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5-string vs 4-string bass - Easier for transposing?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by diegom, Feb 13, 2019.

  1. diegom

    diegom Supporting Member

    I did try the search, but I didn't find anything related.

    In an old post, in a different forum @BassCliff made the following statement:
    How does this really work? I can't visualize playing the same 'pattern' (different strings and/or a few frets apart, I get that) and sounding in a different key.
    Could someone elaborate a bit more?


    BassCliff likes this.
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    If you move the finger pattern for "I Want You Back" down 1 fret, it will sound in the key of G. If you move it up 1 fret, it will sound in the key of A natural. If you stay on the same fret and move it up 1 string, it will sound in the key of Db. And so forth. If the singer requests "key of F" then you move the pattern down 3 frets, or, if you have a 5 string, down 1 string and up 2 frets. 5-string gives you an extra fingering option. Does that make sense?
    BassCliff and diegom like this.
  3. Transposing on the fly works if you play a song without any open strings. You just shift position and pretend in your mind you are still playing in the original key.
    diegom likes this.
  4. diegom

    diegom Supporting Member

    I don't have a 5er yet, so I tried this with a song with root on the 3rd string, just to see how it feels...
    Darn it, if it doesn't work like a charm!!!
    I'll be seriously looking into getting a 5-string now! (Maybe even a 6!!)
  5. pappabass

    pappabass Inactive

    May 19, 2006
    Alabama !! Roll Tide
    Yes, I play a lot by patterns. Like playing by tab. You can move that "pattern" anywhere on the neck for a different key. The 5th string allows you not to be playing a song too high on the neck. Espically if you play in E or F. I have regressed back to my 4 because of the very small venue we play at. We don't have a drummer so playing up on the neck is OK.
    diegom likes this.
  6. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Having the B strings makes transposing easy for me. I really stay on the E fifth fret on the B all night since it’s easy to play on most major songs. This way every key is below my fingers or a close fret away.
    diegom likes this.
  7. BassChuck

    BassChuck Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    How often do you guys have to transpose on the fly? I've been playing steady for 40 years and had to do it maybe twice. (well, there was that once time I had to move everything around cause I broke D string)
  8. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'd estimate I transpose on the fly perhaps 50% of the time.

    Most of my playing these days is backing up my singer/songwriter friends. It's very common for them to use a capo, alternate tunings, sing a cover song in a different key than the original, "let's modulate to G for the final chorus," etc.
  9. I love my 5 for just this. Having to change keys. Open mics, new singers, I will always bring my 5'er.
    Singers as they get older typically need to use a lower key from the original.
    IamGroot and diegom like this.
  10. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    I did a jazz gig with a vocalist who changed the key of standards about 50% of the time. He announced the name of the song, the key and counted it off.
    diegom likes this.
  11. 2strings2frets

    2strings2frets Supporting Member

    Oct 30, 2017
    West Virginia
    Anyone have an easy way to switch from a 4 to a 5? I own both but don’t play the 5 much. I feel blocked by the xtra string when trying to learn a new number from tab because all the tab I have found is for a 4. I do read notation but find tab easier. Thanks
  12. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Practice every thing 1) using the B string as your reference point , and 2 ) using the E string as your reference....until you get comfortable.

    For example, play blues in E at the 5th fret and play the blues in A using the low E on the B string.

    It will become 2nd nature quickly. I play 4 and 5 interchangeably. 6 string is tougher keeping the strings muted.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    (Relevant to the topic of this thread) Take some songs you already know well, and transpose them to lower keys. This will force you to use the 5th string.

    For example, take a song that is originally in the key of E, and transpose it to the keys of Eb, D, Db, C, and B.

    For extra credit, write out each transcription in standard notation. This will wean you off the TAB.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I end up transposing pretty much every week. Worship music - I play in different churches with different singers, so I play in every key at one point or another. But I do it on a 4 string; occasionally one tuned in D standard, which brings a whole other twist to things.
    diegom likes this.
  15. 2strings2frets

    2strings2frets Supporting Member

    Oct 30, 2017
    West Virginia
    Thank you all
    diegom likes this.
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