Former guitarist needs help with bass scale

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Oklep, Apr 14, 2018.

  1. Oklep

    Oklep Guest

    Jun 2, 2016
    Hello guys
    I am long time guitarist, but I will be playing the bass guitar in my new band.
    The problem is, I have no idea about bass guitars.
    Guitarist in the band is playing with 8string guitars, so I think that I need 6 string bass or 5 string bass (with 6 string set). Am I right?

    I am currently thinking about Harley benton BZ-5000 or BZ 6000.
    To me, 6 string looks a bit overkill (I am a small guy, but with long fingers), but the 5string version has only 864mm scale, while 6 string version has 890mm scale.
    What do you think is better choice? Some inputs? I will be playing modern prog metal with a pick.
  2. Loring

    Loring Supporting Member

    May 4, 2017
    Are you doing covers? If so see what they are using - you may need the 6. If not it really comes down to preferences. Personally I'd go 5 but keep in mind the 6 is not the same as guitar 6 strings... It's BEADGC
  3. Yeah, a six is just a five string with an added high C that's the same as the C on the A string of a guitar.
    Your guitarist with the 8 string can reach down into the bass range pretty far, so you probably the lowest notes you can get, not extra high ones.
    A 5 goes down to B, but some of the really good longer scale ones can go lower while still sounding good, to a subterranean F#.

    The problem is that amplifiers and especially speakers that can successfully handle notes that low are rare and expensive.
    And the PA has to have serious subs to deal with it without blowing, too.

    Start with a decent 5 and see where that takes you.
    Uncle Hanky and basslifter like this.
  4. Some bands that use 8 string guitars actually have the bass player tune to the same octave as the guitar (e.g. Meshuggah). The bass still sounds like a bass due to the longer scale, amplification and speaker cabinet differences. You don't need necessarily to tune an octave below the guitar to make the band sound great
    Uncle Hanky, ba55i5t and Nashrakh like this.
  5. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Sorry, but you're triggering a pet peeve of mine. How many strings or what tuning the guitarist uses has absolutely nothing to do with how many strings or what tuning you need a bass in. Music is not made of strings or tunings. Music is made of NOTES. You choose the string set and tuning to enable you to reach the NOTES you need. So what notes does the music you're playing use?
    ruju, dreamadream99, Ekulati and 27 others like this.
  6. Giffro

    Giffro Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2017
    South Australia
    A 4 would do you just fine. I prefer a 5 for the last 30 years but thats just me.
    red_rhino likes this.
  7. Oklep

    Oklep Guest

    Jun 2, 2016
    I dont care about strings. I care about scale. I am affraid that 34" will be too short for tight sound of low string. Thats why I am asking. Is there any affordable 4 or 5string bass guitar with 35" or longer scale?
  8. LHB

    LHB Guest

    Dec 12, 2017
    You can always use a larger gauge string for more tension and clarity on the low strings. I personally use a .145 gauge string for a low C on my 34" and can get the fundamental to sound clear even on my crappy practice amp.
  9. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I've had a fiver since the late 80's in case anybody asked for more than 4 strings but no one ever has. I keep it on the off chance that my sons ever want to use it.
  10. DirtDog


    Jun 7, 2002
    The Deep North
    Hey @Oklep - welcome to the dark side!

    Sounds to me like you’re jumping to the solution when you really haven’t given us your real requirements.

    I don’t really understand why you think you need a 35” 5 or 6 string without understanding your key requirements vis a vis the music you play - which may dictate the range of notes you need and perhaps tone and timbre. Maybe you do understand your requirements but haven’t communicated them here in your quest for advice or validation.

    Eg, if you need to reproduce a low B to a low D#, you’re gonna need a 5er. If you need access to the upper register, you’ll need a longer scale or 6er but probably not both.

    Will you need active electronics, humbuckers or single coils to reproduce the tone you’re looking for?

    Then factor in physical preferences/limitations. Are you going to be able to do a full gig with a 13lb 6er like the BZ 6000? Will you be able to comfortably reach the low C note in a 5er or 6er with 35” scale?

    Hope that helps.
    SLO Surfer likes this.
  11. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    You are a guitarist. You are switching to bass. Okay. You're wondering whether you need a 35" scale 5 or 6 string bass. May I humbly suggest that you are looking at this through the wrong end of the telescope. If anything, you should be looking at a 30" or 31" scale, which, given your experience with guitar, will be a lot more comfortable.
    SLO Surfer, Luigir and DirtDog like this.
  12. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Have to disagree, especially playing with an 8 string guitar. Get the 5er, 34" scale, tuned BEADG, and just get used to it. The fact that it feels so much different will encourage OP to play it like a bass, rather than like a long scale guitar. The world doesn't need more bassists who play like guitarists.
  13. thewildest


    May 25, 2011
    Florida, USA
    You should be thankful that they don’t play 10 string guitars, which (following your logic) would require an 8 string bass.
    I agree with some input you got there, you are taking a weird angle to solve this.
    I would instead try a few basses, find out what I like and then make my choice bassd on how well I feel/connect with the instrument
    HolmeBass likes this.
  14. Yools


    Jul 24, 2009
    Perth WA
    This. String gauge - and a proper setup to the desired tuning - is far more important than scale length. Adding an extra inch to the scale length add 1-2 lbs to the actual string tension, which is noticeable but really not significant. I've used 5-string, 34" scale basses exclusively for the last 20+years with tunings down 2 whole steps, which puts the low string at G0 and the next at C1. Using string gauges 0.150, 0.112, 0.082, 0.061, 0.045 works great for that tuning on a 5 string.

