Four or Five Strings for New Player?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tuco, Feb 16, 2006.

  1. Tuco


    Feb 14, 2006
    Greetings again,

    I'm the percussionist that asked about recommendations on a bass for Latin, Roots Reggae, World Fusion, and Afro-Cuban the other day. I've never played bass, so this is completely new territory for me.

    I've pretty well settled in on a StingRay, mostly because of the huge number of effusive, glowing comments I've read about tone and versatility of this bass. Who knows what music I might be playing in five years? It's a bit steep, but I'd rather learn on something good and keep it for a long time.

    So the question is . . . 4 or 5 string?

    Is that extra string important for the styles I mentioned or just a complication that costs more and is more difficult to learn?

    My view is that I want to learn on something that will work in the long run and be happy with it. Two years from now, I don't want to say "Oh, s**t, I should have bought the five string". Seems like there's a sizable group of die-hard five-string users out there, so there must be a reason.

    On the flip side, there's apparently only a 10 Hz difference between the standard E and the low B (41 Hz vs. 31 Hz), which ain't much, and I understand you can get down there with alternate tunings if you really want it. So maybe, for most people, that extra string just isn't important.

    Thanks for your feedback on this.
  2. IMHO For world music ect...5 string all the way.Plus your are just starting so,go ahead and learn the B from the start,...IMO.
  3. GSRLessard14

    GSRLessard14 All-Things-Claypool Enthusiast

    Jun 23, 2005
    Newington, CT
    Whatever you feel more comfortable with.
  4. dgce


    Jun 17, 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    If he's completely new to playing bass, it’s all going to feel strange to him. Given this, I say go with a 5 string. Even if you barely use that low B string, its good to know its there. I think he'll be more comfy having to, say, switch to a buddy's 4 string in an emergency or jam session than being a 4 string player having to abruptly switch to a 5. Also, barring a couple of old timers, most every Latin-ish/jazz band I've seen that was either accompanied by some variation on a baby upright bass or was supported by a 5 string bass guitar player.

    So go get the SR 5! get the single H SR or double H SR? Hmmm....

  5. Rich's_Alice


    Aug 18, 2005
    Atlanta, GA

    I just changed over because the bass tracks in a few of the newer songs my band covers are done with a five string. When I cover songs I try to do them as close as possible to the original artist for the most part, hence the new bass. You might want to take a look at what the original artists of the genre you mentioned are using.

    After one night of serious practice with it, I wish I had done it a long time ago because of the ability to play further up the neck and still get down low without moving my hand down the neck.

    So far slap seems to be the thing that will be the biggest challenge on the new bass. Actually, it was a challenge on the old bass!:meh:

    Good luck in your choosings!
  6. christle

    christle Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    I switched over last year and wished I had to moved to 5's earlier. It has come in really handy for the styles I play and I can use it just as easily playing classic styles as well. Actually when I switched I did so with all of my basses :) I say it can't hurt and if you are really bent on the SR you really can't go wrong with a 5 and if you change your mind down the road you will recoup a reasonable percentage of your costs with a SR.
  7. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    If you're starting out, four is the way to go for any style methinks. It's versatile. You'll ALWAYS have use for a four anyway so go with something that will see a lot of gigs ;-)

    I think you'll get a better understanding of bass starting with a four. My two cents.
  8. DavePlaysBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    If you can afford a 5 string with a descent B string, I would go fiver. A Stingray 5 should be a great choice.

    A 5 string is not harder to play. Just different. It gives you more options.

    tfer likes this.
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I spent over 20 years on four before switching to five. Starting out on five wasn't a realistic option back in the mid seventies, but I wish I switched to five in 1990 instead of 2000. So obviously, I say go with the fiver!

