5 String Blues

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Joe Nerve, Jul 18, 2004.

  1. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Just feel the need to vent. Just got a 5 string. Took it to a gig Friday, took it to a gig Saturday. Friday, played one song, put it back on it's stand. Saturday, 4 songs, back on it's stand. I want to smash it.

    I am an incredibly confident 4 string player. I love playing. I live for playing. I put on the 5 string, and I turn into a bafoon. One freaking extra string, and my equilibrium is totally thrown off. It confuses the living hell out of me and I screw up royally. I HATE it.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately maybe) I need to get past this, because I just landed a pretty cool paying gig where I need a 5 string. I know that with practice all will be fine, but I'm just dreading the work it's gonna take until I'm used to it - and a small part of me fears that if I keep going back from 4 to 5 I'm gonna keep getting tripped up. I'm also going from a MM to a $200 bass - so the feel, sustain, sound, etc., really makes playing the 5 string a lot more difficult.

    I'm done. Anyone else grapple with this and want to vent???
  2. DougP


    Sep 4, 2001
    at home my main bass is my six string, but for playing with others i would rather use the four string. i feel like i get lost in all those strings at times, and it really bums me out cause i love that bass.

    i used to play guitar, so when i strap into the four string, it feels like home to me and my timing is damn near flawless with it. get back to the six and i cant tell where i am in relation to the timing.
    i dont get it either.
    i have had the six string for almost 7 years now, but i go back to the four string that i bought about a month ago and its party time.

    you arent alone. isnt there a 12 step program for this affliction?
  3. tappel


    May 31, 2003
    Long Island, NY
    I initially had a tough time making the jump from 4 to 5 but, like anything else, it's just a matter of time. I needed the fiver in the early 90's because I was playing with an instrumental jazz/fusion cover band. Lots of CD101 type stuff (for you New Yorkers) and I mean *all* of that stuff required a 5 string. I think it took a solid 2 weeks before I wasn't on the wrong string every other effin second.

    Now it's second nature and I can play a 4 or 5 interchangeably (nice word, huh?).

    And Steve Bailey plays an unlined fretless six string......

  4. Joe Boom

    Joe Boom

    Jun 25, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    I recently started playing a 5er and ran into the same problem you are experiencing. It took about ten days before I got my bearings but then I was back into my groove. I still have not incorporated the 5th string that much but I can play the old 4 like I used to.

    What is the 5 string you are playing. The first one I had was a G&L L-2500 and it had a fat neck. I have been playing a Carvin B4 which has a razor thin neck. This difference complicated matters greatly.
  5. I have a cheap Ibanez 5 with a rather floppy B, and my main 4 is a Spector.
    The string spacing and floppy B took some getting used to, but I still don't like playing the 5. Of course, if I had a better 5 where the B was tighter, like so many that I've tried in music stores but can't afford, I'm sure it would be less of a problem for me. :p
  6. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Hey Joe -
    (Where you goin with that gun in your hand?)

    Seriously, how long did it take you to learn to play 4 string? Is it logical to think that you'll feel comfortable on 25% more strings after 4 songs? Put in the time, you'll feel more comfortable.
  7. canopener


    Sep 15, 2003
    Isle of Lucy
    He's goin' down to shoot that cheap five string, he caught her messin' around in another band...
  8. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    yup, im a 4 string player. the times that i've tried a 5 string bass, ive got completely offset. but thats cuz i havent played one for long enough to get used to. eventually i'll get a 5 string and force myself to get used to it.
  9. Joe Boom

    Joe Boom

    Jun 25, 2004
    Chicago, IL
    Will he then venture to Mexico?
  10. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    It won't take as long as you think Joe. The main thing is to practice at home so you won't F up as much on the gig. When I first got a 5 string I kept looking down a the B string and thinking it was the E. The jump to 6 string is even easier.
    The first time I ever played a 5 string was on a gig. Our guitar players cousin brought it to me because he wanted to hear it through a big system. He had just started playing and wanted to hear it played by someone with some skill so I said sure I'll play it next set. Well I got to tell you he didn't get to hear someone with skill play it. :D I struggled through one song and told him to get that thing away from me before I cry.
    On the other hand I would like to play my trusty G&L 4 string on the gig but I never know what songs are going to be in the sets and what order they're going to be in. I don't have time to change basses in between songs. We play so many songs that depend on the low B. I never drop D for anything. I fret all of the low D notes on the B string so using a 4 string would be difficult. I would like to work it in though because it's a sweet bass.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Thanks for the support guys. I'm going to spend some time this week going through our covers in the house, and then give it another run this Friday at our next gig. We're playing a place where we're very welcomed and can almost do no wrong, so the pressure will be off a bit. I think part of my problem is also the fact that it does have really wide string spacing, but there's something that I also like about that. I think I want to get used to it.