    Check out Kalium strings online - they have that exact set available.

    Plectrum72 and Mushroo like this.
  15. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    I take your point. Although you might agree that the scale matters less than the ability to think like a bassist. Myself as an example: I play a 31" scale, and sometimes I play guitar, but nobody's ever said I play bass like a guitarist. :D
    flam and Plectrum72 like this.
  16. For some reason this is what I thought of when I read the thread title! :)
    bass scale.jpg
    B-Mac, Wisebass and RobTheRiot like this.
  17. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol

    The real issue here is that you are looking are very cheap entry range instruments.

    Range is one parameter of a good lower range but it's barely relevant in front of tight assembly, rigid neck and quality pickups, all things you won't find on an HB. Not even talking about amplification.
    It takes money to make instruments with good lows.

    I suggest an used 4 string bass of decent quality, preferably with humbuckers soapbars. Install a good set of heavy strings on it and tune according to your needs. BEAD tuning is rather common.
    Ibanez SR and BTB are pretty typical for this kind of use.
    red_rhino and Bunk McNulty like this.
  18. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Your low notes won't sound "tight" at first, because you are a beginner. It will take lots of practice to get a great sound on the bass. So the most important thing, in my opinion, is to find a bass that fits you and is comfortable in your hands. If the bass feels good and is easy to play (good setup and action) then you will be inspired to practice more, and you will progress at a faster pace. I suggest to go down to the music store (bring a bass-playing buddy if you can) and try a bunch of instruments.

    And don't get too hung up on the scale length. The difference between 34" and 35" is less than one fret. You know how your hand automatically adjusts when you shift 1 fret? (For example if you play an F scale and then an E scale) The difference between 34" and 35" scale is less than that. A high quality bass, in the hands of an experienced player, is going to sound great no matter the scale length. For example, I often play drop C tuning on a 32" medium scale bass, I'm not the world's greatest player, but it sounds pretty good to me. :)
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  19. craigie

    craigie Guest

    Nov 11, 2015
    I will explain:

    On guitars, scales work like this:
    G, G1, G2, G3.....
    A, A1, A2....

    On bass you have G, G#/Ab, A and so on because bassists are capable of learning their fretboard!

    Yes I read the other posts and I know that’s not what the thread is about

    Welcome to the dark side!!! The answer is clearly P bass with flats and tort.

    Actually I think this is an interesting question because I’ve only ever played 34” scale Basses but the multi scale instruments that I’ve tried out did sound more piano-like in the lower registers so perhaps that would sit better with deep guitars. So yeah, the advice given of trying out different Basses is good.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
    Bentfield likes this.
  20. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    scale is but one aspect.
    First of all, like mentioned before, the question is what are the notes that need playing in that particular band.
    3, 4, 5 or 6 strings is a question about how complex the music will be and how your personal preference is regarding the neck. Some people prefer the simplicity of a 4 string neck and shift their fretting hand a lot when they do complex patterns while others prefer a 6 string which gives them two more strings under their fretting fingers at any given position on the neck. All 'normal' basses stop at the low B. 4 strings are usually EADG, 5ers are most common as BEADG and sometimes EADGC, and 6ers will come as BEADGC.

    When the guitar player goes 8 strings and has amplification that sufficiently supports the low notes, there's not that much gain from a bass wobbling an octave below that and quite often, the bass can either play the same octave to add or it can play something else entirely.

    The thing is that once you go below E, every Hertz will cost you dearly.

    You will need powerful speakers that push a lot of air.
    These are not cheap and you need a lot of them.
    Add an amp that can supply the needed Watts.
    Those low frequencies are hungry.

    Once you have that set, you need a bass that goes low enough, without getting floppy.

    Warwick did the Vampyre, a 4 string tuned F# B E A with a 35" scale,
    which is, to my knowledge, the only production model that was available at an affordable price that came with a F# string.

    Apart from that, you could rig fat strings on any bass and downtune it as far as it will go.
    Sometimes you would need to take a file to the nut and after you found out how low it'll go, you need to adjust the neck and intonation.

    You should look for basses that handle the low B exceptionally well. Those who struggle with anything below D
    will not respond well to further downtuning. Dingwall is quite popular in that domain, but even their 'entry level' Combustion series is not exactly cheap.