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5 string observation - NO FLAMES!

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Peter Squire, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. heya

    just got back from rehearsal and wanted to share an interesting story with you, and get your thoughts.

    firstly, let me ask that this not become a flame war about ERB etc.

    we have been playing a song by Oasis in the original key of C. Although we all love it, and our crowd sing along and dance, it was painfully obvious that our singer struggled in the chorus. We were all about to agree to drop the song entirely, when the singer suggested we transpose the song into Bb. Easy!

    As i played the line in the new key, I realised that without a 5 stringer, it would be almost impossible to transpose down a full step with any success.

    I got to wondering how I would play the line on my 4 banger. So when I got home, I messed around on my 4 and realised that the only way I would be able to play the Bb line would be to detune.

    Anyone else have this happen to them? I mean, at the end of the day, the whole band has to sound great, and I would be happy to detune to ensure that my singer could succeed.

    Any other stories or ideas on this one, folks?
  2. The Nanny

    The Nanny

    Dec 23, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    This happens ALL the time. Not every singer is a Bono or Freddy Mercury, able to hit all the high notes. Its unfair to expect semi-pro or recreational singers to sing like that. Therefore, downtuning, maybe 1/2 step or even a whole step is very normal.

    You can do one of three things:
    - plan for a 10 second break before that song (singer talks to crowd or whatever) while you retune your guitar
    - bring a second bass guitar tuned for that song
    - do not change your guitar's tuning, and play the new low notes an octave higher...it may sound odd in comparison to the original, but unless you are a tribute band and have to get it bang on, most people would not hear the difference.

    good luck!
  3. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    This is the single best reason to get a 5 string IMHO. They are SOOOO much more flexible!

    I was worried about being able to play it well (I have small hands), but it hasn't been an issue at all. It's basically just a Jazz-spaced 4 string with a fifth string tacked on.
  4. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I know Rush tunes down to D for 2112 these days. I actually like it better that way, it sounds fresher and a little more sinister.
  5. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    It's a different sound, but you could play the Bb line an octave higher but use an octave pedal with it to fill out the bottom. It gives a different flavour that may or may not work for the song but it is a big sound with plenty of bottom.
  6. Bb is going to require detuning even for a 5 string, normally only goes down to B.

  7. he means the key of Bb not the note Bb , its kinda hard to play a lower C on a 4 string too aint it :p (which hes been doing, playing in key of C )

    this is one of the main reasons i have a 5 string, just for the few lower notes, especially the D without having to detune the rest of the bass!
  8. I saw the SR5 in the sig, and the "went home to try it on the 4" and assumed he was already on a 5.... just commenting on how hard it WOULD be to play on 4. But rereading it after you mentioned that interpretation, it does kind of ambiguous, that could be what he meant.

    But if he can play in C on 4 string, Bb should be no problem, right? Not near the edge of the range. C to Bb on 5 string could at least represent a boundary that cannot be crossed without resorting to extreme measures.

  9. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I basically have a five string because of what other people might ask of me. I'm personally quite happy plunking about on a 4 string, but when the situation arises, 5s can do it quite nicely. I do metal, so I often find bands tuning to C or B, and when that happens, I can either tune up to C on my 5, and have a very tight, responsive C, or leave it alone, and still be in tune with the guitars.

    I'm just as comfortable on a 5 as I am on a 4, but I personally sort of prefer a 4.
  10. You could go out and get a Hipshot de-tuner for your bass. That's what I did for a while. They work great but are somewhat of a pain to tune, until you get the hang of it. I found that I was using it more and more especially when I played with a female vocalist. So after using the de-tuner for some time I decided my next bass was going to be a 5er.

    If you can't afford to just run out and pick up a good five string, try one out. If a new bass is in your future, get a five string.
  11. OK, sorry to be unclear.

    I have both a 5er and a 4. I usually play my 5 these days, so when I had to transpose to the key of Bb, I found it no issue.

    The thing is, in the key of C, the lowest note in the bass line is the open E. With the transpose to Bb, the lowest note needs to now be D, which I couldn't get on my 4 without detuning. Thats all I was trying to say. ;)
  12. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I switched to a 5 stringer in early January of this year.

    Since then I sold all my 4-stringers and now play ONLY 5-stringers.

    yeah, I like the flexibility of them. yes, it's definitely worth it.
  13. bassontherun


    Jul 9, 2005
    Same here as many others. Now carry both a 4- and 5-string to cover all the variations we play. It's been the rare occasion where I actually prefer to detune the 4-string to get to the D (as I recall, covering Veruca Salt's "Shutterbug" was easier by detuning the 4-string...put some notes "in the box" instead of shifting position).
  14. Murf


    Mar 28, 2001
    Man I've had to do this so many times I have it down to a fine art....a great trick the band used to do was to put all the "detune" songs to-gether (eg RHCP By the way , Floyd Brick in the wall) etc. so I only had to de-tune once in the set and I got so used to it I can detune when the singer is announcing the next song (or doing the usual frontman schtick)....WITHOUT A TUNER!!!!! in about 1 second flat :eek:

    Then I got a 6 string............

    sweeeet..... :bassist:
  15. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    I don't play "standard" tuning with either of my bands, baritone guitar or bass, anymore. I just got sick of re-tuning or re-writing songs into a different key because one band needs a dropped-d tuning, or my singer can't hit a certain note in dropped-c or the key of f or what-have-you. I just learned to play all my usual tunes in a tuning that would take care of everything I play, so now I have a 5 string bass tuned A E A D G and a baritone tuned A E A D G B.
    The coolest part is that it forced me to look at all our set lists in a different way, and forced me to rethink how I play a lot of parts. Great exercise, and if I get stale and repetitive in my playing I might retune everything just to kick myself in the pants again :bassist:
  16. daofktr

    daofktr irritating, yet surly

    Feb 15, 2005
    aurora, IN
    we have a song that i drop d for...i can tune and retune in mere seconds.
    (i could play on my conk 7, but the band prefers the sound of my ibby artcore 4.)
    i used to, prior to buying an ERB, tune a fourbanger DADG alla time. i got used to the fifth interval, and it made for some fun stuff.
    having said that, i hope, once i have the cash, to get a nice fiver. that way it's easier on my back than my conk (which i still prefer for funk, jazz and related genres).
  17. 4x4Given


    Jul 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    My first 3 basses were 4 string. After I began playing in music ministry (contemproary praise & worship) I quickly discovered that a 5 string was pretty much a must.

    It was awkward for about about a week. Now, almost 5 years later, I simply cannot imagine playing a 4 string. In fact, I'm starting to find myself wanting to express myself in some (melodic) ways that I think may require a 6 string. :bassist: