Getting away from 4 strings

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jblmusic1994, Jul 10, 2013.

  1. Did anyone have a difficult time moving from 4 to 5 or 6 strings..?
    I really like the idea of more strings, I just don't think I'm ready.. I've been telling myself this forever. I think if I don't switch now, I never will and I will continue to prepare myself for nothing. It might just be an OCD thing. Like, I want to completely own these 4 strings before introducing another..

    Anyone else ever feel like this? I also feel like this about switching from fretted to fretless.
  2. Obviously, this is a very contentious subject, and very subjective.

    I found going from 4 to 5 quite easy, and 6 isn't overly difficult, but it made getting to the G a little harder. What I dislike most about 6s is the flat profile of the neck.

    In my 5 years playing, I've come full circle back to 4s. I've just never found a 5-string I've liked as much as a 4. I only play covers at the moment, and never *need* anything below a low D, and prefer the tone of drop D to a 5-string. Never realised how much easier it is to play things written in drop D, *in* drop D, too :D
  3. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I didn't find it difficult, but I got a 5 fairly early in my bass playing (who am I kiding - I'm still fairly early in my bass playing!) and got rid of my 4. I've now got a 5 and a 4, with the 5 as my main player and the 4 just for when I fancy something different. No problem switching between them.
  4. Dr Improbable

    Dr Improbable

    Apr 15, 2013
    I finally got used to my 5, and oh man I am never going back to playing blues in C at the 3rd fret again. IMO, it opens up your options a bit, but do what you feel most comfortable on.
  5. Go to a store and try a few out, see how they feel to play and if you would be happy with one.
  6. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    Relax. It's not that big a deal. Guitarists play SIX strings right from the word go, and somehow they seem to manage. Surely a bassist can handle it!

    I play mostly 5ers for the extra low notes and the additional choices for positioning. I've never been interested in a 6er, mainly because 1) I don't need the high notes - hardly ever even go high on the neck on the strings I have, and 2) I don't like big wide necks. I got my first 5er within a few months of starting to play and adjusting took about three days. Like I said, no biggie.
  7. Well, I started playing guitar first. At age 9. I just have this weird feeling like I need to be a master first. Haha
  8. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Relax - playing guitar means you're already used to thinking differently between bass and guitar. That flexibility will help with adding another string.

    There are some bassists that think you must master 4 strings before adding 5. But most of the ones who say that are also acknowledging that it's impossible to fully master any instrument. In short, if you want 5, play 5.
  9. darwin-bass

    darwin-bass Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    Yes, it was hard to move from 4 to 5. After years of playing the 4 string bass, I had to relearn. I'd often end up playing a low D when I wanted a low G. Adding that 5th string had a way of jumbling the entire fretboard in my head. My solution was to play 5 and only 5 for quite a while. I stuck with it and (gulp) practiced between gigs just to get used to the instrument. I was competent on it within a week but it didn't really become natural for at least 6 months.
  10. Tonegasm


    Mar 22, 2010
    I moved from 4 to 5 for a while and the transition was quite easy, but I play frequently so I really had no choice. A fun journey.

    I've ended up back at good 'ol passive Fender 4 bangers, though. 5 strings have their place, I just don't visit that place often. :) I kept one 5 string, a Lakland 55-02, just in case a situation does pop up.
  11. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I'm the other way round - I keep a 4 in case I have a need for it (usually for lending to other people!). I think, whatever you mainly play, it's good to have something different lying around. Tastes change, musical styles come and go - it's good to be prepared.
  12. Dr Improbable

    Dr Improbable

    Apr 15, 2013
    This is the key. Use that B string. USE IT!
  13. Just do it. The B string will be in your way for a bit. Similarly, if you were used to five and playing four - you'd be reaching for positions that aren't there at first. It's nice when you can switch effortlessly. That only happens when you play both alternately.
  14. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    No criticism intended, but that sounds like OCD talking.

    From a teacher's perspective, the exact opposite is true. Adventures on other instruments, whether it's having more or less strings, frets/no frets, trying percussion, or fiddling with keyboards, will broaden your musical perspective and speed learning.

    In order to break the cycle of negative thinking, why not start by figuring out your answers to more productive and important questions?


