Do you have to have a 5?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TheArchitect, Jan 31, 2023.

  1. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    I like the idea of having that low B string. As a practical matter though, what are the real benefits of it. I'm not sure if the perks of having those couple of notes out weighs the practical advantages of the lighter weight, smaller neck etc that would be in play 100% of the time.

    I am considering options for a very "modern" bass. I have a 6 string and that neck is so wide the instrument is a beast to play. It is not really giving me a good read on the value of the low B. I am still leaning towards a modern 4, but I don't want any personal bias' from my experience with that 6 to influence the choice
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2023
  2. Nunovsky


    Sep 4, 2004
    The benefits are mainly extended range in many sections of the neck. You can get a 3 octaves scale in the range of 5 frets.
    And sometimes you need that D or that C or even a Eb and sometimes it just sounds better with that lower note instead of doing it higher on the neck ir on treblier strings.
  3. shoot-r


    May 26, 2007
    Do I have one, nope!
    Do I need one, nope!
    Do I want one, nope!
    Have I ever played on a 5 that was as comfy as a 4, nope!
    Have I ever encountered a gig/job that required one, nope!

    Do I think YOU should play what makes your ears and hands happiest, yeap!
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2023
  4. BassyBill

    BassyBill Still here Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    It’s a bit like asking “Do you HAVE to have a non-stick omelette pan?”

    I’ll leave the answer open.
  5. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    Have you ever tried cleaning the non stick? Yes, you HAVE to have the non stick!!!
  6. JakobT


    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    And the answer is «no» in both cases. :)
    el jeffe bass, retslock and BassyBill like this.
  7. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    I am here for the breakfast
  8. Do you have to have a 5? No
    Do I have to have a 5? Yes.
    Do I have to have a 4? Nope. It comes with the 5.

    After playing on 5's for a number of years, I've found that my playing style and the basslines I come up with for our original songs are heavily influenced by having a 5 and they do not carry over well to a 4 as I am either missing notes low or high. This was confirmed recently when I picked up a 4 string in a guitar trade and struggled. YMMV
    Even though I rarely use anything below the low D, I have come to depend on having those low notes available when needed. But the big thing is also hand placement as mentioned above.
    As someone who plays in different projects and genres, I am always covered with a 5, especially when songs have to be transposed depending on vocalist.

    But to each his/her own. Some like 5's, some 4's, some 6's and beyond. Play what works for you, don't be afraid to try new things and accept that it is OK to like or not like something that people on TB rant about.

    And FWIW, a well-seasoned and maintained iron skillet is basically non-stick that lasts forever and you don't have to slowly consume teflon
    Jugghaid, smogg, wizard65 and 24 others like this.
  9. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    The other problem is I could be convinced to buy a 5 because the color I like is not available on the 4 string version.. I am a troubling dychotomy to say the least... :)
  10. Koshchei


    Mar 17, 2019
    Peterborough, ON
    "It depends" is the safest answer. Do you play music that requires notes below the low E? If so, then probably. Transposing up an octave works and is serviceable, but it breaks up the melodic contour of the piece, and you may or may not want that. Arrangement is choices.
    Rezdog likes this.
  11. nonohmic


    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    Jaco only needed 4.

    Amirite? Amirite? Amirite? Amirite?!?!?!

  12. makaspar

    makaspar Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2009
    Austin, TX
    Did someone say omelettes?

    I love my fives, but no, you don't have to have one. Unless you want the added range.
  13. TheArchitect


    Aug 4, 2009
    Not really... the 5 was not really a thing at that point
  14. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid

    Jun 7, 2013
    I prefer a 5, but I’m accustomed to them. According to the music people want me to play I could get away with 2.
    NewKid1011, Helix, retslock and 7 others like this.
  15. Sean150


    Jul 18, 2018
    Do I mainly play 4s, yes
    Do you need a 5, no
    Should you have a 5, yes

    It gives more flexibility, especially in situations where you are improvising.
    Christiaan and groovepump like this.
  16. Blackbird

    Blackbird Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    As long as the lowest note on the average upright bass is the E, no one actually needs a B string.

    I like having a B string if for no other reason than that in addition to the extra 5 low notes and opening up new playing positions, it is also the ultimate thumbrest.
  17. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Commercial User

    I don’t have a 5, but the biggest benefit I can see is that having the low B solves a lot of positioning problems. For instance, being able to in Bb up by the 6th fret rather than the first makes a lot of sense to me.
  18. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS

    (gee, how hard was that?...:D)
    red_rhino, Frank77 and TheArchitect like this.
  19. LowEndLobster

    LowEndLobster Bass reviewer and youtube dude guy. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2003
    Northern MA
    Ok, serious answer. I have a lot of basses and all but one are four or five strings. Four string to me is like visiting a favorite childhood hangout. It will always feel like home. That being said, I have found myself gravitating towards 5's in most band or jam scenarios. I don't really think about it as 4 vs 5 though, I appreciate the added flexibility and it can still do everything my 4 can. I like how I can walk up to the low E and also not adjust tunings when playing a song in Eb or D. When demoing instruments, I don't really care how many strings there are because I'm approaching the instrument with a different mindset. In jamming and band scenarios, the extra range is like additional vocabulary to use in your musical conversations and that's never a bad thing (unless you over overdo it on the low B... LOL)
  20. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    6s are huge. I hate trying to play them. 5s are big enough to be uncomfortable, but familiar enough to make it work.

    My suggestion, buy a 4, and cut the nut to a .130 and on
    Yahboy likes this.