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Beginner's Q: Should I pick up a 4 or a 5-string bass guitar

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tui, Feb 3, 2014.

  1. Tui


    Feb 3, 2014
    Hey guys, how are you? Hope you had a nice start of the week.

    First thing first, I'm really glad I found out about this site, you all seem to be so passionate and caring towards your bass playing. I'm looking forward to my very first bass class due next week myself; such a beautiful and yet so underrated sound.

    The only doubt I've got is, whereas I should pick up a 4 or a 5-string bass first. I know this might be a silly question, but is there that much of a difference? A friend of mine who's been playing for 9 years now told me he first started with a 4-string bass and then moved on to the 5 set cause he wanted to play music that required the low B string.

    On a side note, is there any brand you'd recommend me? I'm a complete newbie when it comes to the musical field. Needless to say, I'll be consulting my professor about it. I just wanted to see if there were any economically nice options you knew about, for instruments where I live are beyond expensive, particularly nowadays.

    Well, that's it I believe. Thank you everyone in advance. Any info you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this,

  2. An Ibanez SR300/305 are a very good best buy; they're active with a 3-band EQ, nice slim necks, and great QC for the price, but hey - go to your local GC or music stores, and try stuff out ... see what you like.
  3. elBandito


    Dec 3, 2008
    Rotten Apple
    If I had to do it all over again, I would start on a 5er.
  4. jeffmensch

    jeffmensch Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 12, 2012
    Cambridge, Ontario
    The question of 4-string or 5-string can be answered based on the style of music you want to play. Check out what players typically use for that genre. The previous poster's advice about trying lots of basses at a store is spot on. You'll find that some just feel better than others. I would add that you're probably better off buying a used bass for your first instrument. They are easy to sell without a big loss after you decide what you really want.
  5. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Start with the 5-string.
  6. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009

    It's really all about the music you want to play. And the answers are easy, just check out what the players you admire in that music are playing.

    Generally things sort of divide into "old school" and "modern". More "classic" music involves 4 string, Fender-style, passive basses while more "modern" music sounds involve 5 string, Ibanez-style, active basses.

    But don't go by rules. Look at the guys you like playing the music you like. They won't all be playing the same kind of basses, but it will give you a decent average of what goes.

    I also agree that a used bass is a good first bass choice. One reason being that price will be from 2/3 to 1/2 the price of new which will be the loss you'll take if you buy new and then sell used later. And figure that you WILL be selling later. When we start out we really don't have a good idea of what kind of bass we really want to play and later when we figure it out, we realize we need to sell our first bass as a "wrong" choice. Not always, mind you, some folks keep their first bass forever not just as nostalgia but because they just still love it. But you can't count on that happening. And a final thing is that buying used as a noob, means you'll have trouble judging if a used bass is OK or not. So if possible drag an experienced bass player along with you to look at used basses and it's better to try to stick to used instrument stores that stand behind what they sell and allow returns even if only as exchanges on another bass.

    A private sale bass may save a bit of money but you might also end up with a dog that can't be fixed cheaply too. I must say I've had great luck with the TB classifieds where instruments were not misrepresented by sellers and turned out exactly as described.

    Good Luck!
  7. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    I've been playing for over 30 years now and while yes, I can play and have owned several 5 string basses- as a preference, I play 4 string basses. So ultimately- it's what your playing style dictates- for example, I like playing RHCP with a lot of slapping- the extra string kind of gets in the way and the strings being a bit closer together, it's doable but just not comfortable. As other posts above have mentioned, go to a music store and try out a few. Finding the right bass is like trying out shoes- they're all different, don't just go by reviews or other opinions. Now in terms of prices, it will save you considerably if you buy used- you can buy a better bass within your budget.
    Just to mention a few basses that imo (remember, just my opinion) would be great for a beginner- the Ibanez SR300 as mentioned above (for a 4 -SR305 is the 5 string version)- What makes this ideal is the super slim neck and light weight.

    Squier VM Jaguar Special - it's an active bass with both P and Jazz bass pickups- slim neck and fairly light- price is pretty attractive too at $199 new. Used, you can pick one up for a little over a hundred.
  8. IPYF


    Mar 31, 2011
    There is no correct answer to your question of 4 vs. 5. I've always wanted to love and use a 5 string but I've never found one that I've been able to play and enjoy as much as any 4 that I've had.

