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Going from 4 to 5 (merged threads)

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

  1. Gilligan8


    Oct 2, 2016
    Here is a similar but still unique take on this subject.

    I've fancied myself a guitar player all my life... problem is, I figured out many years ago that I have no rhythm (practically none). I still continued to collect instruments (including my wife having a 4 string Kramer Barretta 422s/p), a couple of electric drum sets and the like. I ended up being a sound guy for a local touring cover/original band for a while in my early twenties and got up and played on some simple songs and such for fun. I was also learning a bit of rhythm along the way. I've always loved and wanted a 5 string, every now and then putting out offers on craigslist for a bass here and there but never getting them (my offers were too low). So I only played them on occasion if someone had one or at the music store. Never with a band and always just noodling around.

    Well, couple of weeks ago, I became a bass player (not really). I was providing A/V for a (book) writer's convention where a few authors always get together and play really poorly some cover tunes. A while back their guitar player wasn't going to be able to fly in so I suggested they hire a friend of mine who is an amazing singer/song writer guitar player. The gig went south and he took over basically doing his solo act and they fell in love with him. Now every year they hire him to play (he's the only one I mic so I have something consistent and good to give the audience LOL).

    Well, this year, at 10am I get a text: "Hey, you should play bass tonight with the band." Clearly the bass player wasn't going to be there. I already knew the keyboard player wasn't going to be there so that had me thinking, "uhh... we will have ZERO low end now". But we don't have a bass as this gig takes place out of town. I'll call the House of Blues (where we were playing) to see if they have something. No answer. Then I remember, "Hey, my brother-in-law lives in town and he has a bass!" He's in Europe on his honeymoon but a quick few text and I'm off to his place to grab his bass.

    A Spirit by Steinberger 5 string. Cool, always loved the Steinberger style guitar and bases and I'll have that cool low B string to rattle some fillings! ;)

    Order room service for lunch so we can quickly go over a few songs because I haven't even touched my guitars in 6 months and I really don't know any songs anyway, definitely not any of these songs! I mean, I know the songs from listening to them on the radio so I know the feel, but I couldn't tell you a single chord in the songs. So we get some chord charts drawn up. Thankfully as a kid when I first started playing ALL I wanted to learn was everything about music theory (yes, I was weird in that way). So I know what Cmaj7 is and all that and I know my fret board FAIRLY well at least up on the first 5-7 frets or so. I can fake my way through this for the night. It will be fun... I'll keep it simple, play some root notes... maybe even throw in a 5th or an octave here and there if I get comfortable. :) :)

    Now comes the problem... That damn 5th string. For ~30 years the top string has been an E (or D in drop D).... my brain can't seem to remember this. B is E and E is A on everything I'm trying to play. I SLOWLY start to transition but quickly slip up quite often. Even when I decided I wanted to play a Low D at some point. I just hit an Open B because my brain said "Low D must mean drop D" LOL Oh, it was a struggle.

    During the gig, I finally started to pull it together, still screwing up a good bit, but quickly catching myself.

    The one thing that I did realize is that it's actually kind of hard to find the right place to put that Low B into the song. Like someone mentions, it sticks out like a sore thumb even when it's the right note. I started to find the right places but I thought I'd just be putting it everywhere and it would be cool. Not even close. You really have to be selective with it.

    I still want one, and will get one. I'm just skeptic on the "need" for it for sure now and I don't know how much I will really play it. I fear of getting used to it and then having to play the 4 string again and go through a reverse of what I experienced that day.

    Highlight of the story is that I played my first gig as a "musician" with a band at the House of Blues and even better... I wasn't the weak link in the band. :) I also learned how important a good drummer is and how a bad drummer can REALLY cause some problems!

    I've also been pretty heavy into trying to learn some bass and rhythm now. I'll never be a "real bass player" but at least I will be able to confidently sit in from time to time and I'm hoping every year that I get to play the gig instead of the family friend that they usually bring to play. He's not really much better than I am (his bass, Fender American Deluxe precision, actually has key notes taped on the fretboard... such a shame).

    Sorry, that was a REALLY long post... but it was from a completely different perspective in a sense... yet still echoed a lot of what has been said about the transition as well as the use of the Low B.

  2. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Welcome to the club Lil buddy;)
    Gilligan8 likes this.
  3. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I'm surprized so many people have a hard time or are unsure about the 5 and is some ways the 6 ... and I wonder if it is a case of either age or music taste.