    For a beginner, the level of difficulty is the same for either. Five string bass is more versatile, and the current standard. Lots of bass lines in all genres go below low E, and I guarantee that sooner or later you'll be asked to play some songs where that's true. You can get there on a four by detuning the string(s) or rewriting the bass line... but you can get there on a five without changing a thing. Good luck, and more importantly, have fun!
  10. tonynoriega

    tonynoriega Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2004
    Tampa, Florida
    I most agree with the last post "for a starter, the level of difficulty is the same for either," although I think the 5 string may be just a little more diffucult to get around on. But here's my situation: I've been playing 20 years now, and I'm having a very hard time making the move to the 5. I think if I'd started on it way back then it wouldn't feel so foreign to me now, so my recommendation would be to go with the five.

    Tony Noriega, Tampa
  11. gravaged


    Dec 9, 2005
    I bet if you decided 5 wasn't for you, and you posted an ad somewhere saying "want to trade Stingray 5 for Stingray 4" you'd probably be able to make a straight up swap with someone who has the opposite opinion.
  12. In my experience, 5 is NOT harder to play than a 4 at all. My jazz-copy 4 neck almost feels too slim in my hands now.
    5 is perfect, for me at least.
  13. Marshman


    Feb 15, 2006
    I would go ahead and go 5 since you're starting from scratch anyway. I've been 4-stringing it for 20+ years and finally made the switch in 03. Took a while to get used to, but I did make it. Still prefer my 4 for most situations, as I'm primarily into vintage tunes and bassists, but I can go to 5 if I have to. A hipshot added to my Ric has defiinitely supplanted the 5, so there's that to consider.

    I guess the other thing to consider is quality. You'd be better served with a top-notch 4 than a so-so 5.
  14. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    As a 20+ year 4-banger, it wasn't easy for me either. It took a few months before I was truly comfortable on five. What helped was dropping my four completely and forcing myself to play 5 at rehearsals, and as soon as possible, gigs. It also helped a lot that I joined a new band about the same time I switched to five. I had to learn a bunch of new (for me) songs, and I learned them fresh on five. It was a little tougher to play the songs I'd been playing for years on four... "muscle memory" and all.

    Apologies for the sidetrack, Tuco. As a beginner, you won't have any old habits to un-learn if you decide to start with 5-string!
  15. :cool: I'd been playing 40+ years on a 4-string before I bought my first 5-string. The change from 4 to 5 kicked my butt. At first, I kept playing one string off unless I concentrated like crazy. My brain kept fighting me about that extra string and I got completely lost more than once. A couple if times in the beginning I had to actually stop for a bar or two and reorient myself. Thankfully this old brain finally got itself in gear and I was able to begin navigating around without to much trouble.

    That was about 5 years ago. Today, I have no trouble at all playing the 5-string and go back and forth between the 4 and the 5 without any effort.

    My recommendation would be go for the 5-string from the get-go. There's a lot of music that really doesn't "require" the lower notes; but, you can still use the advantages of the "B" string without using the lower 5 notes.

    Good Luck!
    AndreasR likes this.
  16. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Go with a 7, you'll have more fun! :p
  17. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 15, 2000
    Southern NJ
    I started playing bass a few years ago after playing guitar for close to 20 years and decided to go with a 5 right from the start and I'm glad I did. For one thing, I can play everything on a 5 that I could have played on a 4 plus I have a 5 if I needed it. So that was one advantage.

    Second, you'll always see people saying that the real advantage is that it gives you more positions to play in. For me that's the really big advantage sinec I can play farther down the neck where my small hands can reach more easily.

    Finally, on those rare occassions it is fun to hit notes below your your low E. Just keep it tasteful.
  18. bassistjo


    Jun 22, 2005
    :bassist: I was playing for less then a year when my band leader switched the key of one of the songs and if i wanted to keep it in closed position i would need a five string and i had minimal trouble switching to my fender VJ bass but you need a realy good amp if you want the Bstring to have decent sustain::)
  19. :meh: i think you should go for the 5 string and learn that first then the four string will be easy:bassist:
  20. Tuco


    Feb 14, 2006
    Thanks everyone -- five it is!

    Now to find an amp . . . :)
    tfer likes this.