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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. bassbenj

    bassbenj

    Aug 11, 2009
    Nonsense! All that old music played on 4 strings is OLD! It's as obsolete as the 4 string basses that played it! Hey, if *I* play a 5 string bass then I say NOBODY needs any bass that doesn't have at least 5 strings! That's all there is to it!

    (Calm down guys, I'm just kidding. I don't want any 4 string players to burst a vessel or something... :))
     
    GonePlaid likes this.
  2. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    A 4-string becomes obsolete after you get a fiver?

    No more than your legs do after you learn to drive.
     
  3. bassbenj

    bassbenj

    Aug 11, 2009
    Speaking about Amps and cabs and 4 or 5 string basses, let me say that my current rig which is 1000 watts 2 x 15 (with horns if needed... usually tone is not that bright) works exceptionally well with 5 strings. Well it should with that much speaker and that much power, right? Also weights a ton! So the other day I'm working on one of my basses and I hook up my old cab from my 4 string days. This is a 3 x 12 in vertical mode that I built that was specifically tuned for a 4 string bass. I designed it so the low notes rolled off below Low E. It ALSO weights a ton! (Not by chance there are wheels on the bottom) So I plugged my Carvin BXR 500 into it and a G&L L2500. It was a very interesting test. The sound was not bad. It was VERY punchy and well controlled. But the one thing I noticed right away was those killer low tones that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck were MUCH reduced! Not a BAD tone mind you but just not the kind of bass sound I've become used to with a 5er. Back upstairs on the big rig, and the killer lows are returned.

    Well the reason this matters to me is because I'm tired of all the weight so I'm building a pair of ultra-light 2 x 10s sort of after the Mark bass idea to make the whole thing easier to drag around. Now I'm wondering if the stackable 2 x 10s was the right idea (the new cabs are not built yet though there is a stack of neo speakers in boxes sitting there) So a question is being raised in my mind about 5 strings which is do those low notes really need some special amping attention? Is there a 1 X 15 in my future? I don't know because I've tried none of it yet. But I am becoming convinced it may actually be an issue that needs some attention.
     
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  4. bassbenj

    bassbenj

    Aug 11, 2009
    Hey wait a minute! So why did I just drive my car to the mail box to get the mail? :)
     
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  5. JayBassMan

    JayBassMan

    Dec 27, 2017

    I can barely play 4, so it doesn't bother me.
     
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  6. D-G

    D-G

    Dec 28, 2010
    Boston
    I am someone who started off playing 4strings, moved to 5strings and now play a combination of both. Both are tools and all tools have their benefits and shortcomings. I aim to try and utilize as many of the tools of the trade as I feel are appropriate to perform my role in the music.

    4strings are typically more comfortable to play due to them being more lightweight and the narrower neck sizes. This makes them generally better for beginners and easier for some styles of playing (slap, etc.).

    5strings have an extended range which facilitates easier transpositions so you can drop the key of that song in E to Eb more effortlessly. I find the extra strings make playing chords up high easier, as you have an extra string of options to root your chords off of.

    What I bring to a gig depends on what ranges I need to cover. Some music styles are helped by the extended range of a 5string (metal, modern country, dance, pop for example). If I'm not sure what I'm going to run into, I'll generally bring a 5string to have the extra range if I find myself needing it. If I'm certain I'm not going to play anything needing the extra range, then I've found the 4string is generally more comfortable to play (on both my hands and my back).

    If you personally prefer a 4string but find yourself needing or wanting a bit of extended range in a few spots, try using a drop-tuner like a Hipshot (excellent brand IMHO). Typically you put one on the E on your 4string and set it to drop to a D, however it can be set to drop to just about any note the string can handle. I got a low B out of one before but it was pretty floppy-sounding.

    All said, it should come down to what you are comfortable with. I was a bit surprised to hear that in this interview Ethan Farmer mentions that he only plays 4strings:
     
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  7. MarkA

    MarkA *** Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Special attention needed for amplifying low notes on a five string? Some, yes -- those lowest five notes on a five string can place some additional stress on a rig, but then so can EQ and other choices. Much will depend on the sound you're going for and on your approach to amplifying the low end.

