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Going from 4 to 5 (merged threads)

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by unbasslichkeit, May 19, 2006.

  1. AMp'D.2play

    AMp'D.2play Supporting Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    I'd been dipping my toe in the 5-string waters for about 2 years, but none ever was a keeper. I bought my most recent 5er about 2 months ago, but due to a string of gigs & a bunch of new songs introduced, I didn't get a chance to really focus on it until about 2 wks ago. It's all I've been playing since. Some days seem easier than others. The one I purchased introduced 3 variables that I'm dealing with all at the same time. One, of course, is the 5th string (B). String spacing is tighter, and the 3rd adjustment is that it's a 35" scale. I'm planning on sticking with it, although I don't know if the 5er will result in me getting rid of my 4s altogether. Perhaps if I had gotten a 19mm spacing &/or 34" scale, the adjustment would've been smoother, but the bass I ended up getting after 2 years of trial & error is worth the added frustration, so far! (IMO)
  2. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    Apologies if this has already been covered. I have just bought a 5 again (tried and failed once in the 90s, then discovered 19mm spacing makes all the difference for me). I love the low B and generally "get" it with my hands -- I haven't missed many notes yet. But I wonder if anyone has good exercises to get a 4-stringer thinking in terms of specific advantages in terms of position playing as you go up the neck. I downloaded some chord charts but I'm wondering if others have come across exercises they found super useful for reimagining the fretboard with an additional string.

    Thank you.
  3. jamesholley


    Nov 9, 2013
    I was working in a great group in 1999. The guitar player had a 5 string bass. On a Wednesday, he asked me if I could play it in the club the following Friday and Saturday nights. I took it home and busted my ass learning how to play it. I used it that weekend and did ok. The following week I bought a Fender 5 American Deluxe. Making the switch from 4 to 5 strings is uncomfortable. I kept reaching for my old P bass. In a moment of insanity I decided to sell it! It was a sunburst 67 that played like butter! It was almost as road worn as Stevie Rays Strat. I'm still sick about it. I'm glad I got the 5 string. I have a 4 string Jazz as well. If Almighty God told me I could only have 1 guitar, I would choose my 5 string.
  4. Bassmuzicar


    Nov 26, 2014
    My first bass was a cheap Ibanez GIO 4 string that I got with a Starter package (everyone got to start somewhere =P )

    Then without ever really playing a 5 string bass or even seen one in real life (except from a The Haunted concert) I bought myself a Warwick Rockbass Streamer Standard 5 String with passive dual humbuckers.

    The day I got it shipped to me I took it out and felt it up. The neck wasn't that much broader than my Ibanez, which is weird because I've heard Ibanez brag about always having the thinnest neck for best playability.

    Playing the B string up to the D string was like playing a normal 4 string bass. Easy and comfortable. Just a bit thicker strings. It took me about 2 days to play the 5 string like it was nothing special. I actually played better with the 5 string.

    I've had this Warwick for about a month (or more, I don't really remember) and to me it was an amazing upgrade. Now I dont have to mess around with tunings all the time. I just play the B and E string for the lower notes and E to G for normal notes.

    Here's my beauties.
  5. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I switched about 3 years ago from 4 to 5. I took my new 5 to a practice and it was a disaster. At the time, I didn't have the fretboard knowledge that I have now. I had "Panic Position" and "Panic Notes", when I would get lost, my Panic position was middle finger on the G and then I knew where I was. As you can imagine, that panic position didn't work well on the 5 because I was now on D.

    Until I could acquire a much better fretboard knowledge, I put the 4 in the closet and forced myself to only play the 5 for a solid month. I also worked on changing my "Panic Position" to the "E" on the "A" string which ends up almost center of fretboard both vertically and horizontally.

    I worked on fretboard knowledge from there outward until I now have very good fretboard knowledge and no longer have or need a "Panic Position".
    exidor and Imaginary Pony like this.
  6. hsp-sandiego


    Oct 22, 2014
    San Diego
    Hey Mark.... String that 5er EADGC like i do; I personally find the high C much more usable. What I like best is narrow string spacing. You can buy single C strings or get the eadgc "garrison" fodera set. I keep the C for a year and just change out the eadg. You will have zero transition time to the 5 with the eadgc and the c is super snappy!
  7. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    I had the same exact issues with spacing and B/E confusion. I only had one fretted four, for most of my life. What worked for me was the same as learning fretless: Immersion. When I got my first, I didn't touch my fretted basses for over a month and relearned all of my band's tunes with the blank plank. When I couldn't get the hang of the 5er, I did the same thing...only BEADG.
  8. Cowboy in Latvia

    Cowboy in Latvia

    Mar 1, 2015
    Well this thread is interesting and has me a tiny bit worried. I have played 4 and 5 string basses both with no problem transitioning but I think the lack of problem is really because, until recently, I didn't know poo about playing bass.

    For the last 6 months I have been playing 4-string exclusively and actually getting to be a passable bass player. Now with a fretless 5 on the way I have the tough job of learning both fretless and a 5th string. In past, I found myself playing my 5 like a 4 because my hands were not strong enough to extend to the 5th string reliably. Because of that, the 5th string was just there for a bit of tonal color on occasion. I hope I don't have the mental block that keeps me from taking in the new info.

    Personally, I will try to view it like the 4th and 5th valves on my tuba. They don't replace what I know about the other valves, instead they give extension and substitution options when I want them.
  9. rogerbmiller

    rogerbmiller Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 16, 2003
    Nah I jumped right in to 6 string from 4 string so when I got a 5 it seemed like a dawdle.

