4 or 5

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by H2ODog, Oct 15, 2003.

  1. H2ODog


    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    I'm planning on learning the Bass and have been reading posts on this site and others. I'm ready to purchase my first Bass but after reading all the posts i'm not sure if i should get a 4 or 5 string Bass. So my question is, for a beginner what would be the best choice and why? Any info would be greatly appreciated and it would help me make my decision.
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    The best choice is whatever you ultimately want to play.

    If you see yourself playing a four string 5 years from now, get a four. If you see yourself playing(or wanting to play) a five, get a five.

    Might as well learn how to play on the instrument you ultimately want to play.

    I sure wish that I had started out on a fretless five(or six) string 23 years ago. I can't imagine how much better my technique would be.
  3. The learning curve is no different wherever you start.

    I agree with the above statement....... you can always go back to one or the other once you learn and decide your own style!

  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    What Jeff and Treena said.

    If you plan on playing modern music, then I would strongly advise you to choose 5. This because fivers are widely used these days, and a LOT of new songs feature bass lines that go below 4-string range. I'm not just talking modern rock and nu-metal, this is true for many genres including blues, and even country.

    There are advantages to playing five string besides just those lower notes, so I'd still advise you to start on fiver regardless of what you play. I also wish I'd started on "more-than-four" 20-something years ago.

    I'm not dissing four strings at all. However I played them exclusively until Y2K, and know full well what a pain is to get them to reach those below-E notes.
  5. Good advice so far, but since you're asking, I'll tell you to start on a five string. If you are just starting out, and have no frame of reference regarding neck widths and string spacing, why not start with an instrument that has a wider range?

    I played four strings on and off for over 20 years. I bought a 5 string two years ago, and I now feel limited when I pick up one of my fours.
    When not overly used, those low notes on the B string sound so nice. :)

    Good luck.

  6. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Ok, I generally avoid these discussions like the plague, but don't let anyone talk you into anything. Just because a song is recorded on a 5 doesn't mean that you need to play it on a 5. In fact, I highly recommend that you don't learn to play by simply copying basslines. Learn the instrument and then if you want to duplicate a cool bassline that is up to you. But learn the instrument first.

    5s and 4s are both very common. Despite what some people might think, 4s are not dying out. You will continue to see both 5s and 4s for a long time.

    5s cover all the notes on a 4. So, why would anyone use a 4? The reason is feel. They feel different. 4s have narrower necks and many people like that about them. A bass in a band is predominantly a rhythm instrument. I find that a 4 keeps me from getting distracted from that task.

    The answer to your question, is a question. What do you want to learn? All of us out here have our own personal preferences. None of us can tell you what you will like.
  7. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    It really comes down to what interests you the most and what you're the most comfortable with. Keep in mind that musicians did without the 5 string bass for the better part of 30 years, as a wide variety of moderately priced 5s weren't available until the early-to-mid '90s. You should be able to play everything you need on a traditional 4. However, the 5 does appeart to be replacing the 4 string as the standard amongst young players, and it would certainly be more easy, in my opinion, to move from a 5 to a 4 as opposed to moving from a 4 to a 5. Play both and see what you think.
  8. sethlow3

    sethlow3 Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Nashville, Tennessee
    If you are just starting out you should limit yourself to one or two strings. Before anyone jumps down my throat I will add that I am a 5 string man now and love it. I teach bass, and for begininers playing solid with the drums and knowing the E and A strings are good basics to start with.

    If you are just starting, its best to lock in with the drums, be pysically relaxed, and of course avoid spending too much. Most beginner fives may be too expensive for some and not worth it for others. I think a decent fender or dean is an excellent first choice for a 4. By all means buy a five but see how it feels first. most people like the gradual approach. The B string is AWESOME but in most music uses the E and A for simple grooves.
  9. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
    4... yeah, a 4 stringer is where it's at.

    Wait... no,,, a 5 string! for the low end rumble!.....

    Yeah... 5 string.....

    no wait,,, 4.....

    no ,5.

    8 STRINGS!


    *Not a dis to extra string players, only to JT, and PS: Polly likes strings, period.
  10. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    I think it is easier to play on 5 strings so you do not have to move your finger up and down especially when you play bass and sing.
    When you master it then you can start playing 4 strings which is more difficult.
    For me 4 or 5 strings it is just the same.
    Please just do not copy any bassline from the song exatcly like what it is written or heard.
    4 and 5 is just higher or lower note.
    5 string is preffered for position, thumb anchor and its easeier when I sing while playing.
    But many like Sting, Paul M Cartney, and other top player play and sing with only 4 strings.
    So decide your self.
  11. BassesOfDeath


    Sep 13, 2003
    I have a 4 string which I love, when I do buy a new bass I'm probably gonna go all the way and get a 6 string.
  12. H2ODog


    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    Hey PollyBass!

    With all this talk about the number of strings my girlfiend suggested i should go to K-mart and get a G string, it would make her happy and save me money hmmm....:p
  13. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
    For once I agree with you. That sounds MUCH better than debating over how many strings you have, either way, you can't really lose here.
  14. H2ODog


    Sep 30, 2003
    Roseville, CA
    Thank you all for your input, this is a great site for someone like me, that needs answers from very knowledgable people. Thanks again.:)
  15. Well, since we all know that bassists aren't as smart as guitarists and therefore can't handle as many strings, I'd recommend going with as few as possible.

    Guitarists not only handle 6 strings but they have that funky major 3rd interval in between the G and B strings. Plus they have to learn all those damn chords! It's good that there is an instrument for those of us too dumb to handle more than a couple of strings. That's why I became a bass player! You only have to play one note at a time and can get away with just a couple of strings.

    - Dave

    (if my point was too subtle, let me know)
  16. Dave makes an intersting point. I also think Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap was on to something when he referred to their requirement for a bass player: "Really, we were just looking for somebody who could count to four several times in a row."

    Seriously though, I recommend starting out on a five-string bass for the versatility they offer. When you do buy a bass, consider having a knowlegeable guitar tech adjust the action for you. By action, I mean the neck relief, bridge saddle height, and intonation. I remember my very first bass which had horrendously poor action with the strings about 1/2-inch off the 12th fret. I think I would have learned faster and enjoyed it more if I didn't have to physically struggle to play the thing. Also be aware that some cool-looking basses can sound terrible or be less playable and some humble-looking basses can sound and play better. Have fun.
  17. if you want a 4 or a 5 it is ultimately up to you and I don't know what to say that could help you decide other than to go out and play some and see how things feel.

    one major consideration is how much money do you want to spend on this bass. in my opinion it is hard to find a quality 5-string bass for much under $700. but you could get a great 4-string bass for about as cheap as you would want to. the thing about 5-strings is the B string tension and clairity. I didn't like 5-stringers until I played a nice one. I think that for most people just starting out it is more economical to start with a 4-string just because you have a lot more options in the cheaper price ranges. but if you have more money to work with then it does not matter.
  18. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    I say get a 5.

    My opinion on the B string: Better to have it and not use it than need it and not have it.
  19. get a five string, the b string acts as a nice thumbrest is you dont use it.
  20. I'm going to respectfully disagree with what most people have been saying. I think a four string is the best kind of bass to start out on. It's good to be more comfortable on playing something that only has the bare minimum. A four string is still the only essential bass. If you play a five a six a seven of an eight string, that's good for you, but just make sure you still know how to play a four. It's the only kind of bass anybody should ever really need.