4-String songs on a 5-String??

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by musicismyhold, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. musicismyhold


    Dec 23, 2013
    I just got a 5-string bass from my cousin not too long ago. This one was given to me by him as another extremely late birthday gift, but my question is can you play songs that were recorded on a 4-String on a 5-string bass?
    My cousin taught me how to play a couple songs on my new bass the day he gave it to me. But, I don't want to have to switch between basses to play songs by Three Days Grace and the newer songs by Five Finger Death Punch (Which use a 4-String rather than the 5-String like the previous bassist did). So, any information would be greatly appreciated!
    I already asked my cousin and he said that there shouldn't be a reason as to why not, but I want to see what others say.
    Thank you for any information you can give!
  2. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Absolutely no reason why you can't. I'm playing songs I wrote on a four string on a SIX string bass! You've got the original four strings right there, just the additional low B. The only problem you may have is that the songs may in a nonstandard tuning, which would require some creative fingering, but nothing you can't work through. Enjoy your new bass!

    Also, forum rule: No pics no bass :p Post some pics!
  3. musicismyhold


    Dec 23, 2013
    Thanks! Hopefully I'll remember that I have the additional string when I'm playing some songs like the newer 5FDP songs. Lol.
    And, I hope I'll be able to have some pics up within the next few days or so!
  4. SRFSterling5


    Sep 24, 2011
    Hey you're in great company! I started on a 4. Went to a 5 at the point when they first became popular, yeah many moons ago. It's been 27 years now and I haven't used a 4 since. Getting back into some older music, it can work for you meaning using notes lower that E, provided you use them tastefully and don't go overboard. I think you'll find a lot of enjoyment in the 5. I'm using it for a lot of stuff done on the 4, plus it opens up the guitar players eyes when you drop those low notes. Congrats on the new bass.
  5. Jason Brown

    Jason Brown

    May 1, 2000
    SLC, UT

    Can you buy something for $4.00 with a five-dollar bill? If so, then yes.
  6. musicismyhold


    Dec 23, 2013
    Yeah. I mainly like to play my favorite songs by Five Finger Death Punch. And now I'll be able to play songs by Three Days Grace. Although, my cousin is begging me to stand in for him for a while in the band he's in. Aaron and Jason agree.
    But, my point I'm getting to is I like to play because I love the deep sound of a bass. But, I wasn't sure if I would be able to play the songs I like to that are recorded on a 4-string on my new one.
    The first one he gave me was a Lakland Skyline Decade. The one he just recently gave me is a PRS Grainger 10 Top 5-String.
  7. Wow i wish someone would give me a $3,000.00 bass
  8. Red_Label


    Dec 1, 2013
    MT, USA
    I submit that a 5-string bass is BETTER for songs originally played on a 4-string. As a lead guitar player of 30 years who recently switched over to bass (finally got bored after years of mindless lead shredding -- now I enjoy laying-down a big, fat groove and being the true foundation of the music)... on guitar I always preferred the ring and polyphony of open strings. But on bass, I MUCH prefer the much bigger tone of the bigger strings. So instead of playing an open E for instance, I'll generally choose the E on the B string.

    And yeah... I second the post about wishing someone would give me a $3,000 instrument! I've bought plenty of them over the years... but never had a musical benefactor/bankroller like that. That's pretty cool! :D
  9. Thrash3r


    Aug 5, 2013
    Chris Kael tunes to BEAD for a lot of the FFDP stuff so it doesn't matter, it becomes more an issue with other tunings where the riffs use lots of open strings, Slayer for example is much easier to play if you tune Eb or C#.
  10. musicismyhold


    Dec 23, 2013
    He says 'If you're gonna play an instrument, play a great one or don't play at all!'
    I keep telling him not to go all out like that, but does he ever listen to me? Nooooo.
    Matt Snell, the previous bassist for FFDP, used a 5-String compared to the one that Chris Kael uses, which is a 4-string.
  11. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Well one advantage to a quality 5 string is you can play it like a 5 string instead of like a 4 string with a few extra low notes. What that means is that if you want a low E you can play open E on the E string or 5th fret on the B string and the both sound the same (or reasonably close). And of course on the 5er you can also play low Eb, D, Db, C etc. that you can't on the 4.

    And if you don't allow yourself to become confused with the extra string you can also play it like a 4 string which means you can play the songs exactly the way you learned them on your 4 string bass.

    Since you are just learning songs the way they were originally played I don't think you'll have a problem with changing basslines, but learning to use a B string tastefully needs to be acquired. Even worse, I find that I have a temptation to "improve" classic 4 string basslines with 5 string features and trying to improve the masters is sort of a fool's game. Playing a 4 string keeps you from doing that.
  12. Thumper


    Mar 22, 2000
    Layton, UT
    Think of the B string as a thumb rest until you need it...
  13. tmdazed


    Sep 29, 2012
    in standard tuning, just dont use the B string
  14. I find its easier to play Break by 3DG with a B string.

    Remember that a 5 string a 4 string plus one! All the strings of the four string are there, with the added benefit of a B string.
  15. musicismyhold


    Dec 23, 2013
    In Hard to See by FFDP, it uses the B string quite a bit. So, that was one that I wouldn't have been able to play before. Since I learn them the way the songs are originally played. Or at least very close to it.
  16. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member

    Good god, man... Yes.

    I use a 5er always and when I play in my 80's rock/metal band, I may go a set without even touching the B string.

    I use it a lot more in my other bands but it isn't in the way if I don't need it.
  17. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Thumper said it all.
  18. musicismyhold


    Dec 23, 2013
    Like I said in my original post, my cousin said there shouldn't be any reason as to why not, but I just wanted to see what others say.
    Since I know like Aaron and Jason have totally different opinions. They both currently play lead and rhythm respectively, but they started out on bass. Much like my cousin. But my cousin stuck with bass. They're a lot older than I am.
    But, Aaron says that it wouldn't sound right. Jason says that there shouldn't be a reason as to why not.
    So, that is my reason for asking.
  19. I played 4 string for years, bought a 5 string about 6 years ago and played both for a while. Switched permanently to the 5 string a little over a year ago. I did have to relearn (or re-work I guess) a bunch of "4 string" songs, especially Rush tunes but it was well worth it. My band covers stuff in standard, drop D, half/full step down (all strings) and some songs that need that low B/C. I can do it all on one instrument.
  20. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    Of course...why not? I've played a 5 since the late 80's exclusively.

    My car can go 120 mph but I drive the speed limit without problems. Same thing with the bass. I can do the 4 string speed limit just fine.