5 and/or 6 String Players... Please Help

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. 6-String (BEADGC)

    17 vote(s)
  2. 5-String (BEADG)

    33 vote(s)
  3. 5-String (EADGC)

    5 vote(s)
  1. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Hello all,

    I am a day or two away from ordering my next bass.

    At first, I was settled on a 5-string for several weeks, and then last week I felt the urge to get a 6-string particularly for a fretless.

    My main reason for the 6-string fretless is that I can play higher notes without changing my positions, and my intonation should be more accurate. I debated getting the 6-string fretless and a 5-string fretted (BEADG), but thought not only would it be odd switching between the two, but that I would come to like the feeling of using the C string without shifting, and would want that on the fretted and then would regret not getting the 6-string fretted initially.

    However, I'm not a professional player, just a hobbyist, and I don't have a ton of spare money at this time. 6-string basses are hard to come by - there's a lot less variety, and they're all quite pricey. Where as 5-stringer's seem to be almost a dime a dozen these days.

    I also realized that for the most part, I would be playing in the 5th fret position, and my index would be on the E on the B string. It would give me a more comfortable position, plus I could play up to the Eb on the G string without changing position. I rarely go higher than that anyway, I might for one song out of ten or something.

    I kind of feel like I should go with one or the other at this point and just get used to that one (only ever played 4-stringers). I'm a very simple person that doesn't like change. I like everything to be relatively the same. I have a feeling if I had both a 5 and 6 string, I'd eventually just pick the right one for me, and sell the other one and buy another one with the same amount of strings as the keeper. I also only buy new basses, by choice, so I would lose some money if I did something like this.

    I'm also unsure how I'd like the tone of the high C string. I think I'd much prefer the tone of those notes on the G string higher up anyway.

    I don't know what to do. I'm kind of rambling at this point.

    Also, I can't go into many stores and try out a 6-string version. Even if I could, I feel like I'd really need to spend a few weeks/months with one to determine if I actually like it or not. As I'm used to 4-strings, testing one in a store would likely throw me off of it initially anyway (just due to neck size). I'd really just have to force myself into for a while and see if I like it.

    I guess I'd like to hear from people that have owned both 5 and 6 stringers and chose one or the other.

  2. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    Actually, if anyone with a High C string, could post some clips of them playing on this string, it would help me know if I liked the tone of it or not. That would be a huge help.
  3. Matthew_84


    Nov 7, 2010
    I just added a poll. If you fill it out, can you please list why you refer that configuration.

    I really added it, as I'm curious to see how many people really use or prefer the high C sting over the low B
  4. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    I have 4s, 5s, and a 6. I rarely play the 6. RARELY. And generally only for the novelty of it. But, I keep it because it's really nice (a Peavey Cirrus), and just in case I end up needing a 6-string at some point down the road.

    All that said, I think it's good practice to play on a bass where you HAVE to change your hand position. It will make you a better player. If, as you say, you're just a hobbyist, why not choose the bass that will do the most to help your playing improve?

    One last thought: When switching between basses, it is easiest for me if the string spacing is the same. My 4s have 1 1/2" nut widths and my 5s all have around 1 3/4". Thus, the string spacing up around the nut and lower frets is pretty close - which makes it easier to switch back and forth. I had a 4-string P bass with a 1 3/4" nut at one point. The difference in string spacing between that and my 5 strings was so great that it always threw me off to switch back and forth.

    So, as you shop, that may be a factor to consider and you might want to look for a 5 or 6 string that has similar string spacing to the other bass (or basses) you have now.

