5-string basses & playing

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by rapha, Jan 29, 2021.

  1. rapha


    Sep 18, 2012
    This is probably not the first posting on this topic. But I’d like to be a bit more specific here.

    Looking on advice on a decent 5-string under $450, used or new.

    Plus, would appreciate suggestion on how to best tackle the move from 4 to 5 strings.

    A bit background:
    I’m not a complete bass novice, played 4-strings for decades, but never professionally.
    Wanted to start playing 5-string for a while. Was given a terrible used OLP Stingray knockoff years ago. It was either a terrible axe to begin with or the previous owner just treated it poorly. I was so turned off by it that I had to give it away. Nevertheless I realized that the change from 4 to 5 strings won’t be easy - at least for me.

    I currently own
    • Matz-customized Jazzmaster;
    • ‘67 Rick 4003;
    • Heartfield DR
    I mainly play prog-rock, experimental and Jazz (free/improv).

    I tried out a couple 5-ers (in stores): Dimension; MTD; Stingray MMs; a Fodera; an ESP LTD... the ones I liked were way over my budget. Can’t justify that as someone who just starts to play 5.

    Can’t spend more than 450. But still, if I spend that much I’d like to have something that doesn’t kill the joy of learning 5-string and it needs to have a good resell value, just in case.

    Preferences (if possible):
    - Active MM configuration, or maybe MJ - not a fan of P.
    - Not too heavy. No neck-dive.
    - Fast neck.
    - Piano-like punchy, deep growl, but ideally versatile enough to also dial in other tones.
    - String-spacing? No idea yet.

    Any advice, any experience you can share is appreciated. Thank you!
    Zooberwerx likes this.
  2. In that price range I’d probably buy used. Super inexpensive 5 strings just tend to make people think 5 strings suck. I’d look for a used bass that was initially in the $700-$1000 price range new. Doesn’t have to be a specific brand or model. Fender player series, sterling by musicman ray35, Ibanez.
  3. Real Soon

    Real Soon

    Aug 15, 2013
    Atlanta, GA
    If MM config is your speed, that pretty much means Sterling by MusicMan.

    If you can handle some more general-purpose humbuckers and the like, the Ibanez SR series have a pile of instruments that might fit the bill.

    And I agree with @Nephilymbass : Look for a used bass that would be over budget new, esp if resale value is a principal concern.
    eriky4003 and biguglyman like this.
  4. joel406


    Dec 27, 2013

    when I took the plunge I was already playing MIA Fender Jazz Basses. So I stayed on that road. I’ve tried cheaper fivers. They just don’t cut it after years of playing MIA quality. Now I have 4 five stringers. 2 Fenders and 2 Lulls. All are out of your price range by miles. My suggestion would be to hit every store you can and play as many as you can in your price range until you find one that speaks to you.

    Carry on.
  5. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    I tried the 5-string option some years ago when I found a used Guild Pilot 5 with active EMG's. It fit me rather well compared to a few others. Aside from the neck profile, I probably liked the string spacing. Eventually the B string became a thumb rest for me and I pretty much stuck with 4-strings since then.

    I have tried one or two Lakland Skyline 5-strings and I thought those were very cozy. One of those from the used market would probably go for just a bit more than $450, but maybe not by much if you find a nice deal.

    If you like a "fast" neck - translation: not too chunky - I agree with our pals that Ibanez could be a good call. Other labels that could work for you might include Sire, Yamaha, and perhaps Schecter. But I'm not sure what models to look for there.
    Ggaa likes this.
  6. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    In that price range, and your insistent on an MM config, a Sterling by Musicman will fit the bill nicely. I've done quite a few setups for kids that have the Sterling by Balls, and though they sound a bit different from the more expensive Stingrays, they do not sound $2000 worth of different. They also seem to be fairly well built basses. If you want a fast neck, then an Ibanez SR will fit the bill. As someone else above stated, and it really is the best advice IMO, try hitting up every music store you can, and play everything in your price range, then get the one that speaks to you.
  7. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2008
    I am not a Fender fanboy - my main axes are all headless graphite things - but for your specific purposes, I’d recommend checking out a Squier VM Jazz V. I picked one up years ago for a special project, and was really surprised how good a bass it was, especially for the money (mine was $300 out the door). They’re as standard a 5er as you are going to find as a starter - 18mm string spacing in a 34” scale. Mine sounds amazing with DR Hi Beams, and while it doesn’t play as nicely as my $3000 Status Graphites, it’s quite good and eminently gigable. And they are easy to resell if you want to upgrade or change.
    Bunk McNulty, Felken and TomB like this.
  8. biguglyman


    Jul 27, 2017
    Rochester, NY
    As far as making the move to the fiver...when I got my first five string I was playing a G&L L2000E that I loved. I had to make myself put it away and do the "total immersion" thing on the fiver. Took a few weeks but eventually my muscles learned new memories. I ended up having to sell the G&L but I still own that first fiver. If you can find a used Carvin LB75 in your price range, that's the one I still own. Great basses but not the MM config you want. Good luck in your search. Once you start using that low D on the B string you'll never look back...lol
    funkinbottom and flannel cat like this.
  9. 4StringsEnough


    Mar 9, 2008
    I would advise deciding on string spacing before anything else. It's so personal and if you have a bass with string spacing you don't get on with, no matter how good the bass, you'll never gel with it. 16.5mm is most common and, for me, too narrow. 19mm often found on Fender style 5-srrings and, for me, too wide. 18mm rare but getting more love and, for me, is the Goldilox of string spacing. YMMV.

