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5-string or 4-string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by comalies, Oct 30, 2002.

  1. Hey guys!

    I'm still at the beginning, and I ask myself:
    When I'm going to buy a bass, which one would be a better choice, a 4 or a 5-string?
    If you have any ideas, or any suggestions which model I should buy, then please answer me.


    - CL :)
  2. I started off on a 5 string myself, and from my own experience i think i would have preferred to start off on a four, just to get the bass fundamentals down, techniques and stuff, also fours are a little cheaper which is good for a first bass. But if you think your ready for a five straight off i say go for it.

  3. I started on a 4 string a few years ago and have never needed the low b.
    A 4 string is pretty much the standard and what most people would start on, but if you think you'll use that extra string go for the 5. Thats all there is to it.
  4. But isn't it sometimes easier with that extra string? You got an extra range of sound I think, and you don't have to use all 5-strings all the time. But if you say 4 are enough, then I'll try that first. Any ideas which model is good to start off with?
  5. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Well, for beginners instruments, there are more good choices for 4-strings than there are for 5-strings. There are however a few reasonably priced 5:ers that should suit any beginner just fine.

    You have quite a lot to choose from. It all depends on your taste and your budget...

    The cheaper Yamaha basses are always good value for us Europeans - solidly constructed, decent tone & playability. Standard Fenders are not quite the steal here as they are in the USA, but they're still very nice basses for the money, if their vibe suits you. I'm not a fan of Ibanez Soundgears, however cheap and comfortable and popular they may be - they aren't good quality instruments IMO. I've have nothing against other Ibanez models, although in most cases I'd choose something else for my money. I'm yet to try MTD Kingston & Heir models, but they have a very good rep here at Talkbass - might be a bit out of your price range?

    There are literally tons of cheaper basses than the ones I've mentioned, but as the saying goes: "buy cheap, buy twice". If you are serious about bass, get the best instrument you can afford. But ALWAYS try a bass befor you buy it. Even if you don't know jack about actually playing, at least hold it, sit down with it, feel it, play the open strings and listen to it. Does it feel OK or not? Does it sound OK? If you think the strings are too high or low over the fretboard, ask the store if they could change the height for you so you could feel how the bass _should_ feel.

    My list of suggestions for models you could check out:
    <li>Yamaha BB & RBX series (good quality, good sound)
    <li>Fender Standard Jazz & Precision basses (Made In Mexico, classic sound, decent quality)
    <li>MTD Kingston, MTD Heir (based upon their reputation here)
    <li>Ibanez Ergodyne, ATK, BTB405 (I especially like the ATK, makes for a great 5-string!! Not sure about their price level nowadays, though. Could be out of your reach.)
    <li>Cort Curbow (personally I'm not a big fan of them, but some people are)
    <li>The cheaper Spector basses (not too shabby)
    <li>Warwick Rockbass (I don't like these either, but lots of people do)
    <li>Dean basses (haven't played them enough to have a valid opinion on them, but they seem okay)

    As for 4 vs. 5... well, do what feels best for you. Personally I think you sacrifice a bit of playability for a string that at least I'd rarely use. But when I feel I could have made good use of a fifth string, I don't have it. :(

    Hope that helps, and please ask more questions if you have any.
  6. samickman


    Oct 29, 2002
    Coolville, Ohio
    I started on a 5 and love it, I played a four string the other day and it didn't feel right, you should just play around with them and fing out which is more comfortable.
  7. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Try as many basses as you can so that you can form some opinions of what works for you based on tangible personal experience. Now take your findings, filter through your available budget and see what's available.

    I don't think there is a definitive answer - although if you need notes below E for the kind of music you want to make, a five string may make a lot of sense. If that's not a particularly important factor, just go for the best individual instrument you can afford - the number of strings is probably less important than factors like tone and playability.

  8. K-Frog


    Feb 6, 2002
    Camden, AR, USA
    I play with a pianist at church and she loves Eb and Ab. I almost require a 5 string for positions and to grab the lower Eb. I could detune, but I'm a position player and that has messed me up before.
    I started on a 4 and later wanted a 5. I found the transition to be relatively easy and now I can jump back and forth if I want.

    One way to think of it: If you think you might need the extended lower range and have a five, it's available.
    If you need lower notes and are playing a four, you don't got it easily.
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    When I started 25 years ago, 4-string was the only realistic choice for a beginner. I used Hipshot D-tuner/Bass Xtenders from early on to get those low notes. Two years ago I got a 5-string, and it's home to me. I wish I had started on 5... but really, it only took 3 months to transition from 4 to 5 so what the heck.

