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Choosing a 5er for short hands

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Fluffster, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Fluffster


    Jun 7, 2007
    Time to stop lurking :)

    I'm wondering which 5 stringer to buy for around $400 or under, used or new. I currently have a "35 Ibanez BTB 405 on loan, and while I like many things about this bass (balance, thin neck, 19mm spacing) it always ends up hurting my wrists. I've been playing for 15 years and don't have this problem with my 4-stringers(34" Bass Collection SB-301 with Bartolini PUs and a fretless 35" Warwick Corvette) so I don't think I have inherently bad technique. I've seen others mention the BTB's wrist-breaking abilities so it seems I'm not alone and I hope I'm not about to start another round in the 34" vs 35" debate, although I'm leaning towards 34". :) I'm a small guy (5'6") with short hands so I have to hang those buggers high.

    Unfortunately there's little opportunity to try many basses out here on this small island so I'm likely going to have to buy sight unseen. :meh:

    I wonder if it's the 19mm spacing on a 5er that's killing me. I'm sure I could get used to 16.5 but I find it easier to switch basses if the spacing is similar - that's a bullet I'm willing to bite if it can save my wrists, though!

    Any thoughts? I'm partial to a punchy, midrange-y growl.
  2. BassBob185


    Oct 25, 2007
    Rocking Chair
    You wouldn't think that the extra inch on the 35 from a 34 would have that much of an impact but it can. I have worked out with weights for over 30 years and muscles have memory and they get accustomed to certain routines. Changes in muscle routine are noticeable until new muscle memory and adaptability take over. This is even more noticable when you exceed normal range of motion such as extending your fretting arm the extra inch. The same occurs with wrist on your string hand. Having written all this, of all the 35 inchers I've played I like my Ibanez 505 the best.
  3. honestjohnny


    Nov 24, 2006
    You might check out birdsongguitars.com and look at the HY5. It's a 31" scale 5er that uses an interesting bridge tensioning technique to get a good low B. Scott Beckwith is the owner and he's a cool guy to talk to even if you aren't going to buy anything ;-D

    Also, consider an upright 5er like the Dean Pace or Barker Basses. The upright position is more ergonomic than horizontal and you might find that 35 or even 42" don't seem so bad when you change orientation. A warning though, the Dean is fretless and most production uprights, beside the Barker, will be. Although, Kevin Siebold at Krappyguitars.com will make you an upright with frets, called the Twiggy for a couple hundred $.
  4. bassistgook


    Feb 5, 2009
    My suggestion would be trying an Ibanez SR series. They have tighter string spacing and the extra wide spacing on the 5 string BTB might be what's causing your discomfort. Oddly enough my BTB and SR 6 string basses have similar necks and string spacing but the 5's are completely different. The 5 string BTB neck is almost the same width as a 6 string BTB. Just a hair of difference. Hope this helps.
  5. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    try a Spector Legend 5... I have small hands and they are really comfortable to me..
  6. Fluffster


    Jun 7, 2007
    Those birdsongs look interesting, but perhaps a wee bit more spendy than I had in mind! :)

    Now to google the Ibby SRs and Spectors...
  7. I'm shorter than you and use basses that are 34 and 35, wide spacing and narrow spacing. My Peavey GV is between the spacings you listed, with 35-inch scale. Although it was expensive new, a used one or similar used USA Peavey is one suggestion I have for you. I also like the way the Korean made MTDs hang, and the back of the neck's compound shape may help your fretting hand's wrist. The spacing will be wide at the bridge, not so much at the neck compared to some. Also, a Carvin LB75 with J99 pickups comes to mind:
    Peavey GV graphite composite neck, 35-inch scale, narrow string spacing.
    Carvin LB75, 34-inch scale.
  8. scowboy

    scowboy Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Sacramento area
    I feel your pain. I just sold my Lakland 5'er / 35" scale and bought a Warwick Corvette $$. The Warwick has both a 34" scale and slightly narrower string spacing. I was just having a hard time confidently reaching four frets in the lower registers so I was always bouncing up to 7 to 9th fret regions to get the same notes I could get one string away when playing the lower registers. I am much happier with my 34" scale ... though I do miss the killer B string on the Lakland! Not sure what bass to recommend but I just wanted to let you know you are not alone in your struggles!

    Good luck to you.
  9. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I recommend 34" scale, slightly narrow neck, and most importantly IMO not too long of a reach to those outer frets. I generally look to see if the top strap button is at the 12th fret. If it's anywhere between the 13th and 24th frets, I pass on it because the reach will be uncomfortable for me, causing hand problems.

    I don't know any specific ones like that in your price range, but most Fender Jazzes (and clones) will be a good bet.
  10. Fluffster


    Jun 7, 2007
    That makes a lot of sense! A huge variable I haven't taken into account...
  11. Like you, I have small hands. I had a lovely Yammy RBX375 whose wide fretboard was causing me pain stretching:- centre here.


    I say a Hohner B Bass on Ebay:




    It has a narrow fretboard & is around your 16.5mm at the bridge. I don't have a problem with this.

    The construction is excellent - all maple with through neck & ebony fretboard, made in the Korea factory by Cort. Very good QC.

    Electrics are mediocre, though, 2-band EQ pre and EMG Selects.

    I've just fitted a John East U-Retro and am currently negotiating a pair of Joe Barden Twin Rails to replace the EMGs.

    This ought to give me an instrument which suits my hands and pleases my ears (I hope!).

  12. Fluffster


    Jun 7, 2007
    Does that Hohner use 4-string pups?
  13. Yes, standard sized 4's. EMGs are rails, now has Joe Barden twin rails & John East U-Retro pre. Completely different animal.
  14. chris.gotfunk


    Mar 21, 2007
    Ashburn, Va
    I second what someone above said about a Fender or Fender style jazz bass. They are 34", have a great balance and their neck profile if very comfortable. I am almost 6' tall with medium/large hands and never really cared about scale length. But, as of recent I have switched over to 34" scale because it just feels more comfortable to me. I play a Sadowsky and an Atelier Z, but those are a little bit out of your price range. The Ibanez SR series have nice slim necks and 34" scale I think. I would watch out for the Spectors since I believe they have 35" scale and a little bit thicker necks.

    Good luck on your quest, I just finished my quest for a 5'er. It is a lot of fun.
  15. your idol

    your idol

    Oct 13, 2008
    Murfreesboro TN
    winner winner chicken dinner! i have bear paws. huge hands but im all palm...short lil fingers. my spector 5 was AMAZING for my nubs..there wasnt a place my fingers couldnt go comfortably
  16. BobWestbrook

    BobWestbrook Mr.

    Mar 13, 2006
    Philly suburb
    You could buy the bass in my sig. :)
  17. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    The Ibanez SR series are 34" scale with slim, narrow necks that are well suited to small hands, and a relatively small body (compared to a Fender Jazz, for example) so you don't have to reach quite so much. These characteristics are why I chose my own Ibanez SR505. These basses also fall nicely into your price range; the SR305/405 you could get new, while the SR505 and up you could find used. You should definitely give them a look.
  18. steve f

    steve f Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Toxic, Maryland
    I have pretty small hands and really live the feel of the EBMM SR5.
    A little out of your range but when you're ready for one, don't hesitate.
  19. your idol

    your idol

    Oct 13, 2008
    Murfreesboro TN
    i also agree with this i loved my SR5 i just hated the sound but it played like a dream

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