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5 vs 6 string

Discussion in 'Ask Anthony Wellington [archive]' started by funkybass, Jan 19, 2014.

  1. funkybass


    Oct 19, 2006
    Hi ant. I'm wondering why you choose to play a 5 with a low b instead of a 6 string bass? I'm trying to decide if I want to move up to a 6 or stay on my 5. I do like my 5 with 19mm string spacing, and thinking I might feel cramped on a 6. I'd love to hear why you play a 5 string.
  2. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Yo FunkyB,

    I wish I had a profound reason to give you but I don't.

    I went straight from 4 string to a 6 string the I restrung from E to high F(like a 7 string with out the B string). Then I went to a string fretless(my 1st custom bass) and then to a 5 string fretted.

    But I knew that I would end up a 5 string player for 1 simple reason,...

    I needed to cover the bassline on the song Flashlight that came out in '78. That bassline went down to a low C on the synth bass and the line isn't as effective an octave higher.

    That's it! That's why I started playing a 5 string bass.

    The 6 string wasn't for me because I still think of myself primarily as a bass player who is fulfilling the role of bass. An extra high string doesn't fulfill that role(for me). And I don't want to play an extended range bass just for looks. I'm not that insecure that I need to look like I can play by having a lot of strings, especially strings that I'm not gonna' use on most of the songs. If I were soloing on every song it would be a different story. But I'm playing baselines 99% of the time. A 'C' string isn't necessary for that.

    But I own a lot of basses so I can choose the bass I need for the situation. But my preference is to play bass.

    Coincidently, I still think of myself as a 4 string player. A 4 string player playing 5 string out of necessity.

    jazzyvee likes this.
  3. Bassman197835


    Oct 31, 2013
    Do you use the B string a lot Ant ? Since Ive swapped Ive looked for places to fit those notes but to me! My inexperienced ear.. They dont seem to fit that often.. I find myself using the B as a thumb rest more than a string.
  4. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Hey Bassman,

    I do use it a lot. I'm like Jamerson, I play the root and go 'down' to the 3rd a lot.

  5. marcblum


    Apr 29, 2008
    Aachen, Germany
    went from 4string to 5string (with low B) to 5string (with high c) to 6string (with low B and high c)

    found out that switching between 5 and 6 strings only leads to geometrical confusion and stage accidents

    decided to focus on one string configuration, in my case the 6string

    that's all
  6. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Yea, it can lead to confusion. That can only be overcame by practice on all string 'configurations'. It definitely can be overcome.

    As a teacher, I chose to mirror what is across from me. So I keep 4, 5, 6, 7, fretless, piccolo, tenor, upright, guitar and keyboard at Bassology. And even though I don't advertise as an upright, guitar or keyboard teacher, I routinely teach them all.

    It's just a matter of practice.

  7. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I know you were asking Anthony but from my experience going from 5 to six it helped to have both. I made the transition by playing the 5 for about 55 minutes a a day then the 6 for 5. Then I'd play the 5 a little less and the 6 a little more until I eventually played the 6 full time. By the way my main axe is a Fender Steve Bailey Jazz s I kind of have a soured up classic sound. I also joke I love the six because I'm lazy. In one position I have two octaves and a fourth without shifting it simplifies things a lot.
  8. KristinBidwell1


    Jul 5, 2013
    Baltimore, MD
    Professional Bassist, Private Instructor
    6 string bass is AWESOME!!! It allows me to play higher pitched chords, notes, and harmonics with the C string. Having the low B is a lot of fun as well. 6 is also great for practice! The more notes you play during daily exercises, the better you become...I'd practice with a 12 string bass if my hand could reach all the notes :) 5 is fun as well, but symmetrically a 6 makes more sense to me. That being said, bass is the best instrument on the planet, regardless of how many strings it has!
    Zodion and David A. Davis like this.
  9. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Funny, 5 string is symmetrical to me. Perfect 2 octave modes and pentatonics in 1 position.

    1 string in the center on the dots and 2 strings on either side.

    We all define symmetrical differently. And that's great!

  10. Brother Goose

    Brother Goose The Process IS the Reward! Supporting Member

    Dec 4, 2013
    Syracuse NY
    God Is Love
    I'm a five string player by nature- prefer wider string spacing and eschew super high notes.

    IRONY ALERT! I came across a great deal on a warmoth gecko 6 neck/body/bridge and starting building her up... (it would be my third 6 string owned and I can't resist swamp ash/maple)

    Next thing I now- I'm selling a fretless 5 to buy an even more incredible fretless Gecko 6 from the same dude!

    Long story short- the tighter spacing on the fretted has helped me to focus on my finger funk and grooving with note choices instead of thumping as much... (yeah, I'm the guy getting all "Marcus" on every tune) My wife, dog, mama, and band mates are all happy with this development.

    The fretless has wider spacing and a gorgeous tone (rich and dark, unlike myself) and has me worrying less about intonation- in that I can get every note I want without venturing up the neck where my things can get a bit weird.

    My brain alternates between perceiving the bass a 4 with a high/low string or as two 3 string basses in octaves....

    These beauties are keepers and I'm looking forward to pursuing musical opportunities where I can utilize the additional range (with the right keyboardist covering the bottom).

    Extended range basses can be physically challenging and mentally fatiguing- but they seem to be the first to get culled from some funky flocks!

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