    When I started playing bass I listened to KoRn and RHCP ( they released BSSM ) and in both band the 5 strings was more than obvious and so the sound always been in my head.

    So I got a 5 strings like 2 years after I started because I wanted those notes and I imagined what notes I would found in this or that position ... so once I receive the bass it was normal. Of course I stumble a few times but it was natural to me. Same thing when I got my 6 strings.

    18 years later I couldn't see playing bass without the B strings.
    Big Shrek likes this.
  4. mbell75


    May 23, 2016
    Flea only played a 5 string (Stingray 5) on two tracks off BSSM, Funky Monks and The righteous & the wicked. He used a Wal MK 2 four string on all the other tracks.
  5. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    a few other tracks used a low D like : If You Have To Ask and Naked In The Rain.

    I alwaysplayed them using a 5 instead of detuning
  6. Being and Bass

    Being and Bass

    Apr 9, 2017
    I started on a 4-string and never really understood it. Getting the 5-string was the only way I could really advance as a bass player.

    I also get the feeling like these frets are just holding me back as well.
    kirkdickinson likes this.
  7. Being relatively new to the bass, my only comment is that my teachers plays a five string and I have a four. when he is demonstrating something to me, I really have to concentrate and remember his low string is not the same as mine. Confuses me...
  8. Whitenoise17


    Aug 6, 2016
    East Side
    I've only been playing for a little over a year now, and back in February, I switched from
    a 4 string Squier Jag right to a 6 string Ibanez, and honestly, it wasn't too hard to switch over.
    Of course, It does take a little getting used to, considering the wider neck, slightly longer scale, and the 2 extra strings, but honestly, If you're looking to do what I did and switch from
    4 to 6, I would suggest that you get an Ibanez GSR206, as It made the transition VERY easy for me. It sounds and looks good and is very well made, and it's only around $300 new. If you buy one, I would suggest rewiring the electronics if you don't like the onboard active equalizer.
    (I certainly don't, and I'm working on rewiring it so that I don't have to replace the battery every couple of months or so)
    If you plan on making the switch from 4 to 6, I wish you the best of luck.
  9. Resonance129


    Feb 15, 2011
    Hadn't thought of that. Actually makes a lot of sense to me.
    I just got my first 5-string and I've been attempting to play stuff I've been playing on 4's for a long time. It was frustrating because I was "clunky" on the 5 when I'd been proficient on those same songs when playing the 4. I'm gonna try playing some totally new stuff on the 5 and play the 5 exclusively for a while to attempt to acclimate. Great tips, IMO.
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  10. I felt it odd in confusing for 2 month then I started to visualize it so that I can switch back and forth between 4 and 5. I am glad I own and play both.
  11. trenken


    Apr 24, 2005
    New Jersey
    Doesnt seem like an active thread but ill throw in my 2 cents anyway since im bored.

    I actually started out on a 6 string because when i was first starting to get really into bass, dream theater had just come out and i was hooked on that. I did have a 4 before that but i was only about 12 and wasnt playing it much.

    It really depends on the style of music you play. Its very annoying having to tune down, or keep 2 basses, one with standard tuning and the other with drop tuning, because with the latter, the notes are now all in different places. Not the case with a 5. If you play a lot of jazz, punk, metal, much of that stuff goes below E so having that B string is very nice.

    If you just play standard rock or pop, they dont often tune down so its not really needed. Only really to get a 5 or 6 is if you NEED it, not because they look cooler, which really is why some people get them. You see these kids on youtube playing 6 string basses and they never use the high C. They went to a 6 bc i guess it makes you look more badass.

    Ive since retired from 6 string. I dont listen to prog music anymore, but i do still have a 5 bc i refuse to tune down or relearn where notes are located on a drop tuned bass.
    Big Shrek likes this.
  12. 5stringpermit


    Sep 13, 2017
    Walter Becker's '11 Tracks of Whack' is a great example of fine use of that 5th string. Check out 'Book of Liars' and 'This Moody Bastard'. I would only use a five if we were doing songs where that low range really plots the song. There is something sublime about fluttering sub-bass notes, even symphonies are written with the use of the low, low contra-bassoon.
  13. GroovyBassist


    Mar 17, 2016
    Austin, TX
    Advantages of the low B string are not limited to the 5 extra low notes. I find it quite useful having the low E, F, F#, & G on the 5th - 8th frets of the B string.
    iunno, Bad azz tone and LonF like this.
  14. LonF


