4 vs 5 string.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ciananlee, Sep 9, 2012.

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  1. Hey everyone, I'm not sure if this is already a post so if it is then a link to the old thread would be appreciated, if not then your help would be especially appreciated.

    I have been playing bass for a number of years now but have always stuck with playing 4 strings because you usually dont start on a 5. I study music full time and play pretty much every style, my favorite styles being funk, blues, rock, math rock/core and tech metal.
    I was wondering if someone could help me lay out a bunch of pros and cons for moving to a 5 string? Help from both 4 and 5 string players would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance, Cianan.
  2. Garrett151


    Mar 23, 2011
    I really hate to be the "search" guy, but this subject has been beaten to death. Try using the built in google search.
  3. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Best to trot out the taglines that will pop up:

    "Jaco only needed 4 strings"

    "you can't play [insert genre here] without a B-string"

    "I started on 4, moved to 5 and haven't looked back"

    "I tried 5 but hated it"

  4. Mastermold

    Mastermold Supporting Member

    I play both, both are great tools.

    Pros = more range, sometimes less hand movement.

    Cons = thicker neck, sometimes more weight.
  5. bwoodman

    bwoodman Supporting Member


    Long story short - at least for me - no cons in moving to a 5 string. I switched to a 5 back around 1985 after hearing guys like Nathan East, Jimmy Johnson and Anthony Jackson (actually he's a 6 string guy). By this time, I had been playing a 4 since I started in 1978. Use the B as a thumb rest and use the B sparingly. It's great to be able to go down below the E - no tuning the E string down, you're good to go with a guitarist who tunes to Eb or for guys who use open tunings (been in both of these situations). I can't even play a 4 anymore - I own a couple - a P and a J, but I gig only with 5s.
  6. billgwx


    Apr 10, 2009
    Centereach NY
    More cons: you'll have to adapt your muscle memory to get used to the top string being a low B, and likely the smaller string spacing of a 5er. Can't tell you how many times I reached for the wrong string as a result of both.

    Ultimately I put down the 5er in favor of tightening up my 4-string bass playing, down-tuning only as necessary, and guitar playing. No regrets as long as I don't listen to favorite songs of mine where that low B is being put to good use. :)
  7. Chico16


    Apr 2, 2012
    Yuma, Az
    To me, the 5 strings are the most comfortable basses out there. True, you won't use the B as much as the other strings, but it is suuuuper comfortable to me. Also, when you find the right time to use that B, it'll be awesome!
  8. carlis


    Dec 28, 2005
    I follow Chuck Rainey's practice -- studio recording with a 4er (free of muting trouble) and live sessions with a 5er (extended range).

    Go with both. Problem solved.
  9. SBsoundguy


    Sep 2, 2011
    Los Angeles
    I have a 4s, a 5, and a 6. I prefer my 4s more.
  10. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    fwiw right now I'm totally in love with a 5-string but it is string E-C. That after playing 5 (B-G) for a decade, then going back to 4-string for a few years to relearn my instrument from the ground up. I don't know that I'll get another B-G strung 5. One thing you have to deal with is damping the low strings if you use floating thumb, or damping middle strings if you don't. Can be overcome by technique, but depends on the player.
  11. Once you get used to a 5, you will never go back to a 4. IF you can get comfortable!
  12. They make 5 string basses? :D
  13. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    I did.
  14. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    Five strings and picks appeal to a certain type of person... Begins with a 'P'...

    (This is a joke - subjective personal preference - don't flame me!)

  15. grendle


    Mar 4, 2011
    Central FL
    Nothing wrong with however many strings you want. A 5 is cool, is tuned down 4 is cool, and a std 4 works for most people. A great sounding low b is awesome. You can really feel those lower notes. Most 5's don't sound like a good vintage 4 if that's your thing though. Some worship gigs I have heard consider a 5 string std issue. And they sound great in r&b hip hop etc. Imo. Minimal pro's / cons. Do buy a good 5 if your going there. Construction is very important with the added tension and register, most good ones have good string tension (the B shouldn't be very flabby) and an authoritive B with a good fundamental. The 4 to 5 jump takes a bit and gooing back feels really wierd to me at least. Just my .02
  16. Never say never. I play almost solely 4's now. I have a 5er but it hasn't been out on a gig in a loooong time.

    Given the OPs taste in music I think a 5er would be a great option.
  17. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    That's a pretty good strategy (although I play almost exclusively 4s myself).

    Muting isn't the only issue that can cause a few headaches in the studio with a 5 string.
  18. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    This right here sums it up in a nutshell. You don't "start" on a 4 and then "move up" to a 5 or 6. You are a player of a certain kind of bass with a certain number of strings and if you want to be player of a different kind of bass with a different number of strings you learn that too. There is no moving up or down.

    Each kind of instrument has its own advantages and disadvantages. So which one you use with given music depends on your preferences, how many chords you want to use, how much you'll solo, how much range both high and low you'll need, how traditional the music will be, how much slapping you'll be doing and so on. If you happen to prefer one kind of instrument over another like soundguy, it's no biggie. We all prefer certain things and that can change from time to time.

    Point is you don't start on a lute and then later "move up" to an electric guitar. But there's certainly nothing wrong with being able to play a lute AND also being able to play a guitar.
  19. I don't see any difference in 4, 5, or 6 strings. I just say to myself "ok, I have that one in my hands." It can be that easy if you let it and spend the appropriate time with each. I think subscribing to a set number of strings as your mantra is strange. Maybe life becomes that for some people, but try not to pigeon hole yourself.
  20. This is either a very unoriginal attempt at a troll thread (more than likely), or you have literally not searched for answers to your question anywhere on the internet. If it is the second option, writing your query into Google with the word "talkbass" added to the end will probably return in excess of one hundred quadrillion results.

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