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Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by arnoldschnitzer, Mar 22, 2003.

  1. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    My New Standard partner and I are trying to decide whether to offer a modified version with five strings (owner's choice--high C or low B/C). Lately we've been getting some interest and need to decide if it's worth the development cost. We would have to modify the neck, shoulders, f-holes, bass bar and scroll/machines. Would you guys mind giving me your two cents about whether there might be a market for such a beast?

    Please excuse the blatant self-promotion, folks...:rolleyes:
  2. I play on a beautiful Peter Elias 5 string bass.

    Quite frankly, I wasn't really in the market for a 5 string when I got mine but this instrument came up for sale and was just way too outstanding to pass up. The wood and workmanship are truly extraordinary and the bass has a wonderful, rich and powerful tone.

    I've become used to the 5 string and do like many aspects of it. It is without a doubt a lot easier to play passages involving lower notes. I also never have to prepare way ahead of time by making sure my extension is open when I need it or closed when I don't need it. I also find the tone of the lower string matches the rest of the instrument far more closely than it did when I had basses with extensions - I usually found the lower extension notes to sound a little 'raw' compared to the B string.

    I suppose what I don't like about the 5th string is that I feel the response of the instrument is less quick than it might be - especially on the E string. The other strings seem quick enough, but I find there is a great deal of "drag" on the E string compared to a 4 string bass (I've found this to be the case on every 5 string bass I've played).

    Having said this, I think overall I prefer using the 5 string rather than an extension.

    Here in Canada (in Toronto especially) there are a number of us playing on 5 string basses, probably all of them made by Peter Elias. Elias has a great reputation here and he makes a lot of 5 string basses (especially since he sells many instruments in Europe). Most of the people I know who play them are really happy with them so I think there should be a market for them. I think the trend in North America has been largely 4 string basses for quite a while but I'm sure more people would play 5 strings if they were readily available.
  3. I used to play a 5, but am just happier with a 4. I have a 5 string bass guitar which I like, so its not a problem with the number of strings. It seems to be that the front doesn't react as well. One bass I bought had only 3 strings until I had it converted to 4 , but I think it actually worked better as a 3 string. Dragonetti only used 3 strings, but in those days they used to retune by up to a fifth for different pieces. I am sure you know this stuff.....but its swings & roundabouts......4 seems to be right for me. I use an extension, but not much. 5 string is easier for classical ( but then its a bit harder to bow).......swings and roundabouts again.....I must say I have not played a low c which was as good on a 5 string as on a 4 string with an extension.
  4. sean p

    sean p

    Mar 7, 2002
    eugene, oregon
    the major argument i hear against five string basses is that they react poorly compared to four stringers, presumably due in large part to the increased pressure on the top of the bass. to complicate the question at hand, i've repeatedly heard that plywood basses tend to play better with higher tension strings on (more pressure on the top).

    would the added top pressure of the five string setup perhaps result in improved response in plywoods and not the poorer response we expect from carved basses? i'm very curious.

    i would strongly consider buying a five string new standard if it were found that they react as well or better in a five string setup than four.

    sean p
  5. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    I have a hard enough time with four, but it seems like there's a lot of interest in fives lately. I do enjoy rattling teeth with my 5-string EUB, and if the Standard could respond as well as the canoe paddle, I'd be into it.
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I almost bought a 5 stringer with a high C, and hope someday to own one if I can find the right one. I've never heard a low B that sounded anything other than crappy for pizz, so I wouldn't care about the low B. A question, since we're on the subject: is there any difference in construction between a 5er with a high C as opposed to a low B?
  7. Agreed. Long arco low B's were pretty damn cool, but anything else arco and all pizz was sub-par on the B, and the E didn't seem to respond to my liking either (in my very limited experience).

    Has anyone had any experience with a high C fiver? How was the tone and timbre balance across the strings? Decent pizz response?

  8. I disagree. I suppose it depends on the bass and the brand of B string, but my bass has a very powerful B string (all notes), at least for arco. I don't have much call for playing pizz below the E anyway, but my bass sounds okay pizz on the B.

    The particular B string can make a difference for sure. I've found that the only B string worth a damn is the Pirastro Jazzer - the response, volume and tone are far superior than any other B string IMO. My bass had a Spirocore B originally and it was noticeably inferior to the Jazzer.

    Again, as I stated earlier, I find the tone of the B string a more even match to the other strings (for arco). The timbre and volume of the extension notes IMO usually sounds kind of "in your face" by comparison.
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
  10. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    Hi Arnold,

    I would say there is a market, and 5-stringers are showing signs of becoming fashionable lately. Paul & Jesse just finished one, and Jesse has been putting off repairing his Prescott so that he can keep playing the 5 for RPO gigs.

    Sam (Shen) in the process of making a few special-ordered 5 strings in our Rogeri pattern for one of our dealers as well.