    An extra string does not increase difficulty: after all, guitarists start out with 6-strings and that funky-a$$ tuning. However the additional neck width might. If you have small hands, look into a narrow-width fiver: many are available (too many IMHO...)

    Choose the one you think you want to start with. I highly recommend the five: it's now as much a standard for jazz and modern rock as four. A long-time four-stringer I know asked me about my experience, because he's now playing modern rock radio hits, many of which use those low notes... a five would solve his problems, but he's unsure of himself. I told him that if I could change after all those years, he could too. But if you start on five, no transition difficulty.

    Feel free to consider six or seven while you're at it. :)
  10. lostcausebass


    Oct 29, 2002
    you'd be surprised how much you can do on a 4 string. I keep being told that 5 and 6 strings have more tonal possibilities, and by definition i guess they're right, but my first bass was an Ibanez 5 string and the neck was too thick for me to learn on right. I sold it and bought a Fender Jazz and I never looked back. with 4s you don't have to worry about subwoofers to handle the low b, and they are generally easier to play. It's only an extra 4 notes, for a 5 string, is it really worth it?
  11. Dan Knowlton

    Dan Knowlton Sarcasm: Just ONE of the many services I offer! Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2002
    Palm Coast, FL
    I would recommend a 5 to begin with. The difference is not only in the "extra notes" but also in where you play. You can play an "E" on the th fret of the B string and benefit from a little narrower scale when you are learning to stretch your hands out. If you start on a 4, you only have those notes where the spacing is wide. I'm not advocating that you forget about working to play in the lower position, just that you can work into it a little more gradually.

    Dan K.
  12. bass_man86


    Apr 29, 2002
    Virginia Beach
    Since you are just starting out I really recommend that you start on a four, for a couple of reasons. 1) Most music is still geared to a four string bass.
    2) If you are like most guys that I can think of, you know, never part of the school band in high school and you don't read standard notation, most tablature is written for four strings.
    3) More choices for starter basses
    4) The single biggest challenge to someone just starting out is learning fingering technique, a lot of the new fives feature a 35" scale. That can be a real mother if you are just learning. I actually recommend starting on a short or medium scale bass.
    I hope this helped.:rolleyes:
  13. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I started on 5, moved to BEAD, then got a 5, and now regularly wonder about the merits of 4-7 string basses, with every possible tuning. In the end, I honestly don't know where I stand on them. Starting on a 5 vs. 4? Dunno, that's your call.
  14. alx564


    Jul 31, 2000
    Emmaus, PA
    Well I know a lot of people, including myself, started playing on a four string. This of course doesn't mean its the best choice. On these matters there pros and cons to each choice. I like the 4 string because of the luxurious string spacing, slimer neck and just the overall feel of them. I own a five string too and I use it often as well. Remember that if you start on a five you are going to be using a basses that will (normally) have a wider neck and closer string spacing, but of course you will have the extended range which most seem to love. If you start on a four and decide you want a five then you're down a couple hundred bucks too.

    Of course make sure to try both types to make sure you are comfortable with whatever choice you make. Good luck.
  15. Go for a 5 I say.I wish I had started on a 5er.
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    1) I play 5 and don't use subwoofers. In fact I use a pair of 2x10 cabinets (not biamped, either).

    2) I use the entire B string, not just the *five* notes below low E. ;) The beauty of 5-string is getting to use all five strings anywhere on the fretboard: I always have a full two-octave range in any fingering position.
  17. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    Why people always talking about the number of strings?. Just grab what is available and PLAY some music;) . Don't you have to think about the number of strings. I play from fretted 4 to fretless 6 :D
    In the old days we didnot have many choices , did we? Fat neck , 4 strings , 1 pick up, wide neck, flat wound, no active electronic .:D
  18. samickman


    Oct 29, 2002
    Coolville, Ohio
    Actually it's 5 notes, bu lets not get technical. :D
  19. 1964


    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    Depends on the music you want to play...If it's easier to play "your" music on a 5er or necessary to play on a 5er, then, get a 5er.

    There's nothing I want to play that requires a 5er, which is why I have a 4...comfy neck, comfy string spacing, uncomplicated, and for which 99% of notation and tab is written.
  20. justBrian


    Apr 19, 2002
    Kansas City, MO
    Why not play both? I have a 4, 5 and 6 and use them all. I use each one as i need it in different situations. I also have an URB-- way cooler than the others, by far! :cool: :D :cool:

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