Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

4 or 5 String for Beginner?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bdengler, Oct 31, 2001.


  1. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    I've been playing an upright for 10 years, mainly classical music with arco and some pizz at church. The music director at church would like me to play bass guitar on some contemporary pieces. So, I need to get an ax and learn how to play it. I'm wondering if I should start off with a 4 or 5 string? (I did a search and couldn't find any previous postings on the subject). Thanks for your help on this.

    :confused:
     
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    If you have been playing upright for 10 years, there shouldn't be a dexterity issue. It is a matter of choice.

    I played for 13 years before switching to five string. The reason: Christian contemporary.

    Praise and worship has to be played in keys that most people can sing, so depending on the piece, you will often find yourself playing in Ab, or Eb, or F or Bb. You never really know. You also will modulate and key change a lot. And pull it all off while site-reading a chart that you may have seen for the first time only an hour ago.

    I really struggle to pull this off well on a four string.

    I have found that the easiest way for me to do it, is to play the progressions out of classical positions. That way a key change just means move to the next anchor position and repeat the pattern. By doing this with a five, I can pull off the Eb to F changes and D to E, etc and avoid the second register if I choose.

    It works well for me.


    I couldn't live without my fiver.

    Chas
     
  3. neptoon

    neptoon

    Jul 25, 2000
    summerville, sc
    there's nothing you can do on a four that can't be done on a five...or a six, for that mtter....or a seven :eek:
     
  4. When I play at my church, I always bring a five. The lower notes on it do come in handy, and it makes it easier to play. If you already have that much experiance it shouldn't be that much of a problem to have the 5. Have fun!

    jtbp
     
  5. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dengler, I agree with the other posters in this thread. If you are going to be playing Contemporary Christian music, you need that low B.
     
  6. I play a 4 string at my shul (jewish synagogue). But I have noticed a lot of christian bands play 5 strings. Just my input...
     
  7. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Chas, so, in other words, you'd begin your F or Eb scale on the lower B string, right? This way your scale patterns stay the same, I assume. My only concern is that it would seem easier to learn scales and develop "chops" starting with a 4-string. Most instruction books are developed for 4-string. The fiver initially seems daunting, especially since the upright will remain the primary instrument. Or am I being too pessimistic?
     
  8. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Dengler, I wish that I had learned on a 5 instead of a 4. The technique required for a 5 is not really any more than on a 4, except for muting, but on the 5, you have a lot more flexibily, plus those 5 extra low notes.

    But this is a decision best made by you. If you think that a 4 would be better for learning on, by all means, get what you want and are comfortable with.
     
  9. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    :)
    Jeff, you're arguments are persuasive. Thank you for your input. One last question...if I get a 5, do I need active electronics?

    Thanks, Brian
     
  10. mjw

    mjw

    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Hi Dengler,

    I struggled with the same question this summer, and after some heart-to-heart dialog with the folks at TB, I decided to start with a fiver, and I'm sure glad I did. I too play mostly contemporary Christian, and what Chasarms said is right on the money. But for me, I didn't have a pre-conceivced "4-string style" to adapt to a five, so I'm probably having an easier time learning the 5, than I might have if I'd started on 4, then switched.

    Hope this helps, and good luck on whatever direction you choose. :)
     
  11. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I play in the contemporary choir in my Catholic Church, and we do a lot of more contemporary stuff as well as plenty of the old hymns.

    I use either my Tacoma 4 string acoustic bass guitar or my Dean Edge 5 fretless. I prefer the sound of the 4 string in general but the range of the 5 string fretless makes it a very compelling instrument.

    The old traditional stuff sounds great with the 5. Often this stuff was made for organ, and when playing it with a piano and guitars, I can hit the organ bass pedal registers and it sounds very cool. Lots of the newer stuff is written to include brass and/or capoed up on guitar. Often there are a lot of Eb and Ab songs. The extended range and more flexible positioning of the 5 string really helps a great deal here.

    However, due to the incredibly sweet sound and acoustic versatility (I don't need an amp for practice) I end up using the Tacoma more often than not. I guess I'm saying that a 5 would have advantages, but a 4 would definitely be a useful instrument.

    No, you definitely don't need an active bass for this use. I personally think that active EQ is something that the amp should do, and don't see any need for having that extra tone coloring in the bass. Others will disagree, but different people have their own preferences. I would recommend that you get yourself a nice 5 string for church playing (though a 4 would work also, just not give you as many options). It's nice to rumble the place with low low "organ bass pedal" notes, they seem appropriate in church to me.
     