    What I have seen players do to train the muscle memory for a 5-er is put a black coated B string on, and have the other 4 strings be plain old steels or nickels. That way your eye isn't tricked into thinking the B is the E, the E is the A, etc.

    Any way you slice it, there is some getting used to things, but it's just one extra string.
  10. AngelCrusher

    AngelCrusher Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    I never had an issue with going to a 5er. The 5 is really where bass is going more and more, and while a 4 is still considered what a true bass is, the 5 just changes the game in terms of versatility. Now if I was in a straight up rock band that was pretty raw I would not really need a 5, but since I get hired to play on all kind of different styles of music, the 5 is essential for me.

    So on to the challenges of adapting. It never was one for me. I learned my fretboard at a young age. What I did was just memorize the dots on E and A up to 5. That is the beginner mode. Master the notes there. Know all of them. Teach your mind to use octaves and patterns to fill in the blanks. This gave me a huge advantage in learning my neck quickly. I had the neck mastered in 6 months of heavy practice - all of them up to fret 24 due to this.

    When I first got my 5, I always used the 5th fret as my reference. I know thats my low E, so my mind just fills in the blanks quickly for everything else.

    Point is - before you get a 5, master the notes on E and A. Learn your scales, learn your entire fretboard. Start in small segments and you will have no problem.

    The trick will really be to master the muting. That comes with practice. A 5 to me now feels more like home than a 4.
  11. Cowboy in Latvia

    Cowboy in Latvia

    Mar 1, 2015
    That turned out to be the major issue for me. Figuring out strings really wasn't an issue after the first 10 minutes or so (most problems happened with the A and D strings). What really got me was the sympathetic vibration of the lower strings. It was just so much more pronounced so I've been working on the floating thumb/moveable anchor techniques and it is almost as easy as my 4. It's nice that I get to add so much tonal color to my performances now.
  12. AngelCrusher

    AngelCrusher Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor

    Yeah, its funny I learned all this stuff on my own because the internet was just starting up. I really think that was an advantage because there is so much info out there now that it can overwhelm you. The strings ringing was one of those things I never thought of as an issue - I just recognized it and fixed it over time.

    Hell I had to set my VCR to tape Jazz Central and then watch that and rewind it a million times to learn licks..lol. So that is how I figured out muting and things like that.

    You will be at the point with your 5 where the strings just won't ring much at all and when they do now and then you will almost be offended at yourself for letting it occur..lol.
  13. diverse379


    Mar 4, 2015
    I have dabbled with 5 strings from time to time
    and the learning curve was what it was
    but this time around I went from a 4 to the Dimension V and
    felt like a newbie
    I hated the way the bass felt
    until i learned the floating thumb technique
    I think I could play a 7 string now with no problem
  14. DavetheDude


    Nov 28, 2014
    When I started playing the bass in 2011, the first bass I got was a 5 string. I played in my brothers hardcore band, and i never used the 5th string. I played with a pick, and at that time, not using the 5th always led to my hand getting cramped. I sold it and then got a 4 string, which I played until now. But then I though about getting a 5 string again more and more, as I started to play with my fingers when my first band quit. Now I'm a happy owner of a Sandberg 5er, and I absolutely love being able to go deeper. I wouldn't want to miss it now, as I also have a progressive metal project, in which I have a fair use of the extra lows.

    At first, of course, I was just not used to the changed string spacing (I had a bass with a broad neck, 42mm, so I had a big string spacing), but already after one and a half weeks now I feel really comfortable!
  15. Bunk McNulty

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

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    I've been rehearsing the last couple weeks with a new country band. I bought a Squier V because so many of these Big & Rich and Dierks Bentley tunes and etc. were recorded with a 5 and because it was $300. I'm getting there, but I still have moments when I think the B is the E and the G seems just beyond reach. The flipside being that now I really feel totally in charge playing my regular 4-string P with my classic rock band.
  16. diverse379


    Mar 4, 2015
    have you tried the floating thumb that was mentioned here?
    it really works wonders
    takes about one session to get comfortable with it
    then the next day
    you may have to warm up a bit to play your lines as clean

    but by day three
    you notice how quiet your unplayed strings are
    you are muting as you move.

    it is pretty cool

    float your thumb so it COULD rest either one or two strings above where you are currently playing
    so your hand has to float up and down

    then instead of resting your thumb on a string
    allow it to saw the strings
    your hand position is similar to how you may hold chopsticks

    the thumb mutes the strings above the strings you are playing

    start with resting the thumb first either one or two strings above

    I do one string above
    but i have heard two strings above also recommended
  17. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    Correction, Didn't you mean to say: "The thumb mutes the strings BELOW the ones you are playing". Unless you have your bass strung upside down, you are always muting the strings that are lower in pitch.
  18. diverse379


    Mar 4, 2015
    I see your point

    I think that I meant
    above physically not musically

    so if i am playing on my D string

    it is the A string and the E string that will want to sympathetically vibrate

    those Strings are physically above the D string

    although their notes are lower notes.

    Sorry I was not clear
    kirkdickinson likes this.
  19. StinkFoot

    StinkFoot Guest

    Feb 22, 2015
    It's not hard: Start by playing off the B string in the keys of C,C#, D, E, and when you play in G for example, move down the scale onto the B string instead of up, like you are often forced to do on a 4 string . That will teach you what's lurking down there on that B string. Then when you play in those keys using the 4 string neck positions, you'll feel comfortable moving down into those lower octaves for changes, and things will start to open up.
    Masher88 likes this.
  20. StinkFoot

    StinkFoot Guest

    Feb 22, 2015
    You don't need to go lower, but with a 5 string you have the option of moving down into lower octaves - that opens up new possibilities.