    I'm glad I'm getting the opportunity to work out the kinks with this thing before I start playing with this other band. I would be a mess if I jumped into a new situation that I was excited about and had work out my kinks on the spot. Confidence is an attractive thing. Fear and confusion don't go over quite as well.
  12. AllegroNonMolto


    May 15, 2004
    Do a lot of visualizing the fretboard when you are away from the instrument.

    I actually got it together in 3 days by writing down all 12 notes in random order about 20 times on a sheet of paper. Kinda like this:

    E G# A C Eb, etc

    I then went through the paper note by note and played each note in every position on the fret board. I spent a couple nights(about 2 hours per session) doing this and honestly by the time I was done I knew the 5 string better than I knew my four string.

    A metronome set to as fast as a pace as you can comfortably follow along helps to force you to think faster too..
  13. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    You seem to already know what it's going to take. All you need to do is to roll up your sleeves and do it. You work in education. You know there's no product without process.

    Proficiency won't come overnight, that's for sure, but you'll wonder how you ever did without it when you get used to it.

    I've always said it's better to play a good 4 than a so-so 5. Since that bass is never going to be better than your MM, I'd make it the best bass it can be by having it set up and intonated and some fresh strings.

    Over time, you might want to invest on a more solid 5, one that won't make you think so much about the MM you left at home.
  14. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000
    Joe, you will be a bona fide 5 string expert before long. When you play your 5 try sticking to the basics until you are more confident. You also might want to venture out to your local music store and play a few different higher quality fives and see if that makes a difference.
  15. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Useless tip#1: Use the b string aas your thumb rest, and ignore it.
    Of course, then you're not playing a 5 string:)
    Helpful tip #1: practice everything you play in closed position. Then it doesn't matter what string you're on. I play lots of stuff starting from closed position on the b string just because I like the beef the bigger fatter string gives to the sound. This also gives you the ability to play any piece in any key, just by shifting position.
    HTH, Alan
  16. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I play lots of stuff starting from closed position on the b string just because I like the beef the bigger fatter string gives to the sound.

    I wish I could say that. I wouldn't want to go back to four - I'm thrilled with playing five strings - but my cheap instrument has a terrible sounding B-string. It's quite 'wolfy' and weak sounding (the rest sound great, but there's hardly anywhere on the B that sounds very good). This Peavy Foundation has some sort of neck tilt adjustment that I'm going to have removed and replaced with hardwood shims - that might help.

  17. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Put the 4 away and dont play on it at all for a month or so. Youll become plenty confident on the 5 by then (if not sooner), and you can play all your 4-string songs on the 5 as well. After that initial getting used to it time, bust the 4 back out. Youll likely be much faster on it than previously, it will feel small and fast compared. At least, thats how I did it and havent regretted it at all.
  18. Blueszilla

    Blueszilla Bassist ordinaire

    Apr 2, 2003
    The Duke City
    I started playing a 5 about 9 years ago after playing a 4 since high school. I liked the low notes and thought it looked cool. I played the fiver exclusively until about a year ago, more because I was snob than any real reason. Like the others have posted, it took a while to get used to it, but it was more mental than anything else. The five made it easier to play, just becuase of more notes to choose from, but only after you get the mental picture. I'm playing 4 more than 5 these days, but I've found I can pick either and feel just as comfortable. I'm sure that you will eventually get to this point also and it is very cool to be able to use either as the situation demands.

    Don't give up Joe, but I suspect you wouldn't anyway.
  19. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    Thanks again for the support.

    I spent all day yesterday learning songs for this new group, and practicing a lot of the songs I already know. Played standing, sitting, jumping. Did finger excercizes. Yes, it's getting easier, still don't really like it though. I'm probably repeating myself, but the thing that's eating at me most is that I'm really stoked about the opportunity to play with the guys I need the 5 string for. The main guy in the band has still never heard me play, he's going off a recommendation from the guy playing guitar - who knows me. It's a somewhat high profile gig. I feel totally 1000% confident when my MM is strapped around my shoulder - I put this thing on and a lot changes. I think there's a freak of a lot to say about attitude and confidence. I'm going (I think) to be rehearsing with them for the first time early saturday. If I'm not confident by then I have to use my best acting abilities. I need to keep remembering also that it's a bass. Basses are my friends. :)

    I have a cover gig friday. If I have a flash of insanity I'll bring ONLY the 5 string. Ohhhh.... will I sweat if I do that. Can't slap too well on this thing (IT doesn't respond well) and we do a handful of riffier "old" Chili Pepper songs. Hmmm..... I should video tape the gig if do it. I'm sure I'll be able to laugh one day at the outcome. I'm babbling. I'm done.
  20. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    Joe: finally on the twentieth post now...

    I'm finally going to just go right out and ask WHY YOU'RE FORCED TO PLAY THE FIVE!??

    (isn't everybody wondering by now?)