different ones 'till I found what I like. I also realized that there are more uses for a five-stringed bass than just playing lower notes. I can play more things with fewer position changes, which I think is the main reason I've decided to get one.

    I DON'T think the four-string is obsolete like some people seem to. I'm going to keep mine, and keep playing it at least until I'm completely comfortable on the five. And I may never stop playing a four.
  17. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Amen, brother! While I love my fiver, I still find it uncomfortable for slapping, particulary trying to keep that darned "B" from vibrating. Having the four at my disposal takes care of that nicely.

    - Frank.
  18. SRSiegel

    SRSiegel Guest

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    hey there, welcome to talkbass.

    i started playing upright bass about 7 years ago. picked up a 4 string electric about 6 years ago, and then switched to exclusively fives just this year. While i love the impact that the low B can have, i can see that its really not "necessary" its more of an extra tool to have around. this is my opinion of course. whoever said you will have no problem with the fatter neck is correct. i prefer the thicker neck of a five string, if anything simply because i started on an upright. however, if you feel that eventually you will want a 5 string, yeah you might as well get it now. i highly doubt it will take you long to learn, as you know how to play upright. you might even want to consider a fretless. its easier (for me) to play fretless than fretted, because it feels more like an upright. i play with flatwound strings too. anyways.... the one thing that i didnt see anybody mention yet in this discussion is this:

    you can get a D-tuner for a four string bass. its a special tuning key that goes on the headstock, some basses have one built into the bridge... it lowers the E string a preset amount. you might wanna consider getting a fretless 4 string with a D tuner, as that would be most similar to what you are playing on now.

    either way, good luck!
  19. pd_5string

    pd_5string Admin: Accnt Disabled

    Jan 23, 2002
    If you even *think* you are going to eventually have a 5 string, learn the 5 now.

    It isn't ANY harder to play a 5 string...it is only harder for those that are already USED to a 4 string (not being able to control the B string, etc while slapping).

    In fact, it is actually easier to play in many respects, as you can play over a two octave range with a minor position shift with the left hand. Less horizontal hand movement, and more effecient.

    You can do everything on a 5 that you can do on a 4, the reverse is not true.

    Bass Player mag has a great chord article at the end of the magazine with the facility of the 5 string bass and how useful it is for chording. This is b/c you can open up the intervals more, playing the low notes on the B string and the upper 2 or three notes on the other strings. Check it out.

    I have more difficulty going from 5 string to 4 then from 4 to 5 (I have two 4 string Zons and three 5 strings).

  20. I had played 4s for over twenty years before I picked up a 5. Took me 20 minutes to feel at home.
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