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4 string vs. 5 string

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bassadilla, Dec 29, 2002.

  1. bassadilla


    Dec 29, 2002
    I'm debating.....4 string or 5 string. I can already play the 4 string well. give me the pros and cons.
  2. Bardolph


    Jul 28, 2002
    Grand Rapids, MI
    pros: 4 is cheaper, 5 has wider range
    cons: 5 is more expensive, 4 has smaller range

  3. just_a_poser


    Apr 20, 2002
    Both! :D

    I don't know. It's not like one is really better than the other. You can play most stuff on either one. As far as money goes, any good bass is going to be expensive. If you can already play a 4, it can't hurt to try a 5. If you don't like it you can always sell it off, probably, and get a new 4. It will take some time to adjust to a 5 maybe, but sometimes it's just nice to have a low B.
  4. pmkelly

    pmkelly Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2000
    Kansas City, MO
    you may want to do a search on these topics... they have been done to death! Plenty of opinion on fours vs fives... I saw get one of each, or more!

  5. I used to play four string and five string. I started on a 4 as well, almost 20 years ago. I bought my first 5 in the late 80s.

    I had both for a long time, until a few months ago. I made a decision that I wasn't really using my 4's anymore, so I sold them to clear out some space and buy a new (used) 5 and maybe even a 6.

    I loved playing 4, but 5 gives you more range and I just love playing an E on that low B string. I just thumps more.:cool:
  6. depends on your situation. as for me,

    -don't really need the B
    -never played a B that i've liked
    -you can get a better 4 for cheaper

    that settles it here.
  7. BassMan2000


    Sep 27, 2000
    Another aspect to look at is five strings sound different then four strings (IMO). Five string basses makes it alot easier to do two octave arpeggios. I also, discovered that the tighter spacing is more comfortable for me on five strings. I still enjoy playing four string aswell. It really comes down to relearning an extra string when you go from four to five, which isn't a problem. Usually takes around 2 weeks or so to adapt to the notation of the B, and the feel of the space and scale.

    Those are just a few reasons I listed, hope it helps.
  8. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I agree, 5's tend to sound a bit different. I like to have one of each. If you are doing different types of gigs, it's essential. I have 2 great 5's and 2 great 4's that I gig with. I take the right one to compliment the gig. Good luck

  9. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    Make that a third.
  10. KB

    KB Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    It all depends on the "feel" you want. I currently play 4 strings becasue they feel better to me. I like the smaller neck and the wider spacing. But also for me, I don't play the E string that much :eek: , so the B was not a consideration for me. I also play a lot of fast riffs and some funk so I like the feel of the 4 string better. I may one day get a 5, but for now my 4's make me happy. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different.

    4 string: cheaper, smaller necks while maintaining wider spacing, easy to slap and play fast

    5-string: added range, larger neck, tighter spacing
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    BEADG five is home for me; I wish it had been available back when I started playing. "Wide 5" is the perfect balance of string spacing and fretboard width for me. I have considered moving to 6+, but while I have no doubt could do so I have chosen not to for a number of reasons, of which just one is playability.

    I enjoy having the greater range at each fretboard position, but those lower notes are important: a LOT of newer rock songs have bass lines that go below low E. Before I switched to fiver 2.5 years ago, I was often detuning my E string to various notes: D#, D, C#, even C. Pain in the butt... my Hipshots were only practical for reaching one of those. I perhaps should have considered BEAD-tuned four as Brendan has adopted, but I use the G string too often for that to be the best solution.

    You hear a lot of talk of B string abuse, but I do use those lower notes judiciously... doing so really isn't difficult for anyone who knows his/her role and pays attention. Yes, I use the B string a lot, but I will point out that most of the notes on the B string are within four-string range.

    Final notes:
    1) All I am saying is that five is best for *me*. All other options are cool too.
    2) There will be a learning curve when switching from 4 to 5... took a couple of months for me to be comfortable. Some make the transition more quickly, some more slowly, some never become comfortable on 5+.