    Final thought: For me, getting a 4-string fretless has been the single biggest aid to my learning/playing. Being a 4-string, it forces me to shift my hand position more often, which helps me improve. And being fretless, I can instantly hear how far out of position my hand is, without having to look at the fretboard.
  5. gully_jones

    gully_jones Stone cold groovy man Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2012
    Had a couple of Fives strung both ways and I never could get comfortable playing them. Took a Six string on a very favorable trade to flip as I thought if a Five wasn't comfortable a Six would be impossible. I put new strings on the Six in anticipation of selling it and started to play it. I now have 3 Sixers no Fives and my Fours barely get played. Moral of the story: try them all if possible and keep an opened mind. Good Luck
  6. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003

    I play mostly 4-string.
    I do own one 6-string. It is great.
    For me, I'd rather have the 6-string, than wish I had the B or C string with a 5er.
  7. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I've thought about giving up my 5 and 6 string lately (I just don't know if I have time - or desire to spend/make the time - necessary to get the muting down on the 6 string. My left hand is fine, but I have ringing strings all the time.

    I'm OK on a 5 string, but most of my playing only requires 4 strings with an occasional Low D that may or may not be necessary as the keyboard(s) can cover it at church - my only gig.
  8. ShoeManiac


    Jan 19, 2006
    New Jersey
    I played 6 string almost exclusively for pretty much the first 10 years of my playing career. There was some 4 string playing in the mix, but only on occasion. Part of the philosophy of playing the 6 string was that you could play a lot more in a single position without shifting. And at one point I had 3 6 string basses: two fretted and one fretless.

    But then timbre came into play. And I came to realize that I liked the timbre of a good number of notes better when played higher on the neck and on a heavier gauge string. My touch is slightly heavy and I started to feel like I was overpowering the C string. I tried to compensate by buying 4 and 5 string sets and buying a fairly heavy C string. But I wound up feeling that a .045 or .050 G was probably the lightest string that I felt comfortable with. And when I got my first 5 string? It felt a little more functional. I didn't have so much neck in my left hand. It felt slightly easier to navigate and I still had that lower range with the B string. And shifting up for higher notes wasn't that big of a deal since I had already been doing that on the 6 for the sake of timbre.

    Clearly you may have a different experience. But my experience led to me gradually selling off all of my 6 strings. Now I have no 6 strings and three 5 string basses: two fretted, and one fretless.

    I think you're far more likely to have a good number of economical choices picking a 5 string. At least ones that you can demo before buying.

    The true test for yourself? Well, if you have a 5 string already, try doing this: set up a camera to record yourself playing. For an hour, if you can. Play some of the material that you normally jam to and observe how you're playing in the recording, and take note. How much are you shifting position? And how much are you staying in the same position? This might give you a good indication of whether or not a 6 string is right for you.
  9. PhillipCarr


    Mar 3, 2014
    I prefer 5 strings (BEADG), but mine recently quit playing on me. Gotta take it to my pops and have him help me work on it. I'm almost positive it's a contact issue. Right now I'm playing my pastor's 4 string American made Fender Jazz (sweetness, but only 4 strings :( ) during church. My dad told me he'd buy my 5 string from me to help me buy a new bass.

    So, my question is the same as yours: 5 or 6? I'd like to learn some chording techniques, so I'm leaning toward the 6, but if I never do, it's a cumbersome waste, because I never use my G when playing my 5 string, and usually not even when I'm playing my pastor's Jazz.
  10. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    6-string fretless Roscoe for me.
    I don't play the B or C often but I like knowing they're there.
    It's one instrument I can concentrate on and dedicate myself to.
    As an evolved guitarist, I'm comfortable with the chording concept (the execution I am still working on, and probably will forever).
    Don't know that any clip I could post would be useful to you.
    Go search YouTube for Steve Bailey, known for his fretless 6 prowess.
    Or Jimmy Haslip.
  11. Gougedeye