    You yourself said that you designed your old 3x12 so that the notes rolled off below low E. You shouldn't be surprised, then, when you plug your five in and they do just that! It doesn't mean that you need a bigger cone (Is a 15" in my future?) to get those lows to sound to your satisfaction, but you will need to choose the specific drivers and design the cab with that goal in mind. There are a bunch of different approaches you can take to that, all more or less valid depending on your goals. The only specific thing I'll say to that is that bigger drivers don't necessarily equal deeper lows. I have several cabs and the one that extends the lowest -- the Barry White of the cabs I own -- uses four, 6" woofers (a Michael Arnopol Soundworks MAS 46), but then that cab was designed (including the driver selection) with a low B in mind. I have another cab, from the same builder, that uses (different) 6" drivers and handles a low B well but, in that application, they're mids, not woofers -- no way they'd be suited to woofer duty, even with a 3-string bass. Same size drivers, same builder, different applications.

    Cab design discussion and approaches to low frequency amplification can (and do) get even more tribal and divisive than four vs. five strings. Since you haven't built the cab yet, I would strongly recommend starting a thread in the amps and cabs forum about your proposed design. There are several heavy-hitters there -- pros and amateurs alike -- who love a design problem and will chime-in to help you get it sorted. I don't know if the neo drivers you have sitting in a box will be suited to the task or not, but I do know that it's absolutely possible to build something, smaller and easier to schlep than the cabs you describe, that will have great low end with a 5-string. The specific approaches and tradeoffs involved I think are best left to that other thread. ;)

    Good luck!
     
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  8. 7615

    7615

    Nov 19, 2015
    The thread suggest 4 strings obsolete after picking up a 5 string. I picked up a 5 string and put it back down.
    Shouldn't be surprised. Many great players play 4 strings because all playing begins with tone and that 5th string for those few extra notes is an anchor that just isn't worth it.

    The B string adds a lot of tension to the instrument which negatively impacts on the resonance of the other strings. Tone (not from the tone switch) but rather the instrument and the player is compromised. The great stand up players of the 18th & 19th century, Dragonetti & Bottesini played 3 string stand-ups. They were both known for the voluminous sound in their playing. A 3 string has better tone than a 4 string --- I have heard the Dragonetti's 3 string bass played live and it is louder and has more nuance than a 4 string. Hipshot makes way more sense.
     
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  9. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    Nice steaming pile of BS you posted there...
     
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  10. GroovyBassist

    GroovyBassist

    Mar 17, 2016
    Austin, TX
    There is a lot more to the B string than a few extra notes. Obviously you do not understand the benefits of a properly used fifth string. The other issues you mentioned are non-existent on a properly set-up quality five string bass. So as mesaplayer83 says:
     
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  11. MarkA

    MarkA *** Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Nice summarily dismissive statements you guys posted there. ^^^ Did the guy say something you disagree with about having a 5th string on your bass, or did he talk smack about your momma?
     
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  12. 7615

    7615

    Nov 19, 2015
    oh so the 5th string adds no tension. And all those scholars who have studied the great classical soloists etc...

    your post is very thoughtful... and insightful
     
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  13. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Arizona
    Nice contribution, very informative!
     
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  14. 7615

    7615

    Nov 19, 2015
    I understand the benefits and they do not not outweigh the negatives. D tuning takes 5 seconds - that covers 40% of the notes.

    Many bass players have weighed the plus and minuses and came to the same conclusion. Poster above wonders aloud why does great bass player not use a 5 string. The answer is obvious. That bassist has access to 5 strings. He prefers the sound of his 4 string, usually the reason anyone plays whichever bass they choose. So what is it he hears?
     
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  15. drummer5359

    drummer5359 Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Pittsburgh PA USA
    I own a couple of five string basses and a bunch of four string basses. I play my four string basses more often, but have the fivers for gigs that require such. It sounds like a five string may fit your current musical situation best, but things change.
     
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  16. 7615

    7615

    Nov 19, 2015

    The mark bass combo II is a great amp and very light as is the GK MB115 (1 15") even lighter. The Mark is warmer, the GK - well it is classic GK sound. Carry with one hand - but you might have to forgo the B. As a 4 string player - I came to the conclusion that the 5 string brings with it a lot of weight.
     
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  17. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    If you knew anything about it, you would know that 5 string necks are typically built to handle the "additional tension" of the B string... Furthermore, the statement of yours I quoted has ZERO basis in fact - it was, to be blunt - pure BS...
     
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  18. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    Well, I call BS when I see it - so yeah, it actually WAS informative...
     
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  19. 7615

    7615

    Nov 19, 2015
    They resonate differently and sound differently - but physics apparently isn't your thing. I have played 5 strings -- IMHO they suck - face the facts - you invested unwisely. They are obsolete. Require heavy gear , lots of extra weight - 35 inches are the best sounding B's. Tight spacing of strings. Unless mumbling down low is your thing then never mind.
     
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  20. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    Apparently, reality isn't your thing - way to double down on the BS, though - I admire your commitment ...
     
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