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5-string double bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by valid, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. valid


    Dec 8, 2008
    (I excuse myself of anything ignorant said in this post, it's un-intentional) :)

    I have a quick question about 5 sting double basses. Is having the extra notes in the same position worth a thicker neck? I have small hands, but I manage a 3/4 quite well. I'm just worried that it'll end up being too thick and I'm better off shifting back to first for F or whatever. I contacted Engelhardt about making a special 5-string EC-1, but I won't hear back from them for a while, I would say. I don't want it special-ordered and payed for, only to realize that I can't play it.

    If it matters at all, I am a 5'2" (sorry if it's wrong, used to metric) 16 year old girl. I can play a regular 3/4 with no problems.

    I will be using it primarily for jazz, but I wouldn't mind a little arco every once and while.
  2. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    It's ambitious of you to be thinking about this as expanding your musical possibilities is an exciting prospect. I'm not sure that the low B string is really going to speak the way you would like for jazz playing. Paul Warburton is a 5 string player here, and I'm sure he could advise you, but he has a very fine bass. I would doubt that an Englehart or other less expensive bass would support the B string very well sound wise, and yes, you will be dealing with a thicker neck.

    I suggest trying a 5 stringer to see if it is for you. You might do better with a C extension to get the occasional low note. Most jazz bassists have played with 4 string instruments and done just fine. Maybe at some point, a quality instrument could be built just for you.
  3. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
  4. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I see you are in Ontario, but I'm not sure which city.

    The best thing to do is to try out some 5-string basses. People In Ontario I can think of are Joe Phillips - Orchestra London; Chas Elliot - Toronto Symphony; Rob Wolanski - Hamilton Phil and Canadian Opera Company. You could probably reach them by calling the orchestras mentioned and having the offices forward a message to them.
  5. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    valid, unless you can get your hands on a really good fiver, I'd start with a four stringer.

    I see that you mention Jack Bruce as a big influence in your profile. Early on, Jack played upright bass all of the time in clubs (citing Charles Mingus as a major influence)......and it was a four string he played then. And quite well!
  6. JtheJazzMan


    Apr 10, 2006
    admittedly, i sometimes want to go down to a low Eb only to run into the brickwall of the E string, but i find a high C string to be far far more useful.

    especially in jazz, the high C string allows you far more flexibility with melodic lines that would normally require a lot of shifting.

    plus a high C is easier on the bass tension-wise.
  7. i have a five string kay bass with a high C that sounds great. But I don't think that instrument could ever support a low B. Very few basses can handle moving the air it takes to make a low B sound good. no disrespect to Englehart but I would be surprised to see one of there basses respond well with a low B. it takes a very special bass to sound good with a low b pizz.
  8. valid


    Dec 8, 2008
    thanks for the replies everyone, it's really helpful. I wanted the low B, rather than high C, just to clarify. I would play this at school sometimes too, and most of the pieced I play are written for tuba :\ It would be primarily for jazz, though. The biggest problem here is money. I'm a fifteen year old student working a $10/hour job. I also have to save half of every pay towards university.

    Thanks for those names, bejoyous. I'm about 40 minutes form Toronto, so I'm going to check them out. Just a question though, is is Chas or Chad? Just want to make sure if it's a typo, or if that's just his name.

    Thanks everyone!
  9. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    Remember that you're playing the "double bass". It is a transposing instrument and sounds an octave lower than the note on the page. Those really low notes written for tuba are actually supposed to be played an octave higher on your instrument. I played in the Wind Philharmonic at my university and frequently got tuba parts. It's cool to play them as written sometimes with an extension or 5-string, but most of the time I transposed up an octave.

    There are many chinese makers now venturing into making 5-string basses. You might have better luck finding one through an Eastman dealer or someone with connections in China than Engelhardt. I hate to steer people away from good ole American products, but when the price is right...
  10. Thanks, Eric.......
    Valid, if you are curious, take a look at my fiver. Under the Basses Forum heading.....The Talkbasses Eye Candy.
    For a listen, go to our Recordings Forum heading....TB DB SAMPLER under my name down towards the bottom. It IS tuned to the low B.
    Oh yeah.....these are jazz clips.
    PLEASE don't expect to get this kind of sound out of the mentioned basses. This instrument is VERY special. I won't go into details. Just for fun, you can do a TB search under Joseph Bohmann. A lot of history there.
  11. Are you really sure about all that?
  12. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    I would think that the high C string would actually be higher tension than the low B. It would be on the treble side pushing more on the soundpost rather than bassbar. So the argument could be that the high C string would put more tension on the top..

    Then again I could be completely wrong and talking out of my arse..
  13. I don't think so, Cody.
    Since you're a bit new here and you are maybe curious, you might get a kick out of doing some reseach on my bass here. Since it wouldn't be appropriate for me to rant on about it AGAIN.
  14. Nathan Parker

    Nathan Parker

    Oct 10, 2008
    Seattle, WA
    I've never known you to not do something because it wasn't "appropriate". This might be a first.
  15. Thanks, Nathan. Please tell your friends.
  16. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    Broken link? Where are you pointing to, I saw your profile..

    To be more clear, I don't think either setup will be detrimental to the structure of the bass. But if the argument were to be made, his thinking is backwards in my opinion..
  17. OP, you might just consider an extension on your bass so you can hit those low notes when you need them. I'm not a five string guy. I just love the bass as a four string instrument. You are a smaller person (don't worry, so am I) and you might just find the thicker neck a little cumbersome for the reward of a few extra lower register notes. I doubt you will be using the low B across the board in the higher positions for now so my advice is to stick with the four string, tune down when you need a low note or get an extension and do the same. Good luck.
  18. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    Just because the string is bigger does not mean there is more tension. On 5-string electrics, the low B is usually less than 2/3 the tension of the D and G strings.
  19. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Andy Anderson of the Lyric Opera of Chicago had a 5 stringer for sale a while ago. Don't know if it's still available. It is a Christopher and I imagine quite nice. You might contact him and ask questions. He is also a fine teacher.
  20. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Yes it is Chas (short for Charles). Rob Wolanski lives in Hamilton. He's in the phone book.

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