    Gougedeye Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Central Washington
    There is a guy I see play from time to time locally, and he has a 6 string bass. He is a fabulous bass player! Every time I see him play, I leave feeling like I'd like to have a 6 string. The first 2 or 3 times I went out and bought one, only to find out 6 string aren't for me! You really need to dedicate yourself to the instrument. I did not...so off the 6er went. If you have the time and the inclination to learn and understand the nuances of the 6er, I say go for it. If you are just gassing for the moment, I say hold off for a while. The gas will pass!
  12. I play 5s pretty much all the time, but I have a 6 and would recommend getting one. It totally changed up my playing and I love playing it. Like all of my basses, it has its own individual voice, and in this case anyway, has the lowest and smoothest action of them all. I think my final (ha ha) purchase would be a 6 fretless as this, in my mind anyway, would be the ultimate challenge and at the same time a lot of fun to play. I really like the sound of my C. This is one of the reasons I enjoy playing it so much. For day to day though, I mostly play 5s though the Fender J4 still gets its share of air time.
  13. I played a lot of 6 string in trios.
  14. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    THis is where 6 string really works. If you need the upper range i would go for a 6 string. I've had my Carvin AC50 strung with High C so I could have upper range for blues solos and it worked quite nicely for that. But I really missed the lazyness of the Low B for transpositions etc. Hence a 6 is better, but when I played a 6 the blues nazis were all over my case about it. They told me I looked like I belonged in a jazz trio (and I had to admit they were right about the look) And anyway the Carvin semi-hollow doesn't come a 6 string.

    But these days, I'm not using the high end. So I'm back to my G&L 5ers. Once again G&L doesn't make them in 6 string so if you want what they can give you have to go with 5. I have a fretted-fretless pair and they work out great. But if I went back to 6er musical needs I'd either have to string them with a high C or more likely switch to some fretted-fretless 6er pair.

    This is sort of rambling but maybe you can get the idea of how it all just "depends" on the situation and a lot details. There is no "favorite" here. It's all about what I need to do to fit the music that I want to play at the time.
  15. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
    This as well.

    I own both fours and sixes in fretted and fretless versions. Unless there's a good reason not to, I find myself reaching for the fretted six first and the fretless six second. I sold off my five string after settling on playing the six, and now lately I find myself looking at seven string basses and going "hmmm..."

    If six was four (and it can be, plus a lower and higher string) then I would say the six will cover not only more sonic territory, but also cover more possible gigging situations, depending on the size of the group(s) you're working with.
  16. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    That's the niche I'm looking to exploit as well, and I have heard that tale before. But I expect it'd take only one look at the Synapse for them to beg me to bring the Roscoe back out...
  17. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    I voted for the 6. I don't play 5s, I don't care for the low B that much. I prefer to do chords and tapping on my 6, so the high C is more useful to me than a low B. These days I play my 4 strings though, my 6er has been basically retired.

    You are going to buy new? If you are looking at a Warwick that is a horrendous plan, you are going to lose a fortune on this experiment. You could always get an Ibanez or something from L&M. My L&M usually has one SR506 and one BTB676 or something similar at any given time. The 6 string is not as rare of a bird as it once was. They might have rentals at L&M, my store used to rent gear off the sales wall. I bought my first 6er off Kijiji and sold it for what I paid for it if not more.
  18. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota

    The reason I play Roscoe and the reason I am trying to get comfortable on a Roscoe 6 right now. Struggling with right hand more than left.
  19. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota

    This is my struggle. Not sure it will pay off to learn 6 string. Not much need in my church gig. Mostly got it for home use but that seems like a waste sometimes. It's an amazing bass. Aside from the muting issue it plays as easy as my 5 string.
  20. Rocktometrist


    Oct 3, 2012
    I vote for a 5 banger because:

    -In terms of shifting position, the low B is much more useful. Unless you're Michael Manring, you presumably won't be playing a bunch of notes above normal bass guitar sonic territory. As you pointed out, when playing in E on a 5 string you'll have access all the way up to Eb on the G string with no shifting required.

    -...and if you're hanging out above Eb on the G string a lot, everyone in your band already hates you, so you should probably stop.

    -6 strings have necks like airport runways. If you're not using the C string very often, why make things harder for yourself by having to reach past it every time you fret a note? Why increase the chance of stress injury by making the tendinitis-making-machine called a bass guitar even bigger and more unwieldy for no good reason?

    If you're a soloist who plays chords and taps, a six-string makes sense. If you're playing the traditional role of a bassist in a band, a sixer is unnecessary, more expensive, and physically more difficult to play. Clear win for the 5 in my opinion.