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5 string = healthier for wrists?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Tupac, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Well, I have a little theory that tall people have an easier time playing bass. Since they have a longer reach, it's much easier for them to play up near the nut, in the same way that it feels easy for us bass players to get around on a tiny guitar. Flea's 5'6, and looks to have some trouble up there. I'm not much taller than that, and have a similar wonky hand up there. Playing the C major scale on the third fret is awful. Meanwhile Les Claypool, a giant, has no issues doing power chords on the second fret. So how is this relevant to the title? Well, I figured that you could alleviate this problem by getting a five string. You can play all your low G and E songs right up near the fifth fret. Now that is a comfortable range for me to handle. By playing everything in the middle of the neck, my wrist isn't bent into ridiculous angles. So maybe a five string is the answer for short people such as myself. Thoughts?
  2. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    I am around 5 6" and use a 35" scale bass, and have fairly small hands too. I understand the issue you are describing... kind of having to bend the LH wrist a lot (I hated playing in C on a 5-string with all that first fret action!). I just wear the bass at a middle height where it's comfortable for my wrist. I am always down there on the low notes and dont suffer. I practice a lot in that range too though and maybe that helps.

    Also consider the position of your thumb. I find everything is easier if I keep the angle of my LH thumb basically in the center and in line with the neck.

    I rarely use the 5th fret range on B for stuff I'd normally play on E, sounds a bit too dark and chunky for my taste.
  3. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    You know what they say about guys with big hands right? I can't imagine playing a fretless with small hands. I'm 6'2 and never really have a problem. A good setup will help too. Playing at the 5th doesn't sound as cool as jamming on an open E for hard rock.
  4. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Bajo Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    It almost looks like Claypool is playing those double stops with his index and pinky, which is a hell of a lot easier to do than with your index and ring.
  5. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Logical theory though the extra width may counteract the benefit depending on the individual. I have concluded that playing a short scale is a better answer for me. I have also given up on the idea of one finger per fret so I end up doing a lot of shifting.

    All my basses are long except for one Mustang which tends to be the only one I use for blues where the bass lines tend to be a little more busy.

    I mainly use the 5-er when trying to play a song by ear and am struggling to "see" the scale pattern. For me its easier to visualize the scales without open strings so it works out well to play a 5 at the 5th fret as you describe.

    If you don't have a 5-er it would be a good excuse to buy one that your significant other might even support. :)
  6. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I see what you mean about visualizing the scale pattern. Sometimes I play from the 7th fret on the A string when transcribing for that reason.
  7. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I have to agree, I have always advocated that a 5er is not always about playing lower notes that a standard E. It can also be about playing open, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd position songs on an standard bass at the 5th, 6th and 7th positions on a 5er. Also look honestly at you notes use and where you play, do you need to be tuned E, A, D, G ? Could tuning to B, E, A, D serve you better. Or better still use a 30" scale bass....I use them all the time and find no real tone difference to a standard bass, but a lot more comfortable to play.
  8. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    I'm only 5'8" but I don't find playing in the low positions a problem, when I first started it felt like a huge stretch to play 1234 in the first position but over time it's got to the point where it just feels natural.
  9. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Tall or small, you need a safe playing position, one that won't harm you. Wrists aren't to be bent.
  10. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    I've never had any issues that way, and I'm 5'7"-5'8". I wear my bass nice and high, about stomach height, and I like to tilt my bass up a bit. I think bass position plays a huge role here. It would be a little harder if you slung it lower and kept it horizontal.

    I don't really know how much height factors into it, I guess I'm taller than 5'6", but certainly not by much.
  11. DONZI97


    Dec 24, 2008
    Algonac Michigan
    My hand/wrist is much more comfortable on my 5 string Smith, than my 4 string P, in any position. I'm 6'2 with long skinny fingers, and the Smith feels like it was made for my hands.
  12. Warmuth


    Aug 6, 2012
    The greatest thing for dealing with this problem is an adjustable strap. I use an EVH strap and it has velcro that allows a strap to adjust in seconds. 90% of our songs I play with my bass way down low with the body on my thigh. For songs I have trouble with the stretches I pull the bass up and can also tilt the neck up to get better access.

    Most guys who play technical stuff slung way down low are just genetically predisposed to it. It's the way their arms and hands are structured. I'm 6'3" and I can't play anything challenging unless I hike my bass up.
  13. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    I suspect that maybe wearing your bass low is the key to playing the low notes. You can tip the bass vertically to make them easier to grab.
  14. I'm 5'8" 45 years old, and have LOTS of issues with tendonitis, etc (left arm and hand). Playing a 4-stringer, even with the strap raised up, is very painful-especially when playing in the key of C for example. I bought a 5'er on a whim this summer and love it to death already. These days I never play below the 3rd fret, and spend most of my time in the 5-12 range. The pain in my left arm is now nearly non-existent, except for a current broken thumb. It also seems to my ears that the tone of the B string is fairly fat, playing in the key of E at the 5th fret for example. As usual IMHO, YMMV, my opinion and fiddy cents will buy ya a cup of coffee...
  15. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    I have the same problems and found the same solution!
  16. That's nonsense, if you're wrists are bent your technique is wrong, period. You don't have to do 1 finger per fret down low either.
  17. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    They have to bend, the headstock area is just to far away from my body. Both sitting down and standing. I do three finger per fret whenever I can, but doing scale exercises, I have to endure the pain.
  18. Post picts, maybe we can help straighten out your wrist.
  19. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Sorry but more explanation and some background to why you have to bend your wrists....or even have pain.:D
  20. Same here, too! I suffer from tendon problems in both arms.

    I went all the way to a 6-string, after my teacher strongly suggested it. At the time I had a gorgeous Carvin SB4000 with a spalted maple top. Within a week of getting my 6, I pretty much never played it again, and eventually sold it.

    As long as I pay attention to technique, do adequate stretching before and after playing, and don't do anything stupid, I have virtually no pain.

    What really helps is rarely playing below the 5th fret. I do every now and then, mostly for a specific tone. Otherwise, it's all 5th and above for me.

    @ Tupac: Playing through pain will end your playing career. Post pictures. The guys on this forum generally care, and know what they're writing about. Bad advice is usually corrected en masse.