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Going back to a passive 4 string.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Axtman, May 17, 2018.

  1. Axtman

    Axtman Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2008
    Seattle, Washington
    After playing an active 5 string for years, I have decided to go back to a passive 4 banger. My reasons are:
    1) I just don't use the low B string all that much if at all.
    2) The additional weight of a fiver is killing my back.
    3) I'm tired of running out of batteries. I keep forgetting to unplug or check batteries.
    4) I like the growl of a passive bass plucked hard.
    5) I have played four string basses for years (decades) and it really feels comfortable.
    6) I prefer a 34 inch scale to a 35 inch scale.
    7) Tired of problems with electronics.
    8) If I need a hi fi slap tone I'll use a pedal instead of on board electronics.
    fretter, Pbassmanca, jmone and 32 others like this.
  2. twinjet

    twinjet GE90-equipped Moderator Staff Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    They feel right. I played extended-range for a total of ten years out of my twelve on bass. Solely on fours again and I am happy! Congratulations on switching back.
  3. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Sounds like you should be playing a 4 string bass.
  4. 4 Out of 5

    4 Out of 5

    Oct 6, 2017
    I've done the same and have detuned all 4 strings a whole tone so I've still got a low D.
  5. eJake


    May 22, 2011
    New Orleans
    I prefer passive all day. I wish I could play 4 all day as well but unfortunately I use the sub E notes a bunch in the reggae/dancehall band.
    jamro217 likes this.
  6. Maxdusty


    Mar 9, 2012
    Michigan USA
    I have to say I feel the same way about passive basses- not too long ago I went with active basses thinking that the tonal options of a 3 band EQ would work better for me but really do miss the simplicity and earthy kind of tone of the passives.

    A simple solution for the occasional need for the B string is to get a Detuner - I have one built into my Hohner headless bass bridge, flip the switch -voila, the low B when you need it. Also the Hohner has a passive/active switch.
    jamro217 likes this.
  7. I've just acquired my very first active 5-string last week after playing nothing but passive 4-string basses (Fender P & J) for several years.

    I don't want to overuse the low B string, but figured it's better to have it and not need it most of the time than need it every so often and not have it.

    My 5-string is no heavier than my P or J; if anything, it's even slightly lighter.

    Mine has a low-battery warning indicator and it takes 2 seconds to swap batteries the way the battery compartment is designed.
    The only thing I'm still trying to get used to is this whole idea of having to unplug the cable when I'm not using it.

    I like the active/passive toggle switch on mine for that.

    One of the biggest surprises with my new 5-string is how comfortable it actually feels already, having owned it only for a week.

    Mine is 34". Didn't feel the need for anything else.

    I have to wait and see how long it would take for this to become a problem for me.
    Craig4003, ruju, fhm555 and 3 others like this.
  8. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I haven't made the switch back to 4 strings (yet). But I did go all passive a few years back. I just think passive basses react to my playing better. They sound different when you hit them harder. They get more aggressive as your playing does. Active basses seem a bit "compressed" to me. But I played hundreds of gigs with active basses and enjoyed my time with them.
  9. Paulabass

    Paulabass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2017
    Without putting a lot of thought into it, I have more active basses than passive, but recently I've been reaching for a passive bass first every time. I played a G&L at rehearsal the other day, and ran it passive all night.
    Pbassmanca and Band Mom like this.
  10. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    Never made the transition to a 5 or more string bass, always been a fan of 4 strings.

    However, I have made the move back to passives, after many years using (and swearing by) actives. At first, they provided the "oomph" needed to cut through the mix, but after a while, the nuances and dynamics of actives were noticeable in their absence. That and the fact that I was hearing more players using passive basses and getting some great sounds from them. Spent a few hours in my then local music shop, trying out a good selection of basses out, only to keep coming back to a Fender MIM Jazz (with US pickups). It just stood head & shoulders above the rest. Been playing passives ever since. I did dabble with a G&L L2000 Tribute a few years back, but although it played & looked great, I couldn't get it to sound as I wanted. Moved it on for a passive.
  11. You could always take a passive four and tune it BEAD. Maybe even use a .55-.110 set and convert it to DGCF.
  12. Eric Swaim