    In terms of a beginner's instrument there are many options and you'll get a couple dozen brands flicked at you. It will all depend on how serious you are and how much you want to spend. If I were starting now I'd be getting a Squier Vintage Modified. Both the Precision and the Jazz are good and they come in 4 and 5 string models.
  9. the wako kid

    the wako kid

    May 11, 2011
    I'd recommend getting a four string. 4 is easier for slap and I find that they're easier to learn on because that B string tends to confuse the **** out of people. I always had problems with people trying to figure out how to play along with me when I used my 7 string guitar. If you wanted to start with a 5 it would all be new to you regardless so it's still a viable option.

    as far as what to get I'd second maxdusty's recommendation and get a squier vintage modified jaguar bass special. it's a well built versatile bass for a good price,and If.you decide to move up to a 5 later,you can spend more money on something you really want.
  10. Tui


    Feb 3, 2014
    That was fast, not to mention beyond helpful. Very kind of you, thanks for the feedback everyone!
  11. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
  12. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass What the .............. Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I agree with this ^^^^^

    I know a lot of it does depend on the music you intend to play butif you are just starting out then cut to the chase and go with the 5 er. I think you can probably get a nice Ibanez or Squier as a starter bass to get you going.
  13. davidjackson


    Sep 10, 2011
    Start with the 5 string unless you really want to become a slapper in which case a 4 might be better due to string spacing issues.

    I play a 5 string Warwick Corvette Rockbass that was brilliant value (built in China). Mine is fretless but I'm sure the fretted version would suit a beginner who wanted a 5 string.

    PS: Lots of people will tell you that a 34" scale 5 string will be no good and you need something longer. Just ignore that - a 34" scale 5 string will suit a beginner no problem.
  14. oldrookie


    May 15, 2007
    Avon, IN
    I started with a four, but added a used 5 for very little dough shortly after. I didn't play it much for about a year, but gradually transitioned over to the five. It wasn't all that difficult, but there really is no reason not to start with the 5.

    Ended up keeping the fours, but I string them BEAD rather than EADG--best of both worlds. Probably a bit down the road for a beginner though.
  15. Sav'nBass

    Sav'nBass What the .............. Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2009
    Northern Va.
    I agree and as for the slapping goes a lot of that depends on your hands.. but you can get 5s with wider spacing down the road if you progress to that point.. but the thing is to get something to start with that you can grow into.
  16. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I started with a 5, and only about a year ago.
    No regrets. Have 2 now, a fretted/fretless matched pair.

    The cool thing about a 5 is that you can string it either BEADG for - ya know - more bass... Or EADGC if you are soloing a lot, or need to reclaim some space abandoned by guitarists on their 7, 8, and 9-string downtuned guitars...

    That said, I quit waffling on the tunings and just bought a 6 which gets all my time now ;-) ...
  17. Tui


    Feb 3, 2014
    Thanks for the recent posts too, you're awesome. I love reading all of these different points of view.

    So, let me se if I get this; less strings will make slapping much easier, whereas with 5 strings it won't be as easy yet it will allow me to reach a wider range. I'm a big Blues and Rock fan, and I also like the Alternative genre as well, so I'd be glad if I could apply both aspects in the (far, far) future, if possible.

    It's great to read all these posts, again- much appreciated. It's good to get some feedback before my actual class. Can't wait to discuss all of these features with my teacher.

    On a side note; mind if I ask you what made you wanna learn to play bass guitar in the first place?
  18. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Anything you can play on a 4 can be played on a 5. The only disadvantage of a 5 that I can see is that the instrument is a bit larger/bulkier/heavier and more expensive.
  19. BassDaddy77


    Feb 12, 2010
    NE Ohio
    I wouldn't say that less strings = easier for slap, but rather the string spacing itself. Wider spacing is usually more slap friendly, IMO. I think you'll be able to get by on either a 4 or 5 string in just about any genre of music. Play a bunch and see what feels best to you. As to your question regarding why did I want to learn to play the bass ? - It's simply the greatest instrument ever conceived!!!:bassist:
  20. chienmort


    Aug 15, 2012
    +1 tried a 5 and loved the instrument but when I picked up my current 4, it just felt so right.
    If you go for a 5 it gives a little more flexibility but do not fall for the low B propaganda. I never felt I needed it and most amps/ cabs cannot output low B.