    Whatever you decide, good luck.
  12. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    "Wide 5" (1-7/8" nut width) does have a larger neck than a four, but string spacing is the same as a Fender Jazz plus one additional string. Also, some narrow fives have necks no larger than a standard four, but of course the string spacing is very tight. :eek:
  13. In my opinion i think you should get a vintage fender. I had a 5 string pedulla.. sounded great but the mid range had no balls. before i got that i got an original 1973 Fender P-bass in excellent condition. To me i think that the fender grooves harder then the pedulla. So my advice is to get a great old Fender, you'll fall in love with it the first time you play it . I know i did

    peace and rock for ever
  14. ljazz


    Dec 10, 2002
    Cookeville, TN
    Man, I've tried the 5's.... infact I've tried/owned about 20 different models..... I'm not sure if I didn't like them because I'm so in love with my jazz bass or if I just truely didn't like them. So with putting all of my biases aside:

    1. Even on a 35" scale bass, that damned b string sounds like a wet noodle. To me, even the detuned E string (with hipshot) sounds/feels more usable.

    2. If you use the lowest string as a thumb rest when playing on the upper strings, that damned noodle (or b string if you will) grinds the hell out of the pickup.

    3. Even though I have large hands, the extra notes were not worth the trade off in playability (due to neck width and/or string spacing).

    4. Sometimes more is not always better.... when you hit that creative wall, striping things down and giving yourself less variables to work with (4 vs 5) helps the true creative you come out.

    But I must admit that being able to stay in one position with a 5 or 6 is pretty nice..... 4 strings require some lateral movement, thus making a 4 string a bit more challenging to play, especially if detuned.
  15. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I personally don't buy the challenging argument. It is nothing personal, but I don't see how making the instrument harder to play is challenging. I could make one really challenging bass. I would put 2 strings and about 100 frets on it. There would be 24 frets in the right place, and the other 76 would be in the wrong place. Now that would be a challenge.

    To me, making it harder to play is working against yourself. Some of the music I am playing right now "requires" a 6 string. Sure, I guess if you changed the tuning on a 4 so that it had the full range of a 6, maybe B G# E# C would get it. It sure would be a hard to play, maybe impossibly so for me on the songs we are playing right now. I really don't see it being so much a challenge, as, well, kinda dumb.



  16. This makes a lot of sense. I'm a 4 string man at heart, but I honestly felt left out when everyone would talk about their fivers. So I went out and bought an inexpensive 5 string to see how I'd like it. I bought a $400 Yamaha (sounds great BTW) and played it like mad for the first 3 months, many times mistaking the B string for the E, but felt, "At home," whenever I went back to one of my 4s. Now after a long time of not playing it, it's starting to grow on me, the concept of a 5 string that is. I do plan on getting a better 5er at sometime in the future. I guess 5s aren't for everyone, but if you give them time you just may warm up to them. I can't imagine completely giving up a 4 though. If you can swing it, get a not so expensive 5er and have the best of both worlds.

    It's nice to have one of each for variety's sake. :)

  17. ljazz


    Dec 10, 2002
    Cookeville, TN
    Doesn't "maybe impossible" imply being a challenge?.... I guess all of us 4 stringers are kinda dumb, right?

    First, me saying the 4 was more challenging was not an arguement, but an endorsement. Having to play laterally as oppossed to being able to stay in one position is more challenging..... also finding a way to make 5 or 10 less notes work is a challenge. For instance, the chord possibilities are more limited on a 4 as compared to a 6.

    Second, I never meant to imply that I detune down to a B. I've never gone lower than a C, and the feel of the E string tuned down that low, to me, still feels better than a b. I will admit however, that I've never tried a 37" scale BG.

    Third, I don't find my right hand technique much different than most. I've looked at the pickups on many of my bretheren bassists who play 5 or 6 strings, and their pickups are beat to hell. I recall seeing a picture of Nathan East with his Yamaha years ago, and his looked pretty scratched up as well. It almost looked like there was a groove right where the b string could sit.

    Fourth, parring things down, whether it be only using one mode, one register, one string, notes of one chord, etc., is a very common technique used to teach musicians to improvise. Infact, it's one of the methods used by Jamey Abersold (see method for learning tunes), David Baker, and Chuck Sher/Marcus Johnson is Concepts for Bass Soloing.

    I fail to see how any tune "requires" a six string. I do however see where you would prefer to use a six. Putting requirements on the music you play is more limiting the than playing with only 1 string.
  18. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Well, if you want to break it down, what tune actually requires more than one octave. I mean, every note is there, beyond that, it just repeats. I tell you what, go pick up a solo, running three octaves, rewrite it in only one octave, and tell me if it sounds the same. I don't see more strings as putting requirements on my music. Much the opposite. Sometimes, I am playing a song in D, and for some parts I will drop down to a D on the B string for a change, or maybe a C, get some good low rumble in there. Heck, the reason I switched to 5 string in the first place is because I couldn't detune enough and still sound good.