    Check out the Cort range. C5 in particular. Amazing value for money. Cort makes most of the other brands so their own basses tend to be better value due to cutting out the middle man.
    wardak, gg22, TrevorG and 1 other person like this.
  10. I'd agree mint/used down in that price range would buy you more bass for your bucks. New in that price range, judging by the basses you have, which all would seem to sport slimmer necks, there are a lot of Ibanez models with soapbar pickups that might do. I'd agree with Sid Fang that a Squier VM Jazz Five is a great starter five for the price, with the added attraction that a lot of aftermarket parts are available for these Fender-blueprint insturments. And for MM, a Sterling StingRay Five would work, albeit a little more chunky instrument.

    I'd also include the caution I use when recommending 'beginner' instruments: You're learning a new instrument, it's going to feel weird regardless, so get something that 'fits' you that's quality, even if you have to spend a little more: Because a crappy instrument that fights you is a headache nobody needs, and why give away money for something with little or no resale interest ?
  11. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Don't write off P pickups - and try a 5 string Yamaha BB model. That's all I have to offer.
  12. KaraQ


    Apr 19, 2020
    Sacramento, CA

    As others have said, Ibanez SR series could be a good choice for you - my sr305e was less than $400 new...

    flannel cat likes this.
  13. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    The trick about such a transition is to find a bass that's not a serious step down from your standards. You got some pretty nice 4 strings - you need a bass that you actually like playing.
    To actually make the transition to a different number of strings, a good way is to lock up your 4 string basses and play the 5 exclusively until it feels like home. Explore the new possibilities, for example by playing songs
    five frets down and one string up (or five frets up and one string down, depending on how you look at it).
    It takes a while for your brain to go from 'it's a 4 string bass with an extra string' to 'it's a 5 sting bass'

    When you do that on a cheap 'I'ts just an experiment' bass, you're going to have a harder time.
    So I'd suggest that you find a list of basses you actually like and then search the 2nd hand market - and post ads in your areas popular online markets. With covid going on it's a good time to buy used gear.
  14. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    I’m fascinated by the OP wanting a bass for under $500, and looking for it to maintain a resale value?

    Fascinating, a mindset I can’t understand... Improbable, unlikely, unless by the will of bubba, Buddha, or some other deity...

    I will be watching this space to gain more understanding...
  15. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    Hmm... but the pandemic is creating desperate actions and sales isn’t it? Hmm... Time to look for that Fodera presentation and the 66 precision... Hopefully, also for under $500...

    I can dream can’t I?
  16. Naigewron


    Jan 5, 2018
    If you want MM on a budget, look for a used Ibanez ATK305 or 205.

    As for 5-strings, the main key for me was to change my technique to floating thumb. Once that clicked, 5-strings got as easy to play as 4-strings for me, and I stopped even looking at 4-strings from then on.
    VoodooJazz likes this.
  17. Please don't write of "cheap basses". I had a Dean Edge-1 five string, setup with D'addario light gauge chromes and it was one of the best sounding basses I ever had. It had a single passive humbucking pickup in the "sweet spot" and I was able to get a nice clean growl or a fat vintage sound, depending on technique and EQ on the amp. I had that bass for over a year and a half and never had to touch the truss rod adjustment. For $229 I got a lot of bass for my money. Definitely worth a look.:D

    Dean Edge-1.jpg
    TrustRod and bobba66 like this.
  18. burgerdj


    Dec 4, 2006
    Once you narrow down scale and string spacing, it’ll be easier to provide recommendations. You’re definitely going to get more boom for your buck in the used market. I’d start looking at an import MTD Kingston if you really want a MM configuration in that price range. Yamaha has some great options, too.
    eriky4003 likes this.
  19. Willie5String


    Dec 23, 2018
    Don’t let any of the naysayers tell you that a nice 5 string is WAY outide your price point.

    I have a couple of 90’s Boner made in the USA jazz basses, I think I paid $500 for one and maybe $350 for the other. Both came with cases.

    The cheaper one has a God awful blueish color and has the infamous B string crack of that era and a pretty good dent in the lower bout, but is a quite serviceable instrument.

    They both have active electronics that are well thought out, put a set of Kalium hybrid strings (.130 B, however bigger is better) and they both are great instruments, and have good solid sounding B strings.

    Word to the wise, there is the initial approach I took on a 5 string which was “Hey, I can play the 5th of my low E now” and theres the rethinking of how/where to play an E major scale, go with the rethinking of how to play an E major scale. My B string gets equal play with my E string.
    TrustRod likes this.
  20. The move from 4-strings to 5 shouldn’t be as traumatic as you’re making it. Unless you make it hard, it should come to you fairly easily, given your years with a four. The biggest adjustment you’ll face is a noticeably wider neck.

    The most important things to consider, given your apprehension, are learning in advance what to look at in a 5-string bass, trying it out before buying it and taking the time to set it up properly as soon as it’s in your hands. The least important things IMO are resale value and “my sound.” An unconscionable amount of effort is pissed away on that last item that could be far better spent refining playing skills in the practice room.

    You’ve tried a few fives that you liked. Did you take detailed notice of just what it was you liked? e.g. Neck width - 1-5/8” or 1-3/4” or 1-?/?”; neck thickness, shape and taper; or perhaps pickup location - 1” and 3-1/2” or ??” and ??” from the bridge saddle; body profile and edge shaping - rounded and comfortable when sitting or square-edged and cool looking when standing. If you do this homework before you sally forth with an ad and a wad of greenbacks you’ll be a happy player when you get some weeks beyond the new bass day (NBD).
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

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