    Eric Swaim GOD, U.S. MIlitary, Country Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2004
    Murfreesboro, TN
    I did that back in 2011, been happy ever since.
  13. dmt


    Apr 19, 2003
    Orbiting Sol

    Welcome home! :bassist:
  14. Session1969


    Dec 2, 2010
    I started playing in a classic country band this year and love that I could go back to playing a 4. The last 15 years were with a fiver.
    dmt and Pbassmanca like this.
  15. DrewinHouston

    DrewinHouston Not currently practicing Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Disclosure: I am not a great bass player
    I play 5-ers in most of my bands because the music requires it, but I love switching back to an old P or J. I am on the fence right now about active/passive, and that's worse than choosing one or the other, because of the difference in levels when switching.
  16. mpdd

    mpdd neoconceptualist

    Mar 24, 2010
    After 25 years of playing passive I put a 9 volt in my L2000 three weeks ago due to my flats going really dark. It's pretty fun, but I've gotta play it with the guys to see how it sounds with them before I commit:)
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  17. graphics1988

    graphics1988 Supporting Member

    Oct 26, 2014
    Ontario Canada
    What's a 5 string?
    gungrog, dmt, Herrick and 2 others like this.
  18. Flacco


    Jan 22, 2017
    Jacksonville, FL
    I recently bought a sterling for this reason: wanting to add an active bass to my arsenal since I play hard rock and would benefit from an aggressive tone. It works well for the songs we play now and allows me to cut through very well. But when I'm alone in my room or listen to my favorite bassist's tones, it's 99.65% a passive tone that I prefer. Passive tones seem to be more mellow and allow you to sit back in the mix when you want to just "support". Then use a pedal or some EQ'ing to get you upfront with a run or, dare I say, solo! I feel with my sterling I'm always "out front".

    Does this make sense?
    mikewalker likes this.
  19. +6dB Dan

    +6dB Dan Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2015
    Chicago, IL
    It sounds like we are in similar places. I like the extra flexibility of the five-string, and I need the low notes for some of the music I’m playing. But I do find the thinner necks and lower weights of my four-strings noticeably more comfortable, so I’m not sure what I’ll do long-term.
  20. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Thats great. I have debated it as well. I am even getting my cheap passive 4 updated in a coupe weeks in hopes of making it more useful for me - maybe even my main bass - in the right situation.

    That said, just some comments on your points.

    1. No argument. If you don't use it you don't need it. For most of my playing, I could get by just fine, but I find the lower notes - and added positions - are used enough right now to make me keep using a 5 string as my main bass for church and cover bands where we transpose often and having the B really helps with that.

    2. My active 5 weighs 7.8 pounds.

    3. I have never had a problem. I always unplug - active or passive - my basses when I'm done playing them.

    4. Yep. There is a certain growl to my active 5, but it is different.

    5. For sure. I have played active 5's for a long time and they feel like home to me. I'm sure if I switched to a 4 it would feel good after a few months, maybe less.

    6. Again, can't argue preference. I prefer a 35" 5 and a 34" 4. There are a few 5's that are 34" and sound ok, but I really prefer my Roscoe 35' B string. Best I've heard in my opinion.

    7. Again, never been an issue for me so...knock on wood.

    8. That is an option for sure. At one point a few years ago when I was playing a Geddy Lee jazz (taking a trial break from my active 5's) which I loved, I had the thought of getting a bunch of preamp pedals to give me that "active" sound when I wanted it. I thought a Sadowsky outboard pre, maybe an Aguilar Tone Hammer and don't remember what else would be a great way of having an "active bass" when I wanted and a passive for the rest.

    I plan to use flats on my G&L JB-2 (after I get some new Ultra Jazz pickups and pots installed next month) for a John Mayer type trio band. Get more in that "Pino" tone neighborhood. Or, if it turns out really great, I may try and use it more as a main gigging bass. Problem for me is that we do a handful of songs that really NEED the B string. Uptown Funk for example, is one that just doesn't cut it up an octave, and using an octave pedal just isn't the same for me. I have never been an effects user. Tried but hated it.
    Afc70 and el_Bajo_Verde like this.

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