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Going from 4 to 5 (merged threads)

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

  1. DavetheDude


    Nov 28, 2014
    Well said, StinkyFoot. For nearly 4 years now I went with 4-strings. When I started at the beginning of 2011, I initially bought a Schecter 5-string, I never used the low b string, and playing with a pick, my hand constantly cramped. Now, I bought a super awesome 5-string, and I don't want to miss out on the low frequencies again! (I play with my hands since 2,5 years, that makes it easy)
    StinkFoot likes this.
  2. StinkFoot

    StinkFoot Guest

    Feb 22, 2015
    I have been playing 5 for about 15 years almost all the time. Now when I play 4 I feel like I'm missing part of my bass. I play a 4 so that I don't get so locked into the 5 that I neglect some positions and patterns that are used on the 4, but can also be good on the 5, depending. Sure they are there on the 5 too, but with the 4 I'm forced. (I'm strictly a fingers player - never use a pick.)
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
    exidor and joeblasted like this.
  3. Kim Jong Funk

    Kim Jong Funk

    Jun 15, 2014
    I started out playing 4s (an Ibanez and then my beloved Stingray), but once I studied Jazz in college, I figured "what the hell" and bought a
    Warwick Thumb 6.

    It shares double duty with my Stingray (unless I'm using my Fender Jazz fretless 4). I really had no problems transitioning from 4 straight to six as the strings are closer together which made playing easier, but also required accuracy so you would not have other strings droning accidentally when playing. It also gets tricky and requires a lot of awkward wrist positioning with my fretting hand when you go further up the neck, being that the neck is just about as wide as my driveway at the 12th fret.

    I don't use the B all too much, and the C is great for playing melodies and chords/double stops, but slapping on that sounds like a car crash. The strings are so close that it makes slapping pretty much impossible for me. But...the Stingray takes care of that issue (and well, I might add).
  4. Cowboy in Latvia

    Cowboy in Latvia

    Mar 1, 2015
    Well, reporting back after going between 4 and 5 for a few months now. After the first half-dozen songs on the 5 string, I started to get the hang of it but damping the strings was a bit more of a challenge so I started the floating thumb/moveable anchor techniques and that has helped both 4 and 5 technique. Now that I have switched to a wide spaced 5 (19mm) switching is easier than ever.

    Switching is not too bad but I wouldn't try it for the first time at a gig or a jam.
  5. And I

    And I Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    Witchtown, MA
    I played an SR 505 for a while a few years back, but otherwise have been a 4 string player only. I have been gassing hard for a 5er, but I played a couple at the music store the other day and now I'm not so sure I want one. Yes, they weren't the models that I would buy (2 squiers, an affinity jazz and a VM jazz). But I found when trying some of the lines where I thought "wouldn't that be nice to play on the 6th or 7th fret rather than the 1st or second", it didn't feel right and didn't sound right. I have an octave pedal that I use not only for effect, but for the rare occasions where I go below E. I'm thinking now that maybe I don't want a 5er at all...
    Shortie likes this.
  6. Kim Jong Funk

    Kim Jong Funk

    Jun 15, 2014
    Playing the B is an acquired taste. After starting on four strings, it does have more of a "thud" at times and sounds less consistent than the same note fretted on the E, but then again, I prefer to avoid open strings also, as would rather play an A on the fifth fret of the E string than the open A. It just sounds too different for me...YMMV.
  7. joeblasted


    Sep 15, 2006
    4 strings feel like toys nowadays. I wind up using the low string in almost every song I write, I feel naked on a 4....dont even own 4s any longer, just a bunch of 5s and 6s.

    what was that quote again, When you absolutely positively got to kill every MF in the room, ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES!!!!

    nothing thickens a chorus part like the low string.

    remember, as the bass player one of your jobs is the dynamics of thickness throughout a song ;)
    Slodo and Shortie like this.
  8. Gravedigger Dav

    Gravedigger Dav Supporting Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Springtown, Texas
    I bought my first 5 a few years ago. It is a Mike Kelly Dragonfly Acoustic fretless 5. Fretless I was used to, but 5 was a whole new experience. It took some getting used to, but I managed. But, I don't play the acoustic that much, so I didn't get used to playing it a lot. Earlier this year I picked up a deal on a Squier VM J V. It was like learning 5 all over again. The problem I have now is switching between 4 and 5. If I play 4 for a while without picking up the 5, I'll hit the wrong string a lot. I don't seem to have any problem going from 5 to 4, but that is probably because I've been playing 4s since 1964.
    Now I have to dig the Mike Kelly out of the back of the closet because I have an acoustic gig a week from today and it includes 5 songs I've never played.
    kirkdickinson likes this.
  9. joeblasted


    Sep 15, 2006
    nice, I just redid the bridge on my MK5 fretless. fun instrument!
  10. njones89


    Mar 27, 2015
    Sioux Falls
    I have a 5 string. The only reason I got it is because I don't want to set up a 4 string to be fitted for BEAD. I find myself using the G string quite a bit anyway. When I play through a compressor and an EQ and after setting up amp tone, I often find that the difference between a B0 and a B1 for instance is hardly discernible unless you're playing really loud, full tone. It did not take long to get used to an added string. What messes me up is when I switch back to a 4-string after having played a 5er for a while.
  11. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass

    May 10, 2006
    I made the change from 4 to 5 last June. Been playing about 18 years or so. There were lots of stumbles initially, mainly due to the extra string below. I stowed all other basses and focused on the fiver. It has paid off as I'm now fairly comfortable with it. Still some flubs due to the slightly tighter string spacing. Before I most recently was playing a 4-string P-bass. The 5-string Jazz bass sounds better than any I have owned, partly due to the Sadowsky preamp. In terms of playability ... now there are so many more musical options! It fits right in my hands, is comfortable to play, it's easier to make the song sound better, or give an old one a new twist. How could anyone turn down playing such a cool upgrade to the 4-string? I can't see a reason for giving up all the goodness of a five for less of same with a four string. I've been aiming at being able to play more country music and this bass is just the ticket to be versatile.