    Mar 25, 2016
    Central New Jersey
    Yes. It's great to have the option of a 'meatier' sound on those notes as opposed to the same ones on the E string.
    GroovyBassist likes this.
  15. Zero Cash

    Zero Cash

    Mar 8, 2017
    Myrtle Beach
    Because I love the lower range options, I initially installed a drop-d tuner on my P-bass. I transitioned from 4 to 5 strings this year after over 40 years playing 4. It hasn't been easy and was accomplished through sheer determination and giving myself a break when I encounter the intermittant, momentary lapse of reason. Haven't picked up my 4-string since.
  16. I know this is the transitioning to 5 string thread, but I don't see a 6 string equivalent, so I'm posting here.

    I got my first 6 string on Saturday. I spent the last 3-6 months getting versed in theory and really learning my fretboard, which has made the transition pretty seamless. I'd even say the extra strings actually helped to solidify some of the things Ive been working on.

    So with maybe 6 hours on it I took it to band practice tonight and now I wish I had made the transition years ago. Alternating bass lines are easier, transposing is a snap! 4 strings seem like toys now (holy cow can I fly on those now) I'm really happy I made the switch.
  17. My path has been convoluted...started as an acoustic country-style guitar player,
    ( I swear it's ALL John Denver's Fault!! Bloody addictive songs & chords!!)
    then tried and failed at Flamenco, but it was a learning experience...then went
    to trombone (of all things) for about a decade, then 5 string bass...then
    just put it all down to concentrate on the kids thing. Recently got a 5-string Banjo...
    a Fiddle & Mandolin...then a 5-string bass again, and now a 4-string bass. My 6yo kids
    have acoustic guitars and will be getting their first electric guitars this Xmas.

    None of it I would ever consider as anything other than a hobby simply meant
    to play songs I liked and jam with anyone who cared to. The only thing I take
    seriously is practice time...because that's where you build from.

    When I first decided to try out bass, there were several choices on hand.
    The deciding factor was simply that the 5-string bass had more range & could
    be used on more songs. I have zero doubt that it's far easier to convert down
    to 4-string from 5 than going from 4 to 5. Even though most of it is strictly
    in one's own head and how well they have learned each one.

    And that's the thing with any instrument, dedicated practice until you get somewhat
    competent, then building upon that base until you sound good to you, then until
    you sound good to others ;)

    Which is why my fiddle playing sounds like Jack Benny is over to visit :D
    And everything else is kinda decent!
  18. Bad azz tone

    Bad azz tone

    Sep 21, 2017
    IMHO,a 5 string fits best in a handful of genre's. Jazz ,smooth jazz, blues,and funk. Hard rock, I rarely use the b string. Usually when the dynamics drop ,( when vocals come in is a good example ). The b string is clearest when played softly,plus when the bands volume comes down and you use the b the low end dosn' t drop out. A good example of when and where to use the b string is MARC ANTOINE AND ACOUSTIC ALCHEMY FUSION -SMOOTH JAZZ GUITAR on google or you tube. I dont know the names of the bass players on the recording, but it sounds like they all use 5 or 6 strings. If you listen to the bass lines you will see what I mean. With Blues it's kind of the same ,but you don't hear 5 strings in the old blues standards. More modern progressive blues they are more popular. They perform well in funk ,with the proper strings and technique ,providing great low end thump in contrast to high end snaps and pops. Again this is only my opinion. And yes it was difficult to go from 4 to 5 strings,after playing 4 strings for 40 years!!! Muscle memory can be a real bummer. Mr Brain and Mr.Fingers ( really,really old friends)stopped being nice to each other!
  19. Main reason for using a 5-string with Rock is the chord fingering being WAY closer & faster
    to get to on a 5-string, where you've really zip to hit 'em as fast on a 4 string!
    A little Speed Metal never hurt anyone...well, calluses don't count ;)
    iunno and Bad azz tone like this.
  20. Tbsx

    Tbsx Troll Inactive

    Sep 12, 2017
    For my 4 string I bought a 5 string set, left out the G string and re-tuned it to BEAD. I think of the 5th fret as open strings, so that makes it easier. I think of the 12th fret markers as the 7th fret and 2nd octave of BEAD. Now it's no trouble switching to a 5 if I need those higher notes within easy reach, which isn't often. No more re-tuning necessary!!
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