4 String vs. 5 String

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jbasser206, Jul 31, 2002.

  1. jbasser206


    Jul 31, 2002
    Western NY
    I am considering adding a 5 string to my collection. I have played 4 strings for 30 years now. Is the switch tough to make? is it confussing? and can I work back and forth from 4-5 without screwing myself up??
  2. Skavenger


    May 26, 2002
    Of course you can. I switched from 4 to 5-string two years ago and I haven't had any problems switching between the two types of basses. If you know your four stringer good, the jump isn't going to be that huge. Also, I think you get more room for creativity when playing a fiver. Good luck-
  3. BigBohn


    Sep 29, 2001
    WPB, Florida
    You'll either hate it or love it. Because at that amount of time sticking to 4-string, theres no in-between. Chances are you'll love it.
  4. Jerry, Jr.

    Jerry, Jr.

    Jun 7, 2002
    Boston, MA
    Hey jbasser. I've been playing bass for 16 years now. I got my first 5 string bass back in February. The main reason why I bought it was because I had just joined my current band and one of the songs they wrote had originally been played on a 5 string. It just didn't sound the same without the low B string. Prior to that I had never given much thought to going to 5 strings.

    Anyhow, I like playing a 5 string but, still prefer the traditional 4 string basses. So, I switch back and forth between 4 and 5 strings now. I have not found it to be difficult at all.
  5. Hi:
    I'm a recent convert. Played 4's for 10yrs and in March bought a 5 string. The transition is fairly smooth, w/ a few caveats which still occasionall show up.
    1) the B string needs to be muted, and this takes relearning your hand/palm position to ensure it doesn't ring sympathetically. 2) the extra distance. I can tell you when practicing that I don't play the wrong string, but a couple times live I've played the B-string thinking it was the E. I've also plucked strings different than the ones I was fretting, again this take practice time, but its not a big deal.

    Overall I feel its been a worthwhile step up. Also playing the 5 has made my 4 string playing better and I've had no problems going back and forth.

  6. I don't have as many years as you do because I played guitar for 27 years first. I have been playing bass for about nine and started with 4 and got a 5 that I played for a couple years exclusively. I just recently went back to ALL Fours because I just didn't see the need for the exta weight, scale length, and more strings to change. I just didn't use the B that much. I do have drop D tuners on all my fours though. Works for me. I see nothing wrong with having a 5 if you like it or prefer it. Many do. I didn't have any trouble switching back and fourth when I got used to the five. I'm not a BIG bass player either. My handle just refers to the the Big Strings of a bass....
  7. bben


    Feb 28, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
    I switched from four to five about a year ago after 30 years of four string. FCM3 has it about right.

    But unlike some others, now I have no desire to play my fours any more. Feels like something is missing; after a bit I put the four down again. In the process of selling the fours.

    Personally, I find five string easier to play than four, with more positions and options. It makes it a piece of cake to play in Eb or Ab. I also use low D fairly often, and low C once in a while, and like having that option.
  8. well i dont know if i can relate to some of you long-time bassists as well: i've been playing bass for 6 years and bought my first 5-string about 3 years ago but have always played both 5 and 4 string interchangably (is that a word?). but as far as i'm concerned, it's no problem at all! i usually end up playing my 5 string more because it's the better of my basses. i LOVE the low b-string, it's a blast to play. but i havent played in too many bands where the b string is absolutely needed, i usually have to make sure i'm using it myself so it doesnt go wasted. but sometimes i find that going back to 4 is fun, i sometimes feel like i can move quicker on that...not because i dont get 5 strings but because i feel like the 5 string is extra practice and work. sort of like in baseball when a batter warms up with extra weights on his bat so that when he's swinging a normal bat, his swing will be harder and fast. i hope that makes sense...

  9. bbp


    Jul 25, 2002
    had 5's didn't like them. went back to 4's and that's where i'm staying. got great respect for 5 string players. but anything more than 4 string is more than i need or am comfortable with.
  10. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I played 4 exclusively for 15 years except for a 3 month flirtation with a cheap neck heavy 5 string with a baseball bat neck that nearly ruined my left hand.