  12. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    The first time I picked up a five string I was very intimidated. But honestly, it took about 45 minutes of playing and that B string seemed as natural as can be.

    Yes. start the scales on the B string. It just makes the key changes easier for me. Remember the low B still keeps everything in fourths, so the scales aren't really that hard to adapt to.

    As for the active question. There are a few nice passive five strings out there, but only a few. IMHO, the gain in the active electronics is important for the frequencies of the b string. The only decent passive five string that is moderately priced that I can think of is the Fender Roscoe Beck. And that is only if you call $1000 moderate. Other quality, passive fivers are going to get very pricey. (Sadowsky, etc)

    I have a Fender MIA JD5 and a G&L L2500. Both are active, both can be bought used in excellent condition in the $700-800 range. I would recommend either as an affordable quality five string (Giving the G&L the edge)

    Others have given laurels to the MTD Kingston. The general take is that it is passive, but well-constructed and capable of a nice active upgrade. I think you could get into a Kingston and include the upgrade for that same $700 range.

    However you end up, enjoy the joy

    Chas
     
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Actually the best thing about a five string, is when the guitar player gets lost and looks at my left hand to try to catch up, he has no clue what note I am playing. :D

    Chas
     
  14. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    Thanks all for your comments. I broke down and got a Warwick 5ver. Like Philbiker, I play at our Catholic church (all of our groups are pretty much contemporary), and Philbiker is right and there are a ton of pieces in Eb and Ab ("Blest Are They" in Ab, right Phil?). They're hand-killers for upright players (all closed strings!). OK. What's a good method book to study out of for a 5-string, and any suggestions for a combo amp?

    :D
     
  15. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Passive Warwick?


    As far as a good combo amp, I always recommend the Eden Nemesis NC210-P. Very compact, light. Plenty of punch, handles the B string pretty well for a combo and is LOUD!!!!! Add an extension cab and you have 400+ watts.

    There are others out there that are nicer, but the Nemesis certainly holds its own in the $600 price range.

    If you want one, get on the line with Gard at http://www.basscentral.com He hooked me up with mine for the best deal in the country.

    Chas
     
  16. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Unfortunately we've been playing the dreary "We Are The Light Of The World" instead of "Blest Are They" in recent times when that theme hymn is appropriate.:mad:

    I don't need a lot of juice in my choir, I just use my practice amp, a Trace Eliot Boxer 30 on Sundays. I love it, but mine is pre-Gibson and I don't know what's happened to TE since Gibson bought them.

    I used to have the Nemesis 210P amp that Chas recommends and I can't say enough good about it. An incomprable combo for the price, I used to use it with an external Eden D210P in loud rock bands and it handled the job perfectly. My current "big" rig is that old Eden 210 cab and a 1967 blackface 50W Fender Bassman. Sounds great but sure is a lot of work o move around and doesn't put out that many SPLs. :)

    I think with all that upright experience you may not need much "training". Just pick up the bass and start playing it. The notes on the 4 main strings will be the same as you're used to, and you can just throw in the others when you get comfy. Since it's tuned fourths it's just like all the other strings, the scales, chord tones, and such will have the same relative placement.
     
  17. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member Administrator

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    ultimately, you should start on the instrument you WANT to play. there are many naysayers that like to say that you "need" to start on a 4 and 'work your way up', but as our british friends would say, that's a load o'bollocks. ;)

    i'm glad to see that particular pov isn't too popular in this thread.
     
  18. bdengler

    bdengler

    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    John, thank you for the comments. The postings in this thread have been very helpful and polite. As to ChrisAms question, yes, I purchased a passive Warwick. Most of my playing will remain with an upright or EUB, so I didn't want to spend a lot of money on a bass guitar. As to Philbiker, yes, we use to hum the "Volga Boatman" in the back when the choir practiced "we are the light of the world." Best regards! :)
     
  19. mjw

    mjw

    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Hey Jeff,

    What do you mean about the muting? Do you mean that there's nothing below the B to bring your finger against after you play a note on that string?

    Not having started on a four, I'm not sure what you mean. Thanks!
     
  20. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    MJW, what I meant by muting was keeping the other strings silent while playing a note on one string.

    On a 4 string, most players mute almost unconsciously, it's pretty easy and you just don't think about it.

    But as necks get wider and number of strings increase, it becomes more challenging to mute the unused strings. I have pretty short fingers, and muting on a wide neck 5 is pretty challenging for me, and a wide neck 6, like a Yamaha TRB6 would be almost impossible, without a lot of practice.