    So yeah, I think there's a market there. It's my gut feel that you could sell a few each year, but not loads of them.
  11. Bassguyrob

    Bassguyrob Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2003
    Spokane WA

    I was fortunate enough to purchase a Pollmann 5 about 15 months ago, and I love it. It is the most even sounding bass from low to high I have ever played on. There is no wolf that I can find, and the bass is gorgeous. Aside from that, I have played 5s that didn't have that that sound, and the guys who had bought them had sunk a lot of money into trying to get them to play and sound right. I do think there is more of a market over here for the new generation of bassists, ones who are more open to different ideas than just the straight 4.

    Unfortunately, the margin of error in a 5 is significantly less than that of a 4. If you build one, and it doesn't sound right, then you could be at it for a while. If your willing to be patient with it, then I say go for it. With this forum, I'm sure you'll be able to get lots of input along the way.
  12. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    If you haven't already done so, check out the website for Montreal luthier Mario Lamarre. He's making five-strings with high C's and two extensions, and doing some of the most interesting wood carving I've seen from any contemporary luthier.

    I've never seen, heard, nor played one of his instruments, but I gather they are popular in the Montreal area.

    I'm planning to visit his shop in May to look at his detachable-neck travel bass (also on the website).

    Have a look:

  13. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Hey, Arnold, if you want to make a splash with a five string, there is this bass in one of the Raymond Elgar books, a five string Vuillame.

    It looks absolutely gorgeous, and has the most beautiful looking dimensions, and might be a great starting point. Does anyone know anything about this bass's whereabouts?

    I just can't imagine the sound, I would love to see if the concept works.

  14. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I would love a Shen 5. I played one of his 4's that is outstanding. When i first saw the bass i would have never guessed that it is Asian.

    The back and ribs are of some outstanding curly maple.

  15. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    i'm off to Baltimore
    to investigate the mystery English bass...

    I played the Shen at Ken' shop. Ken, you ought to post some shots of that bass !
  16. Dondi


    May 3, 2003
    I have been playing five string electric for about ten years and I don't know how I worked without one before.
    I just got a five string double bass and I'm adjusting to the physical properties to get the B string to speak well. But considering that there are plenty of the lower notes in standard repertoire I'm sure I'll get used to it quickly.
    In Europe, it seems that many of the players are using 5-strins. Here in the US, more players use the extensions, it seems.
  17. Whatever happened with this? I have heard about the not-advertised models and was curious if a five stringer was included.
  18. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Nope, we've not had a single inquiry, so we shelved the idea.
  19. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I played a Poellmann 5 made in '95 for many years and can confirm the evenness and lack of wolf, and would add that it speaks easily and predictably under the bow even at the faintest pianissimo. There were serious downsides though. The instrument was very stiff. I actually did weight training to get the strength I needed to produce real FF's without hurting myself, and pizzicato sound was nonexistent. I would always bring my own bass to pops concerts. Also, "bland" would be a kind word to describe the tone.

    To your question, German orchestras buy a lot of 5-String Poellmans. Partly, I think, because they are so durable. I've seen them dropped and not damaged, and topcracks and ribpunches are quite rare. If you could come up with something like this - robust, even, but a little sweeter and nicer to pluck, then you would certainly find a market over here.
  20. Dr Rod

    Dr Rod

    Aug 19, 2005
    Dear Arnold:

    I have owned several 5 string basses, and played one when I had my job in the Erfurt Opera in Germany.

    I have to say, most of the problems I had with 5 string basses were due to setup problems rather than the concept or design.

    If I may, I will share some of the most common problems I found.

    Problem 1 : String spacing measured from the center of the string caused the thick low strings to collide when playing fortissimos. The solution was simple: uneven spacing.

    Problem 2 : E string response weak. Believe it or not, this is merely a clearance problem, even though it feels like you have enough room, once you drop the B string a few millimeters the E string comes alive again.

    Problem 3 : Curvature of fingerboard is much less than that of bridge, causing A string to have very high action and B string to be too low for forstissimos. The answer I got from many is that "5 string basses are not meant for such loud playing". I could not believe my ears when I heard this comment. The action on the B needs to be quite high in the upper positions so that you can play loud, and the action on the A string cannot be crippling because nowadays you need to play high positions on the A string to be able to nail passages such as Heldenleben etc... I was told that I needed to flatten the curve of the bridge, but this doesn't work on a fiver because it causes you to play three strings at once on loud passages. The solution is that the fingerboard not be so flat, that it have a higher curve.

    Problem 4 : Absence of a raised saddle. I most cases they benefited when it was added.

    Problem 5 : Bridge/Fingerboard curve too flat, you end up playing 3 strings at once on loud passages.

    Problem 6 : the only real design problems I have found is when the body of the bass is too small, many makers just take a 3/4 model and add the extra hardware, this rarely makes for a good sounding fiver. The other one is excessive thickness of top and bass bar.

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