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Does a 4-string bass become obsolete after picking up a 5-string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JustRoots, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. JustRoots


    Jun 1, 2018
    Hey! This is my first post on TalkBass!
    I'm about to purchase a 5-string bass. This definitely is something I can use, I'm playing a lot of metal that needs that low B, and it'll be nice to be able to play in lower keys that would usually require different tunings (like drop-D) without needing to detune. However, my original 4-string was a big investment for me, and I'm worried it'll become obsolete once I start playing this 5'er. Is there any situation you'd rather use a four stringer over a five stringer? The only ones I could think of would be that the 5-string requires more accuracy when playing slap style, and it's more difficult to play bass lines incorporating chords on a five string. However, both of those can be overcome with the correct technique. So, will I have any practical use for my four string? I'm a bit worried it will end up collecting dust in the corner and I'll only play it because I want to use it for something, not because I need to.

    Sorry if this has already been covered, I couldn't find an answer to this exact question with a search. Thanks!
  2. lokikallas


    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    IMO a hip shot drop tuned 4 plays and sounds cooler than the same riff on a 5.
    If the guitars tune straight then the 5 makes more sense.
  3. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    The narrower spacing actually makes it easier to chord a 5 string.

    Easier still on a 6er.

    IMO, a 5 string IS a bass. Six and up, are extended range. A 4 string is an LRB - limited range bass.

    I’d never advise a new player to buy a 4.

    As for your bass being obsolete; if you’re moving to a 5, it probably is. I’ve still got the 4 that my wife bought me for our first Christmas and I’ll never sell it - according to the serial number, it was made the same month as we were married - but it never gets played anymore.
  4. LowEndOperative

    LowEndOperative ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ Supporting Member

    Oct 8, 2013
    Instead of worrying about obsolescence, enjoy them both.
  5. thephilosopher


    Dec 22, 2004
    Not in the slightest.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Still plenty of 4 string basses being sold...
    gebass6, SnL, bozric and 3 others like this.
  7. 2cooltoolz

    2cooltoolz Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2009
    Lake Conroe, TX
    My favorite 2 basses are 4 strings (with Hipshot D-tuners). Haven't played either in over a year.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
    TH63 and GonePlaid like this.
  8. eastcoasteddie


    Mar 24, 2006
    I currently have all 5’s, but there is still some serious thump in a 4 that just isn’t there in a 5...maybe it’s the way you can slap that E and not have to worry about the B ringing out because it isn’t there to begin with. On a 5, your thumpin’ has to be much more on-point...
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2018
  9. Ah man, I've been doing it wrong all these years...
  10. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Going to a four after playing a five along time is a good wake up call. I noticed four string players playing much higher up the neck than I usually do made me realize I was not using all of the fingerboard effectively. I also find it good to have to play a line in Eb, D, Db, etc. an octave up. When I go back to five, my mind is open to more possibilities.
  11. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Musicians Friend lists 329 four string basses and 181 five string basses.

    Sweetwater has 440 four string basses and 192 five string basses.

    Their inventory will be a reflection of what they can sell. I would say that their customers don't think four string basses are obsolete by about a 2-to-1 margin.
  12. After having been a die-hard passive 4-string player (Fender P & J), I finally gave in and invested in an active 5-string three weeks ago.

    Yes, it really is nice to have the extra low string when I need those few extra low notes, but I don't intend to stop playing my 4-strings basses. Having a 5-string is just a matter of expanding my tonal options. One does not replace the other two; it's just an addition.
  13. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I play both 4s and 5s on a regular basis, depending on the gig at hand... I prefer to play 4s, but many of the gigs I do require a 5er, so I use one on those jobs... Currently, I own four 5 string basses, but own 16 four string basses, with a couple more on the wish list - if that indicates anything...
  14. mbell75


    May 23, 2016
    I know! I mean all those legendary bassists like Jaco, Geddy, Entwistle, Jamerson, McCartney and all the others with their 5 and 6 string basses! Why would anyone ever want to play a 4?! Oh wait...

    Your opinion and advice is in a VERY tiny minority.
  15. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I would say that the type of music the OP intends to play should be the determining factor, not the choices of past players - regardless of their legendary status...
  16. Thump C

    Thump C

    Dec 20, 2016
    No,no and No!
    GonePlaid, Brain Mayhem and jd56hawk like this.
  17. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    Drop d sounds way meaner than D on the B string. That said you can drop the E of a 5 to D and use the hip shot to take the B to A, enjoy even more range.
    BBassBassington and obimark like this.
  18. HarveyRobertson


    Apr 3, 2018
    Started on a 4. Bought a 5 on a whim. Have never bought another 4 in in all my years
    rollie 55, quickfix, TCurse and 4 others like this.
  19. bluesblaster


    Jan 2, 2008
    I just don't play music that requires a low B string...........problem solved.

    Nor do I want to listen to someone flailing away on an almost undistinquishable farty low frequency hellish sounding mush. A lot of great RnR was done on a four string, but that was when a groove was cool.

    Oh well, to each there own.

    oh, and yes, the drop D sounds much better on a 4 than a 5, IMO of course
  20. mesaplayer83


    Jun 27, 2017
    I prefer the sound of D on my 5er's B strings over drop D on my 4 strings - that said, some songs are WAY easier to play in drop D, like Killing In The Name Of, for example... I'm not a big fan of playing in dropped tunings, but sometimes it just makes sense...
    wmmj, PGold, BBassBassington and 2 others like this.

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