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5-strings for small hands

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by akitero3, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. akitero3


    May 25, 2011
    Hello everyone,

    I have this bug in my mind for some period of time. I have fairly small hands and wanna play 5-string bass.

    My small hands can play it without any major problems - if so, anyone could give me some methods about it how to play a 5-string bass with small hands?

    Or simply should I forget to play it?

  2. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    It's all about practice. You can find 5-string basses with narrow string spacing which definitely helps but when all is said and done, it all comes down to practice. There's no reason you can't play 5-string so get it on!
  3. Staccato

    Staccato Low End Advocate

    Aug 14, 2009
    Ibanez SR505, enjoy!
  4. Mr.Matti

    Mr.Matti Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2010
    This mostly, plus a slim profile neck will help. I had exactly the same concern a year ago, but am having no trouble at all now. Helps that I favor flats, which reduces the finger noise that can come with slightly more movement.

    But mostly, it's just a matter of practice. If I could get the hang of it in a few weeks, trust me, so can you.
  5. You would probably want to see if you could find a 32 or 33" scale 5 string with close string spacing. Whatever you do, don't go beyond 34" scale.

    Next, you'll want low action.

    I think you'll be wise to get just a little bit lighter string gauge or low tension strings.....TI Jazz Flats for example.

    You may consider using your little and ring finger together to press down "reach" notes.

    Within, say, a major scale fingering, especially below fret 7, you may find you need to rock your hand at the wrist between your lowest and highest notes in a fingering.

    One nice thing about a 5 string is that you can avoid going below the 5th fret much of the time. Using frets 1 thru 4 for root will give you some challenging reaches.

    Another thing to consider is: fretless! This will probably be controversial, but my thinking is at times you'll need to get your finger planted a little short of the mark to be on time and then "slide into home plate".
  6. paradog


    Dec 25, 2011
    Central NJ
    I have the same question. I was at GC tonight...sadly not a big selection and not a lot of time. WHat I did notice was that the Fender J bass V model was huge when it came to the neck. I could handle it but it felt too big. I did try a Ibanez SR755, the neck was noticably smaller and easier to run. While I haven't tried them, I understand that the Schecters are a narrower neck 5 string as well.
  7. akitero3


    May 25, 2011
    I was thinking Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass V.

    Has anyone had any experience with it? If so, could you share your insights about it please if I may ask?

    Btw, I generally wanna play slap/pop style with it.

  8. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    Here's the thing: with good technique and hand strength you can play just about any bass within reason. It will be easier at first if you look for basses with slim neck profiles, narrow string spacing (less than 18mm at the bridge), and standard or short scale length (34" or less). However, once you've developed the necessary technique and hand strength you'll be able to play just about anything.

    The Fender 5-strings have pretty beefy, but comfortable necks and the string spacing is typically 18mm. By comparison, Ibanez 5 strings have slimmer necks and string spacing between 16.5 and 17mm. Ernie Ball 5 string necks are also very comfortable and have 17mm string spacing.

    You really need to get out and try whatever you can get your hands on and see what moves you.
  9. tdub0199


    Mar 4, 2010
    Atlanta, Ga.
    pretty much any Ibby SR series.....
  10. BBox Bass

    BBox Bass Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2011
    NW Pennsylvania
    +1 to that. I have 4 of them. Great necks.

    Oddly enough, I also own 3 35" scale basses that don't give my stubby fingers any problems. This is coming from someone who used to only play custom-built 32" basses and was convinced I could never play anything that was longer. Now I hardly touch those. Try out a bunch of basses, because you never know what's going to feel good.
  11. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    I will shamelessly plug this minty Vester 5 with very narrow string spacing of only 1 3/8" from low B to G, on a neck that is only 1 3/4" wide. Solid feel, medium-light weight, great tone and condition. Yes, only 9.5 mm spacing at the nut, 15mm at bridge saddles for a total of 2 3/8". Quality vintage build, 5 piece neck(maple & walnut).


    Update - this item didn't sell at my asking, so I am listing it here.
  12. BassGuyFL

    BassGuyFL Formerly known as RichardCranium Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2009
    Boynton Bch FL
    Yup I agree I have the physique of a 3rd grader and I play a 35" scale 5er with a 19mm bridge spacing with no problem just took a little practice to adjust.

