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Converting a Rickenbacker 4003 into a five string bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Ric5, Jan 5, 2013.

  1. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Here is a bass that I converted from a 4 string to a 5 string bass last year




  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    And here I am starting the conversion process. The 2012 has the new Caribbean Rosewood fretboard.


    I have to replace the nut with a 5 string nut.


    I use a Carvin 6 string nut. I cut off part and shape it to fit. I also have to shim it up to height.


    I also have 5 string bridges machined out of aluminum.

  3. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Here is the bass as a 5 string bass. I pull the pole for the A and D string and put in 3 pole in their places to accommodate all 5 strings.

    I also added 2 extra screws to the tailpiece and I remove the structure above the mechanical mute.

    On this bass the mechanical mute was left in. Usually I remove it.


    The string spacing at the bridge is a little less than 15mm.


    I also add a 5th tuner into the headstock, and the tuners get replaced with smaller sealed tuners.




  4. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
  5. __HM__


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Looks fantastic, buuut.. Cut a new nut! A shimmed/modified nut just doesnt quite suit such a nicely crafted bass! Just my opinion, great work :)
  6. I'm in the process of doing this to a precision bass that I got for basically nothing, would you recommend doing this mod with a bass with standard string spacing at the nut (1-5/8").

    When I did out the math before, I figured I could get away with 16.5mm spacing at the bridge, although I'm not sure if the strings would be too far off the side of the fretboard.

  7. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    You have to do a new nut. The choices are have one made from a blank or get an existing nut and shim it.

    There is no pre-made drop in replacement.
  8. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    With a p-bass you need a 5th tuner, a new nut, and a new bridge. I simply get a tuner that looks like the other 4, and I get a blank nut and cut it, and a new 5 string bridge from ebay. The existing pickups usually work.

    Here's a few of the p-basses that I have done.

  9. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
  10. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    The history of Rickenbacker and 5 string basses.

    The first 5 string bass made by Rickenbacker was 4005/5. It was rare and looked something like this ... http://www.3dentourage.com/425/4005.htm As far as I know only one was made in the 60s.

    Then in the 80s Rickenbacker made the 4003s5. Basically they put 5 strings on a 4 string bass and neck. http://www.3dentourage.com/425/89-4003s5.htm This bass had the Rick tone but it was difficult to play. The string spacing at the bridge was 2 1/16" because they used the 4 string neck. Also all Rickenbacker pickups are guitar pickups designed to cover 6 guitar strings spaced 2" to 2 1/8" at the bridge. Their bass pickups are either the same exact pickups as the guitar version or a guitar pickup with 4 poles instead of 6. The humbuckers and the toaster pickups are the same exact pickup. After years of criticism and poor sales the 4003s5 was discontinued. The came out with the 4003cii5. It was a beautiful bass with as string spacing similar to a Musicman Stingray. But they used their guitar pickups which effectively turned the bass into a 3 string bass. Those who waited for this new 5 string bass were appaled by the epic flaw in the pickups. When they contacted Rickenbacker they were informed that it was their problem or that is was a phasing problem. So the owners had 2 choices ... play a 3 string bass or replace the pickups.

    Arguments about this topic appeared on the Rickenbacker and Rickresource forums. I got booted from the Rickresource forum for being a vocal critic of Rickenbacker's lack of ability to make a proper 5 string bass.
  11. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
  12. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Beautiful work! And yeah, Ric's execution of their fives is pretty embarrassing...
  13. f64

    f64 Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Naples, FL
    It's beautiful! Nice work.
  14. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Actually they makes beautiful 5 string basses ... they just are flawed.

    - If only they made the 4003s5 with a wider string spacing.

    - If only they made the 4004cii5 with pickups that cah cover a 2 3/4" to 3" spacing.

    I always wondered if anybody ever plugged the 4004cii5 into an amp and noticed the dropoff in volume of the B and G strings? How the heck did those basses ever leave the factory like that?
  15. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Thanks ... Rick did all the hard work ... I just tweaked the bass ...
  16. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Very informative thread - thanks for posting!
  17. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    Very cool. looked at my 2 4001's :eek: and shook my head:rollno:..told myself to get that right out of my head:eyebrow:.....maybe an idea for a new personal build this year:p....hmmmmmm:D:bassist:
  18. mc_muench


    Sep 28, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    You didnt happen to do a conversion like this for an Al Cisnero of OM did you? He plays a 5'er Ric now and you are the only person I know of doing Ric conversions.
  19. Al uses a Jetglo 4003S/5 that's had the body stripped of paint.

    The string spacing really is tight on the 4003S/5. If you're a fingerstyle player you either learn to play with the tight spacing or do a mod on it like Ric5 does to get better spacing at the bridge.

    I've left mine as is for string spacing but may do that mod at some point in the future.
  20. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Pretty sure that's what he means by "embarrassing".

    Personally, I think Rickenbacker purposefully sabotaged their 5-string offering.

    By making it basically unusable, it didn't sell very well, so they discontinued it. Now, when people clamor for another one, they can say "We made one and nobody bought it, so no!"

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