Five- or Six-String Players: How much would you miss your low B, really?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Persona87, Jul 12, 2020.

  1. Persona87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    I mainly play six string basses now, but I find myself almost never using the low B or high C strings. Since I don't really use them that much, I'm thinking about selling my sixes and replacing them with some four-strings. I know the old thing about Jaco only needing four strings, but I'm not Jaco and neither are most of you. So those of you who consider yourselves five or six (or more) string players, how often do you use your low B strings? Would you miss them if you were forced to play four string basses? What genre do you mostly play?
    leftybass54, wmmj and bassgrackle like this.
  2. jonartimus


    Jan 15, 2015
    Honestly not that much, but I like to rest my thumb on the B string and I like the spacing on 5ers.
  3. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Yes, I'd miss it. When I moved over from 4-strings to 5-strings I changed how I approach the fretboard. I play across the neck rather than down. Seldom do I play things that you have to play on a 4 down in the first or open position down there (unless it incorporates low B or C)...and utilize the 5th string to play across the neck in the 5th-to 12th fret range. I have no desire to go back to a 4 string.
  4. growlypants


    Nov 10, 2012
    A LOT! But it would largely depend on the band's repertoire, too.
  5. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    When I need something lower than E, I would miss it a lot. Other times, I don't think I'd miss it much.
  6. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    I use my B string for almost every song. I would miss it a metric ton.
  7. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    Miss low B?

    All day long.

    No deep B to go to for a dramatic effect? No B to lock onto a metal double kick drummer?

    I need that low B all day long - my high C, too.
  8. I play 6. Since moving to 5s and then 6s I have changed my way of playing. I play higher up the neck and use the B string in nearly every song. It sort of replaces the first few frets of the E string, and the higher notes on the E string replace the lower notes on the A string, and so on. I use the C string for soloing and for the occassional chords. I have a couple of 4s but they don't get used unless a 6 is out of place, like in 40s and 50s swing and rock n roll. Would I miss the B? Hell yeah. Would I miss the C? Maybe.
    knight of ni, B-Lo, FretFree and 6 others like this.
  9. Geri O

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

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    How much “missing it” does it take to not want to be without it?

    This question is like....

  10. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Extended range makes so many things easier. Even adding a 21st fret on a four increases versatility. I love having a B string for both the low notes and the additional ways to play things that can be played on a standard four.

    There is a challenge, however, of making things happen on a traditional 20 fret Fender or Fender style bass. I am always amazed by great players, like Marcus Miller or Joe Dart, who squeeze something extra out of four strings and twenty frets.:bassist:
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
  11. Rob112


    Sep 9, 2015
    I find myself playing in keys that it is super helpful to have those couple extra low notes. If the 5 didn’t exist I would be ok, but since it does I like it more. I still have 4 strings I jam in too.
    Steve88 likes this.
  12. Barticus

    Barticus Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2017
    It depends on the style of music you play, doesn’t it really?

    I use my low B (C and D on the B) a lot... I’ve incorporated into most of our tunes and you can really hear the low registers ring out on our recordings. I also play across the fretboard versus down, so for me I can’t live without it, or at least I choose not to :)

    I also have several four string basses that I literally have not picked up in years, so maybe it’s time for me to get rid of all my 4’s as those Jazz and P basses seldom if ever get played or even take it out of their cases. :thumbsup:
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    My 5-string is set up for a high-C string set. Does that answer your question? :laugh:

    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
  14. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    BEAD for me and I could probably live without the D string too.
  15. red_rhino

    red_rhino Artful Dodger Gold Supporting Member

    When I have a low B, I use it. And definitely not as a thumb rest. But I can't really say the same for a high C. I had an MTD 635 for a several years as my #1, but aside from some beautiful chording that was enabled by the C, I often found myself working around it in many playing situations. Eventually I moved back to 5's, and then back to 4's for the last 3 years or so. Just recently picked up an MTD 535 and I'm happy to have the low B again, but I can move between a 4 and a 5 with no problems.
    Crash 56, Tom Baker and Sgroh87 like this.
  16. I play in 2 Big Bands and there is much more need to play in the upper rather than the sub-E registers. I have all of my 5-strings strung E-C so I can reach high G's, etc. without having to jump up the neck. There are almost no big band charts that call for playing below low E.

    Having said that, I'm thinking of stringing my Modulus Q5 back to B-G because the low B string on the Modulus is something special.

    Rick B.
  17. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
    We have a winner!!
    Huw Phillips and Brad Easley like this.
  18. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Everywhere else: wouldn't miss it. My current 10-piece party band that I have the most gigs and make the most money: too many songs with parts that use the B string, too many songs the guys want to take down a key or two for vocals - definitely. This band is the reason I bought a 5-string in the first place back in 2012.
    Wasnex likes this.
  19. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    My response is similar. After decades of playing primarily a 6-string I tend to play more across the strings than up and down the neck. This relates more to the C string for me as I don't tend to play the B string much above 5th fret, because I don't like the tone. I believe the problem is inharmonicity. For the same reason, I don't generally play the E string above about the 10th fret.

    I play jazz standards quite a bit and am expected to solo, so I play up the C to about the 15th fret quite a bit (maybe a bit higher). I would definitely miss the extended range and tonal variance. Obviously I could play those high notes on the G string of an extended range instrument as well , but I am not really that familiar with that area of the fretboard. The extra strings makes it much more efficient to cover the required range without the need to make huge shifts on the neck.

    I do think the B string is more essential than the C string for most players. There are many songs that really benefit from the extended low range. Also there are many times when singers cannot covers tunes in the original key. The B string makes it possible to transpose the original bass line down without having to invert intervals. This can be very important with an iconic bassline.

    I played 6-string in country band for a couple of years and there were plenty of lines that benefited from the low B and high C. There's an irritating Geico commercial currenlty on TV with an old Ratt tune, "Round and Round." Pretty sure the lowest note is a D# or Eb and it looks like the bassist is using a detuned 4string. (That's what the tabs I have looked at indicate as well). If I were playing this song in a cover band, it would be more convenient to play it on a B string than detuning for one song.

    Ultimately it doesn't matter what I think. If you think four strings is enough, then it's your choice and you need to accept and work around the consequences regardless of how large or small.
  20. twinjet

    twinjet Powered by GE90s; fueled with coffee. Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    I went 6-to-4 in 2015 and only miss it when I go heavy on an AJ kick.
    alaskaleftybass likes this.

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