    Also, I found this thread to be useful in approaching the five string.
    Tasteful use of a B string
    Slodo and kirkdickinson like this.
  12. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I read through quite a bit of that thread and there are many points made on both sides. Tasteful use of those lower notes is important, but no more important than tasteful use of any note.

    For myself, I bought my first five string bass six years ago, and as of today I only have 1 4 string bass that is in playable shape. And I only have that bass because it's an odd duck. It is a jazz fretless tuned see CGDA. I only play with it to stretch my brain and my fingers do fall on some interesting combinations of notes in that different tuning.

    Here is my family photo.
    All 5 stringers.
    L to R
    Michael Kelly Dragonfly fretless
    Ibanez Gary Willis GWB-35 (fretless)
    Lightwave Saber VL fretless
    Lightwave Saber SL
    Dingwall Combustion w/upgraded Canadian pickups

    I play exclusively praise and worship music.
    My experience is when I am playing with a 3-4 piece band I use the notes below E1 very sparingly.

    When I play with a band like on Sunday morning, with a full stage, I use those notes down to B0 a lot more. I have to do that because the sonic space is full. Piano, rhythm guitar, acoustic rhythm, lead guitar, drummer, keys, singer with 4 background voices. Keyboard guy is old school church piano player and fills up space with two handed chords. Plays frequently around E1-E2. When he does that I go low otherwise I'm just buried in the keys. Although sometimes I'll jump up two octaves and find a spot on the low side of the guitar range where there's not too much sonic saturation.

    I find myself using the B string for more than just a low notes. Quite often I finger the G on the B string instead of the third fret on the E string. I find the five string much easier for transposing when using NNS.

    My most recent addition to the family is a Dingwall. The low B is much clearer and consistent with the other strings. I don't notice a difference in timbre when I play a B or a D on that low string vs other strings.
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2016
  13. Shortie

    Shortie Boom! Inactive

    Nov 15, 2015
    Brooklyn USA
    It's a lot harder to go from 5 to 4 - it's like your missing part of your ax. I had to do that a while back after playing only a 5 for about 15 years - still not quite up to speed on the 4.

    When you move to a 5, just play the B string like you play the E string on a 4 and remember that you're playing a 4th lower - all the fingerings are the same but you've got a lot more range and flexibility.
  14. AMOlson


    Feb 19, 2016
    Northern Nevada
    Heh. I went to a 5 string (fretless) for classical. The biggest problem I had was the odd number of strings. Urk.

    However, all of my basses are 35", 24 fret and strung heavy. Now that I'm used to the fiver, really the only issue I have is when I'm reading standard notation. If I'm playing more by ear, I don't really notice it much at all except for the deeper sound of the B string.

    That bottom string is sweet for the low drone from pipe organ music, btw.
  15. I never got a 5 string because i find the wider necks uncomfortable. I prefer narrow and chunky necks.
    So i converted my custom 4 string to a 5 string. Cant be happier. It makes playing so easy...
  16. LonF


    Mar 25, 2016
    Central New Jersey
    I'm loving my 5 String Bass. Getting used to the feel of the low B, and its nice to have the option of a bigger sounding E string note if I want it.
    Hell, it's a Bass! Slap on an even lower F# string I say. I'd love that if only they could make a decent sounding and playable F# string on a 34" scale bass.
    Thing would look like a winch cable!
  17. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Just finished my second day since attempting the conversion. The good when playing by ear my biggest problem is muting and the extra noise since I am not used to the string spacing yet. The bad I have been tuning my 4 string a whole step low for a while so when reading I am not reaching for the wrong string but the wrong fret position and thinking about position shifts.
  18. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Just under a week and I finished my first set on the 5 string. It wasn't the B or E strings which threw me off at times but the D and G strings. While I had planed to use the capability to go down to the B during the set with anything under a D that I found myself shifting up defeating my plans.
    I think part of the problem is that I have played tuned down an entire step for so long that I reverted to D being the bottom.

    Although instead of going up to the 5 I found myself going down when playing E, F, or F#. And only on a couple of occasions did I find myself using the B string on any note higher than E.
  19. GroovyBassist


    Mar 17, 2016
    Austin, TX
    I have 4 and 5 string basses. I prefer 4 because to me they are just more fun. I use my 5 strings in some situations. It depends on who I'm playing with. I use the 4 string for my own music that I write but will often use the 5 string when playing covers or other people's music. Especially if there is a keyboard player involved. Besides having the 5 extra notes below E, I think the biggest advantage of a 5 string is being able to play the low E, F and F# without having to slide all the way to the nut.
  20. I've always played a 5 string but am thinking of adding a 4 string to my repertoire. I think it will feel lie something is missing, not sure.
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