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Extensions or 5th string?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Chrix, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    I'm looking to into buying a new bass this summer and I was wondering what some of you recommened as far as extensions or 5th strings go. I play jazz (mostly) but also do orchestral and wind ensemble double bass. I'd like the range of the low C or B, but I'm unsure whether it'd be more intelligent to get a bass with an extension or get a 5 string. Also, which are better and easier to handel: Machine extensions or fingered extensions?
  2. Chris:
    It's another one of those great debates, and IMO, it is a matter of personal preference. If your doing mostly jazz, 5 string might work better than an extension overall. Either the spacing between the strings will be closer, or the bridge will be wider, to accomodate the 5th string. It may not be a problem pizzicato, but may cause more of a problem playing arco because of the spacing. I have tried a 5 string in this manner, and had a problem when bowing the E, not hitting the B string. I'm sure it would be just a matter of adjusting. I have had the opportunity of playing in two different professional orchestras, both with 5 string basses in each, and I've tried them (one was a Pollman), and I find the B string tends to be less focused, not as tight sounding as extended E string. The B is a thicker string, which I feel may be the cause of a less focused sound compared to the E. Otherwise, a 5 string is more practical. As far as the difference between the machine & fingered extension, here I am convinced, the machine is quicker, easier, with no intonation problems of fingered.The levers are there at your finger tips instead of reaching at the scroll to play the notes. Critics of machines say they cause noise. I can say in the last 8 years of owning mine, I've not experienced any noises in the machine. It is hard to find a luthier who carries them, but there are some out there. Again, it will come down to what works for you. Hope this helps, and Good Luck!

  3. this may seem strange to most bassists, but I took off my e-string, put on a b string in it's place. so my bass is tuned G,D,A,B and It works great for me except for some extra shifting.
  4. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    For the more economically sensitive among us, that's the least expensive extension I'd be able to think of.
  5. Being a five string player, naturally i'm in favor of at least giving a fiver a shot. A couple of things though....try to find a fiver that was designed to be a fiver. In my experience, basses that have had the fifth string added are usually not ready to accept that extra pressure. Also, in interest of keeping the neck as trim as possible, look for one that has the fingerboard laid out and over on the B string side to avoid a big ole fat neck. Pictures of my Joseph Bohmann fiver can be seen under Basses: The TalkBasses. He also put some extra, very thin bracing on the inside of the top.
    I'm a jazz player and I use the B alot! I bought this bass because of it's sound and eveness not because I was shopping for a fiver. It was probably a fluke, so I don't know that i'd make that choice intentionally.
    As far as extensions go, i'd go for the fingered not the machine, because of the ability to use some vibrato and some color. Good luck and Kurt, I gotta hand it to you on your tuning!!
  6. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    anyone ever try both? low c and a high c string?
  7. Racsen


    Dec 6, 2003
    I have five stiring bass and my B string sounds too bad and i think i change it with a C stiring i hope it will be ok E-A-D-G-C tuning
  8. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    My main bass is a 5 string with a low B. It comes in handy for playing some Late Romantic stuff...Mine has good even sound across all strings and I am happy with it tho I am looking at getting a nice 4 string.
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I had both a Mechanical & Fingered Extension on the same bass in the early 70s. I was in a car accident with the Bass and when the Bass was repaired we went for a handmade fingered Extension for a few reasons. First off, the Mechanical extension was damaged in the accident. Second, you could not use vibrato. Third, the keys were some times confusing and noisy if something came up fast in the music or in your head.

    The Mechanical Ext. cuts down on intonation errors but the fingered method cuts down on 'keying' the wrong note.

    For Jazz or commercial work, I favored the Fingered Ext.. For Classical, the Keyed method is more accurate for fixed Bass parts.

    I have an Extra large old Bass in restoration now that will get a Fingered extension when it's completed. I will use it mainly in orchestra but I will have more flexibility for expression and other musical styles as well.........

    I did own one 5-string Bass for a short time in the mid 70s, but I convereted it to a 4-string and sold it. 5 was not my thing then and still isn't now.

    For the few lower notes I might play on occasion, I would prefer a normal 4-string with or without a fingered Extension.

    We can always tune down if necessary and write in the fingerings up to the 3rd pos. b-4 moving to the A-string. In my last Orchestra Concert locally doing Movie themes we playey 'Out of Africa'. It had alot of low Cs and Ds. I tuned down during the applause before the piece and tuned back up right after. Didn't skip a beat !! The extension would have been nice but I survived without it. The other Basses in the section played 8va as they might get lost and their Basses didn't have the power or equal sound in the lower register as my Martini had.

    So Don, what type of 4-string are you looking for.......lol
  10. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    eh? tea and crumpets or meatballs...not sure yet.
  11. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The Tea is especially fine this time of year and is most appropriate in this type of gloomy and foggy morning weather.

    Meatballs on the other hand can make one lean into a rather expensive, hard to break Habit !!
  12. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    Well, I have tasted the tea and find it to be very good. The Meatballs on the other hand I've yet to experience. I know that the meatballs are more plentiful however...
  13. To check out some serious extensions and fivers and combinations thereof, check under: Set up and Repair. A new {to us) Luthier in Montreal does some wild work.
  14. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    I'll definitely do that. Hopefully I'll get to play some soon as well. Thanks for all the help everyone.
  15. T Sony

    T Sony

    Mar 5, 2004
    So are you going with the meatballs Chrix?
  16. Hmm if your an orchestral player look at Beethoven 6 the allegreo often called the storm (he says looking at page 70 of the Complete Double Bass Parts of the Beethoven nine Symphonies! Published by Oscar G Zimmerman!!!) Only real way to play the thing is with a 5 string ...or possibly tune the bass down.

    I always thought that this would be a good excuse for a nice smaller 4 string for chamber and solo work and a big old Orchestral axe....

    My 2 cents worth...

  17. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    If money was no object, I'd step up to becoming a real man and get both a 5-stringer and an extension.
  18. rodrigo rojas

    rodrigo rojas

    Jul 3, 2002
    I have owned several 5 strings, I love them dearly and could not go back but the problem with them is their the setup. Violin makers don't have enough experience with them, but will never aknowledge this and talk like they know it all.

    The extra weight of the extra string can be taken care of by using a raised sattle.

    It is important that the spacing between strings is not the same, or rather, it can be the same as long as you don't mesure from the core of the string but from the edge. Violin makers have nightmares about this, but the 5th string is simply 6 mm wider than the 1st , and it vibrates much wider . You have enough spacing problems on a 5 string to be concerned about how well a violin maker sleeps.
    Fingerboard planing is the other issue. Typically they will not have enough clearance for the 5th string to swing freely, while the middle strings are so high you can't hold a note for 5 seconds. If you are getting a new fingerboard, leave a lot of wood on the side of the G string (on my bass 15mm) while the B string side can have as little as 4 mm. Violin makers want a symetrical setup but the problem with this is that then the bridge is tilted towards the G string to allow for clearance on the B string.
    It's my experience that thomastik spirocore and D'addario make good 5 strings.
  19. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    Well, ultimately, I ended up going with a bass without an extension, mostly due to funds. But I tried two or three basses with fingered extensions and like them a lot. So eventually I think I'd like to get one or have one put on my bass. I'd still like to find a mechanical extension just to see what I like.
  20. Chrix.....check the Newbie Links and Archives for a lotta info on this. The machines are a pain in the ass. Noisy as hell, not possible to apply vibrato or color or gliss, most have to be installed by cutting into scroll and the bad news is that they work backwards. Other than that............ :rollno:

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