Five string bass (BEADG): how do you guys play it?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by lexxmexx, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. lexxmexx


    Apr 7, 2008
    Do you guys utilize the B-string often or just occasionally? I have heard many people mentioning that the B-string is a nice welcome but seldomly used. Yet, another school of people will say that it allows one to play higher up on the neck for many reasons.

    I mean, many of the songs out there were played on 4-string basses but when you guys play them on a fiver, do you play them low down on the neck like a 4er and just using the B-string as a convenient thumb rest? Or you will play it higher up on the neck and using the B-string for low notes like E, F G etc?

    I am really curious about the common practice out there?
  2. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    When I first started playing 5 I stayed in the same low positions as always and only used the B string when I needed an Eb or a D but then I saw Otiel Burbridge play and that changed everything for me.

    I moved my hand up about a perfect fourth and used the C on the E string a lot and that instantly increased my range both up and down since it was easier to move across the neck and also positionally.

    I play 5 much differently than 4, and I use all of the strings.
  3. LowBSix


    Mar 25, 2008
    818 ~ 805 ~ L.A.
    Endorsing Artist: GHS Strings

    Always approach any "pop music", meaning anything you'd hear on the radio/MTV/VH1, which would include "indy" stuff that thinks it isn't popular, etc.... Enough of that...

    Approach from the 4 string concept to the "Extended" range of the bass, whether 5,7,8,9, etc....

    When playing Jazz/Avante Guarde... let it fly...

  4. crazyguy832


    Dec 17, 2007
    Winnipeg, MB
    I tune mine E A D G C (or, with my current band, D G C F Bb).


    While having the low B (and the lower notes in general, especially a D) is nice, I find having higher notes actually is a lot more useful overall. I'd love a 6 string, but, as it stands, I get more use out of a high C than a low B.

    Plus, it allows me to play the intro to Ghost of Perdition on a 21-fret neck.


    However, when I do have a low B on there, I still stay at the first position. Why change the way you play? All it does is give you more notes, thank you very much. If you move up to the 5th fret, all you're doing is playing a BEADG bass like an EADGC bass.
  5. as far as the lower register notes on the B string go, I feel like there are most certainly situations in which it will sound OBVIOUSLY better to choose either these low notes or to stick with higher notes. I dont find it too difficult to decide which notes will sound best in a given situation.

    playing 5 string can be just as natural as a 4 string. a 4 string has more than 1 octave for a choice note to be in, yes? Its the same thing, just with a few more options on a 5er

    to me, the biggest advantage of the 5 is just the positions it opens up for your fretting hand.
  6. kebbs

    kebbs Modus vivendi

    Aug 30, 2005
    Ottawa, Canada
    As most bassists, I started on a 4-string. So, in the first position, I tend to use the low B for "special" uses; not so much for picking as many people complain they can't hear the the note (the fundamental?) when playing B, C or even D on it. Also, guitarists are not particularly used to hearing it so low. However, past the first position, it allows me to stay in one place. Same approach as onlyclave's C on the E string.

    What I like above all on a 5 string is the string spacing - much closer. Facilitates faster playing and picking alternate strings. That's just me.
  7. +1 I DON'T find the string spacing etc better- I've been playing since 1972 -IIRC :help:- & was schooled & played all my life on 4 string basses. Didn't get a 5'er til about '95 & SO AFTER 20 YRS OF 4'S(sorry -caps...) it didn't come that EZ to play a 5 w/out the odd fluff or 5!! ;)

    BUT I DO find 5's now to be a great bonus-altho I still play 4's mainly- when I DO play my 'ray 5 I often use the upper frets to play stuff only possible on the lower frets of a 4! Often play in the G,F, etc up the neck on the B string & also in Bb & C play up there on the E string-w/ the option of going to the low 5th (eg) on the B string. :confused: Understand ?!?!? I confuse meself-often!!:ninja:

    I STILL find 4's to be the most 'comfy' to me-as I 'came up' on 'em!! But I do LOVE my 'Ray 5'er!
  8. +1!!
  9. chimpbass


