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anyone else lost on a 4?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nostatic, Nov 15, 2010.

  1. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    I tried the experiment and failed. Brief backstory - migration from guitar 20+ years ago to bass for jazz stuff. Picked up a 4-string and was happy. Doubled some on upright. Then 10 or so years ago found a magic Zon Lightwave 5 fretless. Sold all the 4-strings and went exclusively to 5. This year fell head over heels for a Rob Allen Deep 5, wanted more RAs, picked up a Mouse as an experiment. Every time I'd tried a 4 over the past few years I stumbled mightily - I key off the low string so all the sudden playing the low string at the 5th fret becomes A instead of E. I figured with practice it would be ok. And it was...BUT then I found myself having to think on 5-string when I would switch. And my arrangements for tunes then changed and I was "bailing out" to the nut instead of having the B integrated into my playing.

    So alas and alack, I will end my 4-string experiments and stick with 5s. Was wondering if I'm in the minority on this...
  2. nah. I just view them as different basses for different purposes.
  3. Yes and no. I have similar problems, but fortunately for me I prefer 4s but sometimes play with 5 or 6. This to me seems better because I can always go back to what I know with a 4 when I am playing a 5er. That doesn't work in reverse.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    It makes by brain hurt for a minute, but I figure it out.

    That said, I haven't gigged on 4 string EBG in probably 10 years.
  5. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    I wanted to do that, but found that my brain just got too cross-wired. Which is odd because I don't have a problem going from 5-string bass to guitar.
  6. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    It's not like I am a real guitar player, but I can play chords/rhythm on my acoustic fairly respectable. For some reason to me, picking up a guitar is as strikingly different as it would be to grab a saxophone or sit down at a piano.

    Anything I might think or know about playing bass never even registers.
  7. I'll admit that I'm not the best at relearning a particular tune if I originally learned it on a 4, 5, or 6, but that's about my only limit in the 4 vs. 5 vs. 6 thing. I used to love going from my 35" scale Conklin 6 to my Rob Allen Mouse 30 and never saw switching to be a problem.
  8. I have three 4-strings and a fretless 5, and when I play my 5'er I kinda ignore the B-string, unless I actually use it. The fact that it's fretless does give me a headache, though.
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I played four string for about 25 years before switching to five in Y2K. I love five string so much that I sold all my fours fairly quickly. I wouldn't say I'm lost on four string, but every time I play one I wish I had the extra string.
  10. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    That's a very different issue. The problem is that for me (and others I think), if you incorporate the B into your playing - and that means up the neck, not just for notes below low E - going to a 4 becomes a bit of a frenzy of on-the-fly rearranging if the tune is remotely complicated. What I found was that I'd do that rearranging on the 4, but then when I would pick up the 5 I didn't drop back into auto-mode for keeping the B-string in-play. I'd have to start thinking which is about the last thing I want to have to do when I'm playing. Next I'll have to chew gum or sumthin'...
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Nicely explained. My classic rock band has a horn section and plays a lot of songs in flat keys. They also transpose songs for vocal reasons... Aretha's "Respect" is in Bb, not C. So, even though I mostly stay in 4-string range, the B string is incredibly useful for providing extra wiggle room when desired. Even for basic blues in E, I'll camp out at the 5th fret B string rather than open E.
  12. I have had the same experience but with far less time on the five. I played 4 string for about 15 years and then got my first fiver at the end of this July 2010. I have since traded the other 3 four strings I had to acquire gear and another back up fiver. When I play fours in shops and such they still feel ok to me but I know it would be awkward to gig with one for me now. Once I realized this I made it a priority to get a backup fiver. I agree with what a few other have said here too as far as positioning and learning songs, it feels weird to play a four and have to use open strings and horizontal playing to get the pitches i have now become used playing songs I've leaned on a five string.
  13. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Not to mention when a singer calls a tune in Eb :p
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I am not lost on a 4 but I start playing and then I go to the low B and it isn't there. A whole freaking string is missing.
  15. 5string5fingers

    5string5fingers Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2008
    Thats why i got rid of the G string which i never use,and just tuned my 4 BEAD
  16. halfjackson


    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston, MA
    Hey man, I've been going through a similar experiment too. I've had 4 strings, but not for about 10 years, and I essentially learned to play bass on a 6 string (*Note: I'm still in the learning phase). I do love having a 6 string, and I'll always have one, but it is superfluous for much of what I do. Well, I bought a Lakland Skyline jazz 4 string about 6 months ago, to see how I'd like it, and honestly, to have a little relief from my 6 string. The 4 string is longer and heavier. Go figure.

    I put in a Hipshot D-tuner, which has helped, but man do I miss the low B, and like you, not just for the B-Eb. Those extra positions are an asset.
    Now...it's taken me some time, but I'm comfortable on the 4, but I'm still not sure that I will ultimately keep it. I would like to have a 5er, but I don't have much experience on one and I've always gotten that lost feeling on them that you talk about. I'm fairly certain that I could get over the confusion I get on a bass with an odd number of strings. Who knows?

    Now, to further complicate the matter (a little off topic), the string spacing on the 4 is 20mm, which is much wider than I'm accustomed to. Again, I've adjusted ok, but it might be that it's too wide for me. There seem to be more options for narrower string spacing when you add strings, and that might just be the deciding factor for me.

    It should be noted that I too, also play upright. The lack of a B string, and the much wider string spacing are not really issues with it. Well...maybe the string spacing. But the upright and the EBG are so different, that it's easier for me to differentiate the applications between them more easily than say... a 4 and a 5 string EBG.

    So, I don't know. Playing a 4 string has been great, but it just doesn't have the versatility that I really need. And I can't afford to have the arsenal of basses that I'd like to have. I'd guess that most of us don't.

    I'd say stick it out for a bit and see what happens. It is fun to shake things up a bit though, don't you think? Heh...and any B string I play will now feel much more appreciated.
  17. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I've played only 5-strings since 1994 or so. Now when I pick up a 4, it takes a couple minutes to "shift gears" into that mindset. Once I put myself where I was mentally before 1994, I can do it. It means playing down where the frets are farther apart and "going to the nut" more often. (I love that phrase, and am stealing it.)
  18. SpectorDetector

    SpectorDetector Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2008
    Atlanta, GA
    From what I see from most 5 players they just miss a place to anchor their thumbs!:bag:
  19. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Well, I've given it a few months, and while I liked it at first as the 4-string opened my eyes wrt how to attack the instrument (eg "going to the nut"™) as I went along I started to backslide on the 5. And given that I'm playing in 4 (with perhaps a 5th) bands right now, I can't be fumbling around. Plus I end up doing what amounts to parts I arrange for particular tunes, and they need to be optimized for either 4 or 5.

    As for upright, I had to give that up some years back due to tendonitis, but that was always a totally different instrument to me so no 5/4 conflict there. At least with my oddball brain...
  20. Mayers

    Mayers Guest

    Sep 28, 2007
    It doesn't matter the number of strings that I have. It will be a problem if a low C or B was important at a given moment. So in that case I do a chord instead of only a low note.

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