1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

five string question

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by r05c03, Aug 10, 2005.

  1. r05c03


    Jul 21, 2005
    Lafayette, IN
    Out of curiousity those of you that have fivers, do you perfer to play e notes and scales from the open position, or from 5th fret on the B which gives the better tone? I am considering getting a 5er but you know what do you really get except a low B C and D?

    Thanks for the input
  2. QU!CK


    Apr 26, 2005
    Charlotte, NC
    Well I don't currently own a 5 string but I would assume that playing an E on the 5th fret of the B string would be about the same as playing an "open A vs 5th fret of the E string".

    It's more than likely just user preference and dependent upon where the bassists hands are at when they need to play an E. If it's easier to thumb an open E, go for it. If the 5th fret is within your reach and it's easier to play...you get the idea.

    For some styles of music the extra low notes are needed, for others it's not. Just gauge from the genre of music you play :)

  3. Jeff Martinez

    Jeff Martinez

    May 10, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Another unsung benefit of a 5-string is the ability to pedal (ie. F#) with one finger while simultaneously having acces to higher notes. This is especially handy with arpeggios and chords.

    As for fretting E vs open E. Each option has different tonal qualities due to the difference in the length of string that is vibrating. I think both are very useful, it just depends on the shape of the sound you're looking for.
  4. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    I started on a five, so I never worried about what the B offered. It's always been a part of my playing. I play 6 now and fretless 4, but I write very different things without a B. The B offers different positions for scales and such. IMO it's worth a try. if you don't like it, switch back to 4.
  5. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    First, 5th fret B and Open E will not sound the same usually. If you have a zero fret you might get closer but the overtones are different from the guage of the strings not being equal.

    That being said, I never play anything in an open position really. There are some notable exceptions, but in general I do not like to practice open string patterns as they arent as easily translatable to other keys for me.

    One of the biggest reasons for me to play with more strings is that I have more options. Id rather move up or down a string, than have to move my whole hand. Having more strings means I have more notes in any given position. I use the low notes from time to time, but the positional advantage is a much bigger factor in playing with more strings, for me at least.

    And comming back to the original question about open strings vs 5th fret ect. Having more strings also gives you that option, to have the same note, but with darker overtones or timbre. This applys all the way down the B string.
  6. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    I generally play everything in closed position. Having your hand higher up the neck gives you more options.

    The best thing the 5 has done for me is give me the ability to easily transpose songs downward. As singers age, they can't hit those high notes any more.

    Everyone in my band is middle aged (mid 40s) and we routinely drop songs by a full step so that we can sing them without killing ourselves. With a 4 this is just not practical.

    The other cool thing that having a fifth string does is it lets you play things in different places on the neck. Grabbing a low note no longer requires you to move your hand way down towards the nut.

    And finally, it gives you a new option for adding a nice thumpy low note from time to time. For example, in one song we play, the line goes from low G to C to A to D. I can accent that low G with a nice, thumpy low D.

    Before I went to a 5, I was concerned that my hands woudn't be large enough, but it hasn't been a problem at all.
  7. strummer


    Jul 27, 2005
    I do not like to use open strings, and I only ever use them if I'm off somewhere far up the neck and cannot reach. The reason for this is that we sometimes have subs for our singer, and I never know in what key they might like to sing certain songs.
  8. Stox


    Mar 18, 2005
    London UK
    1 I like having 2 octaves available in one handwidth
    2 You can get a low D and Eb thereby improving texture and dynamics.
    3 Easier to change key on the fly and keep the same fingering patterns
    4 If you are in a contemporary covers band you will find that a lot of songs were recorded with a 5
    5 Its looks :cool: ;)
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    The guy who doesn't even play 5-string nails it right off the bat! :)
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Many of the reasons for choosing 5 (or more) strings have already been listed.

    I originally went to fiver to reach low notes without using a Hipshot Xtender. Then I realized the convenience: it's easier to play down low in F minor using the sixth fret of the B string. A lot of times I choose to play 5 frets higher on the neck, starting from the B string rather than the E.

    Lately I've been subbing for a band that has a horn section. A lot of songs are transposed for the horns... or sometimes for the vocalists. It's sooooo much easier to play in Eb if you have a BEADG fiver... same goes for playing "Respect" in the key of Bb instead of C.
  11. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I'll fret the note depending on the needs of the song, if I need something boomy and sustained, I'll play up on the neck, if I need a thinner tone, I'll play near the nut.
  12. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Some advise I think may be worth adding in this context:
    Try as many 5 strings basses as you can for several reasons. First off, there's alot of "duds" out there. Basses who's B strings are really quite flat and lifeless, it's easy to get turned-off by one of these basses so keep an open mind and try as many as you can. Also, spacing varies quite a bit. Some 5 strings are very tight and folks with smaller hands really like them, others are spaced out much more like a 4 and many people like the extra space and room. Lastly, try these basses out on a rig that can handle the low B, things are getting better but there are still plenty of amps/cabs that just can't do it justice.
    Good Luck!
  13. lenorules1950


    Aug 20, 2004
    Meriden, CT
    I like to play E on the B string simply because it's easier to mute, and like adouglas said, because having your hand farther up the fingerboard gives you more options.
  14. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    Depends on the tone I want. I won't expand on it any further as I think Ken pretty much said it all.
  15. Bassliner


    Mar 15, 2005
    You really get more positions, and you get an extra "effect" with the extra "octave" although this isn't completely true. I find myself using the low B string when I want that little bit extra impact. You know when the band is going higher and higher, the drums are getting wilder, and then as a final touch I would sometimes transpose the bassline 1 octave, or parts of the bassline.
    You get more timbral possibilities; a G on the B string will sound slightly different than the G on the E string. You probably already know this, but it's just another thing. Where I get which note depends on the mood, on the sound I want or simply on my tired chops; moving up on the neck puts less stress on my hands ;)
    And you'll probably never have to drop D :) unless you find it hard to communicate with your bandmembers because they're looking at your hands ;)
    I'd like to advise you to give it a try! Play a 5 string for half a year and you're going to miss the B on a 4 string. And if you don't miss it after half a year, you know 5 string isn't the thing for you ;)
  16. Dave Hill

    Dave Hill Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    I think the open strings sound better, but you're usually taught to play everything closed for reasons already mentioned.
  17. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    You can actually play notes on a B string ?!? I've been using mine as a thumbrest.


  18. haha, thats what i do 99% of the time too!

    I prefer open E, more or a ring to it, less melowed

    the only reason i have a B string is so i can play the occasional lower D without having to knock out the normal tuning
  19. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    Lowphatbass provided us with a really great post about looking at 5 string basses and rigs. Good job LPB!

    I am a self taught bassist. Therefore, I started using a lot of bad habits. I played open notes as much as possible. When I got my 6 string, I took some lessons. One of the things I had to work on was playing in a closed possition. This really started to open things up for me especially that I play with horns in my band with those off beat keys.

    Try to practice with the fretted E. When you are at a gig, do what you need to get the job done. Of course try to use good technique, but cheating a little never hurt any one on a gig.
  20. 5bassman


    May 4, 2005
    We play alot of songs in Eb, I guess because that's the way our music director likes it. Alot easier for me to play up the neck since I have short arms,LOL. I couldn't go back to a 4 string!