    Another thing to consider is do you just have small hands or are you small in stature as well? If so you might want to consider something with a smaller light body my bass tips the scale at around 11 pounds and gets a bit much around the 5th set. Eventually I want to get something lighter and more manageable but string spacing is an issue for me.

    Just keep trying different ones you'll know when you hit the right one.
  13. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    You can play any of them. With some practice, you'll get used to it. Steve Bailey doesn't have big hands and he plays a 6 string. There's a youtube video of some little kid grooving on a 6 string and he definitely doesn't have large hands.
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
  15. vstringbassist


    Nov 17, 2003
    I found the Cort B5 slim.
  16. ebonalley


    May 17, 2010
    +1 on the Ibby SR line. I have to do a lot of pivoting on my fretting thumb. It gets better with time, but I still run into extraneous string noise by shifting around. This may continue to improve with practice. Finally, you will be hard pressed to find a medium scale (31"-33") for under $2K.
  17. Keithwah


    Jan 7, 2011
    Milwaukee WI
    I also have smaller hands. A P-Bass neck was always a bit too wide, while Jazz Bass and Thunderbirds were a perfect fit. So when I went to find my first 5 I thought I needed to find the neck that was closest to the feel of those necks. I tried about everything you typically see in the stores such as the Ibanez, the Fender, several of the Korean made basses, and some Peaveys. I would up with the Samick/Valley Arts collaborations from the late 90's, a "Custom Deluxe" with factory installed Bartolini pickups and an active circuitry, my first active bass at that time.

    After 1 year of trying, I just decided I was a 4 man. Put it away and didn't give it another thought for over 10 years until I got back into playing country a couple years ago. So determined to do it "right", I pulled the Samick/VA back out and tried to figure out what the problem was. I swapped out the existing garbage Korean pre-amp circuit out and matched the factory Barts up with a 3-band Bart pre-amp. Holy crap did that make me a serious believer in active electronics and Bart products. However......it wasn't the electronics, I still hated playing it. It had a nice slim low profile neck, very thin at the nut, slightly less than 1.75". Maybe it was the lack of body contours like my Jazz has. Just can't get comfortable on it.

    Then I stumbled on a buddie's MTD Kingston with asymmetrical neck, normal super thin on the low string side of the neck, and thinner on higher string side of the neck. Two things happened with that bass, the neck was like playing a Jazz as far as speed went, but more importantly, the string spacing (19mm) was much further apart than the Samick was. This is what really screwed up my getting used to the 5, the strings were too close together and my fingers just trip over themselves. And what was the string spacing on my revered '66 Jazz? You guessed it....19mm.

    So short story long....I seriously suggest you check out the MTD Kingston series or an American made MTD for that matter if you have some bigger cash to spend. If on a budget, the Kingston's can be expensive enough, but I found my KZ5 here used on TB for $500 shipped from CA to WI. Not a bad price at all. Once you get one (no matter which version of the Kingston line you might prefer) you will want to swap out the crappy Korean active electronics for something better. I put a Bart pre-wired harness in it in about a half hour, very easy (but you'll need to remember to order that harness with the long shaft pots). I would swap out the stock Korean Bart pickups for real American Bart pups, but honestly, I really dig the look of the wood pup covers on the Kingston. But very hot sounding and playing bass.

    But besides endorsing my MTD, the real thing I was missing was the wider string spacing. Try some wider necks up at the nut. Smaller is better, but for me the wider spacing made it feel more natural.
  18. The Magistrate :: Photos - ReverbNation

    This is me and my bass. I am (I believe) 5'5" and hover around 110 lbs. That bass is an Ibanez BTB 5 string with a 35" scale length.

    I know we all have different playing styles, but I am able to play just about anything on it ( that is, that I could play on any other bass). I play a lot of metal and such which is involves some fast runs and arpeggios. I can play one finger per fret all the way down to the first fret, although I pivot my thumb a lot on any bass, so that may have something to do with it.

    If you are slapping, try some basses with wider string spacing. Even I find it hard to slap on a bass that's tight, and I have tiny hands.

    Also, although this is a huge controversy, I think longer scale basses sound better, though the difference is only noticeable in a sterile testing environment.

    Try out everything. You never know what you'll like.
  19. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Yeah, a narrower string spacing will make slapping difficult, unless you can find one that tapers from very narrow at nut to a wide spacing at the bridge.

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