    What makes a 5-string the next logical step in your development- do you even need one?
    - Do you tend to play the same songs in a lot of different keys and band lineups?
    - Do you play styles of music where the extra string is important?
    - Do you play a lot of melodic lines or wide intervals that would benefit from the new positions a fiver opens up?

    What kinds of music do you play?
    - Maybe you'd be better off checking out fretless, getting an ABG or picking up an upright, instead of getting a bass that's the same as your 4-banger with the exception of a few extra notes?

    What are your weaknesses as a player?
    - if your biggest problem is rhythm, you might learn more from taking up a percussion instrument.
    - If it's figuring out chord changes and harmony, you might get more from buying a keyboard.
    - If it's recognizing intervals, you might be better off taking voice lessons...
  15. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    If you haven't mastered 4, why not try 3?

    But seriously, one never masters an instrument, so just go for it! Dive right in. I play a 5 string (and 4 string upright) and love it!
  16. jg42


    Jul 12, 2012
    I've recently got a 6-er and yes, there are some things to get used to, but I find that the biggest (technique wise) issue is muting. 2 more strings make quite a difference. However, I find that when I go back to my 4, it's much easier, almost as me playing a 6-er improves my overall playing skills.
  17. ggvicviper

    ggvicviper Yamaha & Grosbeak. I’m Marc!

    Jul 16, 2011
    East Meadow, NY, USA
    I found it easy once I changed my frame of thought, which didn't take long since I always wanted a 5er when I was young.

    Instead of thinking of the 4-string from the E string up, I started training my fingers to play it from G string down. Then, it was like the B was an extension to the bottom, rather than something throwing it off.
  18. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    Much in agreement with our pals - a five-string is different from a four, but try not to think of it as an upgrade. Consider a piano or a keyboard; how many octaves are you hurting for? Bass is a less complicated issue, since we're often playing only one note at a time, but...

    The idea is a different thing than actually having the B-string on your instrument. If you need to get down to those notes, then get one, but don't just fall victim to your idea. Try some basses out and find one that's a great fit for you. Remember to put it on a strap and noodle with it while you're standing up for more than thirty seconds. If you look at a 35 inch scale, the layout may have a very different feel and playability for you.

    As for the fretless option, I'm all for it. I found a fretless Modulus neck a few years ago and got my J-bass set up so that I can swap my fretted neck out for my fretless without much fuss. This neck is absolutely ALIVE with sound and response - much fun! I've even rocked out with it at a couple of gigs with a cover band. NOT just for the artsy-fartsy business.

    Fretless is wonderful for me because everything I do is much more deliberate compared with my fretted neck. My left hand can't just be "in the ballpark" to get a note and I tune in with my ears to a greater degree as well when I'm with the band or 'shedding on my own.

    In either case, I say you'll only really know what's good for you when you take the plunge. Buy it to try it. I did this with a five-string and once I realized that the B-string became no more than a thumb rest, I moved on. Your career as a bass player may move through easily more than one or two phases, so if you have the itch as well as the $cratch, you'll have to occasionally indulge in some new and unusual gear.

    Hooray for the ocean of quality affordable used gear around, including the stuff in the classifieds here. Enjoy the process!
  19. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I've gone from 4 to 5 to 6 and really what helped me out with each transition was to think about how I would use the range when I did. Then to reduce confusion I didn't switch between instruments.

    The difference I noticed in my playing is that my left hand technique is a lot more economical now do to position range. On a 4 string you have an octave and a 4th in one position without shifting. On a 5 you have 2 octaves. On a 6 you have 2 octaves and a 4th. So while it looks harder it's actually easier.

    Another difference I noticed is that when I was playing a 4 most of my writing was in G because the G at the 3rd fret on the E string was the most comfortable place for me to play. Now I play more in D for the same reason.

    Rev J
  20. msact


    Jan 8, 2013
    Somewhere in NJ
    One of the difficulties I had was finding a 5 string neck that I was comfortable with. I tried a Jazz 5 and hated the string spacing. I thought the whole 5er thing wasn't for me until I found a Spector 5 string. The 35 inch neck and the string spacing were perfect for me. I also have a Stingray 5, which is a fine instrument but I personally prefer a 35 inch neck for a 5er. Like anything else, play as many as you can and find what's comfortable for you.