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4 string to 5 string conversion?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by russtolium, Jul 14, 2010.

  1. russtolium


    Jul 12, 2010
    Hey, I've been playing my bass more lately (a dumpy Silvertone starter p-bass that's been tweaked extensively to get good action) and, as primarily a guitar player, I find the string spacing on a 4 string (mine is around .8 inches between strings) to be fairly uncomfortable and one day had the thought to squeeze a 5th string in, thereby solving two problems.

    The first problem being the string spacing, the second being my desire for extended range. Right now the overall string spacing is about 2.4 inches using barrel saddles on the bridge. I've researched adjustable bridges and there's a few that could pull off 5 strings at or near that width, namely Schaller and Hipshot.

    Right now I'm still gathering information to determine whether this bass is worth upgrading (I plan to completely overhaul it if I decide to convert) or whether I should just try to find a narrow 5 string that I like to buy instead. I have guitar building experience so the labor isn't really an issue, and I do have a preference towards upgrading philosophically, but if it means putting hours and hours of work into a disappointing final product I won't waste my time.

    So I guess my question is, has anyone heard of this being done and have any links to examples? It seems like it should work and from what I estimate the spacing for 5 strings should be just what I want on my neck. I'll have to find or file a nut and figure out how I should handle placing the 5th tuner, but otherwise it seems fairly simple. I'll likely be converting it to 5 string jazz pickups on the electronics side.
  2. becker4567


    Jul 26, 2008
    Ya, it can be done, but its a bit of a PITA to do. You might go to Rondo and check out their fivers.
  3. PM TBer ric5 - I can't find the thread, but I remember seeing a P-bass he did this on. Looked good. And search for "string conversion" here and in Luthier's forum.
  4. It's possible. I know some people also take the Squier 5 string Jazz and turn that into a 6er. Let us know how this goes.
  5. FunkMetalBass


    Aug 5, 2005
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    This. I've seen pictures of it here on TB. I've considered buying one and doing the same thing so that I can have a 6-string jazz bass.
  6. So am I, but I cant really justify that when only making $250 a week :crying:
    Minimum wage jobs suck.
  7. russtolium


    Jul 12, 2010
    Thanks for the replies! I did a bit more searching around (I guess browsing page by page only covers so much...) and found a few threads about 5 string converts. After taking a good hard look at what it would take to turn this bass into something nice, though, I'm thinking I'll end up getting a new bass entirely.

    It's just a bit more work than I'd want to put into a building project right now since I'd have to remove the finish/electronics and all the hardware, level the frets since the end of the fretboard rises slightly, reshape the pickup cavities to accept jazz pickups, etc etc. and the cost involved would be pretty much the same as buying a decent new one... not to mention who knows how much time in the shop.

    I suspect the custom bass bug will bite again once I've got some real skills under my belt but for now I think I'll just use the time to practice more. ;)
  8. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    In the 80s, there was a kit that you could buy to convert a Fender or Fender clone to a fiver. It came with the tuner, nut and a retro-fit bridge.

    I never did it to one of my basses, but I did play one that it had been done to. It didn't seem that odd at the time because all of the very few fivers that were around had much tighter spacing that is offered these days.

    Not sure you could find a kit like that today, with the fairly cheap availability of five string basses.
  9. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
  10. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    Bringing this one to the top...I have a Yamaha BB300 I'm going to do this to. I've got several 5 strings, and I'm planning on getting more, but considering I've got this one pretty much for a song, and I really like the feel of the neck - but not for a 4 (if that makes sense) - its the same width as my Tobias! So I figure, I'd rather use it than not and seeing what some people have done have put the bug in me...
  11. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    An old buddy of mine had a 4 string Jazz he converted to 5... he also had a 5 string ken smith he converted to 6...

    super tight spacing... but was pretty cool!
  12. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    Well, I have two candidates for this conversion. I have a parts P bass (which I was actually thinking of trading off a while ago) and then this Yamaha...both have aircraft carrier size necks (1 3/4 on one, 1 23/32 on the other), so it really won't be that tight of a spacing on it...the P has the bigger neck, but I have an easier time getting around on that one than the Yamaha....plus the Yamaha really is a beater.
  13. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Have you found a bridge that would work yet?

    That seems like it will be the hardest part to really make work.

    I don't recall the name of the bridge he had, but a while ago someone posted the name of it... (yeah that helps)... but each string had an individual piece that you could unlock and slide sideways... they looked like S's almost (offset front to rear). I think early conklin's used them if I am not mistaken...

    Man, id love to reconnect with that guy... He actually got me really really into playing bass, more than just playing bass like I was before...
  14. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    Looking at Ric5's site, it seems the Schallers will work....
  15. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    The bridge on this one is what he had:

  16. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    WOW. The reason though I'll probaby do the Schaller though, is because Warmoth is like an hour away, and they're a Schaller dealer...
  17. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Of I remember correctly, his did not have that large of a base plate on his... I have seen these with 7 strings on them... I quite liked that bridge, not many moving parts to rattle...
  18. My first 5 was a Steinberger 4 I converted to see if I'd like a 5er. Still got it, not sure if I still have the 4 string parts laying around though....

    The tight spacing isn't much of a problem to get used to,except for slapping... :bassist: I remember that being a little difficult.

  19. after couple hours searching the forum, reading some opinions about 4str convert to 5str, i decided to do the same things, so there she is before converting

    and here she is, the 5'er fretless
    IMG_0793. IMG_0787.

    it's a fairly cheap mod, and strung it EADGC, get a new nut (black TUSQ), a new monorail, routing the bridge, etc
    the question is about the pickups, i'm still using the 4str pickups, can it cover the 5str? or any recomendation about the pickup and the preamp?
    i've found some EMG HZ series, can it answer the question?
    SJHZ | Electric Guitar Pickups & Accessories - EMG Pickups
    MMHZ | Electric Guitar Pickups & Accessories - EMG Pickups
    for the preamp, i had a bartolini 3band, can it goes along with the EMG?
  20. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Yes, those pickups will work just fine as is. There is no need for the poles to line up directly under nor right in between the strings. The magnetic field of those will allow all 5 strings to be heard evenly.

    Play it through an amp. Check each string. Be sure your pickups are sufficiently high enough to "pick up" the strings movement.

    I'm sure it will work just fine as is. Whether or not you like how the pups sound is another matter entirely. So if you do swap them out get some "bar" pickups without individual pole pieces. But it should be good as is otherwise.