    Jan 16, 2008
    Denver, CO
    I've been playing 5-string since I started. I was learning, however, by watching the roots of my guitar player's left hand. So, oddly, even though I started on five I was basically using the B-string for a thumbrest and occasional special effects until high school. At that point, I was playing in jazz band and with horns rather than a guitar player. This opened up the full potential of 5-string playing for me. I started using the B-string more and more to facilitate smoother sounding scales (i.e. no open strings). Now I find myself choosing the higher positions and utilizing the B-string more when I want a more "thumpy" sound, and choosing lower positions and utilizing the B-string less when I want a "twangier" sound. This is the main reason to utilize different fingerings in general, IMO. You'll get a noticeably different sound playing an open G-string than you will on the 20th fret of the B-string. This can be used to your advantage. This variation in timbre can make a great differentiation between different sections of a piece that both have similar bass lines, for instance.
  10. Nyarlathotep

    Nyarlathotep Inactive

    Feb 5, 2006
    West Coast of Canada
    I play it just like a 4. Hit the strings, sound comes out.
  11. T-MOST


    Dec 10, 2004
    NJ via NYC
    I lay on the low end very often. Urban gospel gets really low.
  12. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    Most of the song I play it like a 4 and use the B to add octaves in when the guitars are hogging my space :) (they can't help it...).

    This way if something happens and I end up on my 4 I can still play the songs! I don't want to be the girl who can *only* play on a certain bass......

    Does make a much more comfy thumbrest than the pickup though :ninja:
  13. some may think that there are only 4 half tones more, not a big deal. Well, we all know that the music is a matter of taste. And so the 5 strings bass is. I love to dig the low D but barely go to low C or B. I just use those notes for approachings or ocasional notes. for a song in C I would use the 3rd fret in the A string as a main C (sounds quite amazing to my ears) but once in a while, changing to a lower root C gives the chance of change, and that's nice.

    Anyway, I have two 4er and one 5er, so I don't think a low B is essential, but is quite tasty :D I'm gassing for another 5er right now. Just as similar as I can get to my current fretted 5er, only FRETLESS. Then I'll have two of both.
  14. Disappear


    May 9, 2008
    Like the amp that goes to 11, I use it when covering some classics just to give a nice lower note and an ascending line. Beautiful for jazz and blues because it's just that extra step lower you know?
  15. OtterOnBass


    Oct 5, 2007
    I use it when I want to really rumble - big ending, big chorus, etc. Your ears don't expect guitar-driven music to have notes lower than E. If I want to play in E but avoid the nut chopping off my lower options in the scale, I slide up to E on the B string. I don't use it for every song, but I use it a lot. Also, I love to play the 5-6 under the chord, like G, D-E G.
  16. twistdpair

    twistdpair Endorsing Artist: Enzyte Male Enhancement Products

    Aug 28, 2007
    I have small hands, so being able to play things further up the neck is AWESOME. I feel like I'm disabled with a 4-banger now...
  17. lexxmexx


    Apr 7, 2008
    So I guess that there are no really quick and fast rules out there. Two distinct schools of thought and both are equally logical. Since I have both 4 and 5 bangers, I might need to use the play-it-like-a-4-banger approach on the fiver when playing songs with standard EADG bass tuning so that I won't lose touch on the 4 banger.

    Is this practical?
  18. 20Hz


    Dec 2, 2007
    I write a number of songs that use the B quite a bit. I've always been fascinated with low tones (shocking that I chose the bass, eh), and restrung my 4 string BEAD years ago. If you have a rig capable of producing the lower notes on the B string with depth and clarity, and a bass that has good even tone and string tension, why wouldn't you use the low notes? I love the power of a clear deep B or C or D, leaving lots of room in the sonic spectrum for the drums and guitars to come through in their own 'space'.
  19. Basseroni


    Oct 17, 2006
    Southern California
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Dunlop/MXR
    The common practice is that you play it where YOU hear and feel it. Is the B-string important to YOUR style of playing? That's something only you can determine. Some of us, myself included, are exclusively 5-string players but that's due to our style of playing. I actually detune my bass a half-step down; hence, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb. :)
  20. The B-string gives you options of "timbre" for your basslines. For example, you can play a bass riff in low position using the low E, which will give you a grittier, twangier sound; or play the same riff 5 frets higher, using the low B instead, giving a subbier, smoother sound. It basically gives you more options of how you want your bass to sound at any given time, without adjusting anything but your fret-hand position.

    It is also useful for songs where your guitarist is playing in drop D (or lower). It enables you to easily reach those low notes without having to change your tuning at all.