    Then, 6 or 7 years ago, I bought an Ibanez 6 that had a nice thin neck and played it on a gig 3 days later. I have since added 2 fives and another 6.

    I now switch between four, five, six and twelve and have little difficulty switching. I suck equally at all of them!:p
  11. LowEndRider

    LowEndRider Guest

    Mar 4, 2002
    As another 30+ year player I bought a five just recently and found the easiest way to adapt was to play it as a 4 and ignore the B until I felt comfortable.
    Having the extra depth is great - I use the 5 exclusively for recording now but still like to blast the 4 live (Like an old pair of jeans - still love it).
  12. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I switched to five-strings six years ago, and now I can't even touch a four-string. I have seven five-strings and one lonely, unused four. Five rules.
  13. When I switched from 4 to 5 (which wasn't very long after I started playing bass), I used the b-string as a thumbrest as opposed to the pickup. Been that way ever since. You automatically mute the b-string, your hand doesn't have to make the giant leap from the pu to the other strings and it just plain feels good to me. For the occasional note on the b-string I just push my thumb up against the body which works fine for me. I'd even rather play a fiver and not use the b-string except for a thumbrest, than a four-banger.

    Cheers rOdy
  14. virtual.ray


    Oct 25, 2000
    While I acknowledge the fact that many gifted players are and will continue to make great music on 4 string basses,for me personally 4s feel funny now that I've been playing 5 for the last 31/2 years.
    For me it's not just the B string;I just prefer the dimensions of the necks on most 5s.The extra width is more comfortable to me.
    I sold my last 4 (as well as a 6) to finance the purchase of a fretless 5.I may get another 6 down the road,but I'm pretty sure 5 will be my mainstay from now on.
  15. as for the comfortability that virtual.ray speaks of, that much i can definitely understand. jbasser, you've been playing bass for such a long time that i'm sure this is not a concern for you...but i taught myself initially how to play bass. i didnt start *serious* lessons with a real quality teacher until after i bought my 5string. when i first started playing bass (on a 4string), i would always wrap my hand around the neck thus making my wrist pretty firm, not relaxed and loose like it's supposed to be (and i dont even have big hands!), not to mention a really bad angle for moving on the neck as well. by starting on a 5string, and mine especially has a wide, wide neck, it really almost forced me into the proper left-hand technique because there was just no way i could wrap my hand around a neck of that width. now, wider necks are the only necks i feel truely comfortable playing. and i'm sure you will no problem adjusting to the extra width and jumping to notes easily on your B and E strings.
  16. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    IMHO 5's are just 4's with that added versitality.

    5's cost barely any more than fours nowadays so why not just grab one? Unless you have problems going from a smaller neck to a larger one i cant see why you wouldnt take the plunge.
  17. Nobody has mentioned this, but I think there's another issue here: sound. I personally love playing 5-strings, and tend to find that their thicker necks reduce dead spots. However, a really good 4-string always sounds somewhat livelier to me than a 5'er, as if the smaller neck is actually MORE resonant or something. . .
  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    IMO the key to success in making the switch, as in most things in life, is desire. If you really want to do it, it'll probably work. If you're being pushed into it, however lightly, you may not like it.

    I started playing fives in the early 80's, as soon as I could find one (they were very rare). I've played them as my main basses since then but still play other configurations. I took to it immediately, just like I did with fretless, because I really wanted to play it.

    Find a five that fits you... if you like wide spacing, find one with that spacing. If you like narrow spacing, find that. There are a ton of fives available now, for reasonable prices, so that shouldn't be a hindrance. Good luck.
  19. punkfunkfreak


    Dec 16, 2001
    good point although, i wouldnt know about the resonation ratios of thicker/thinner necks.

    a question for the smartass' in here perhaps?

  20. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    I have owned one 4 string bass.. the rest have been 5s.. I hardly ever play 4s now.. but I still like to pick on up every now and then... I didnt find the transistion hard at all.