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Guitar player needs advice on bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by satch, Jan 10, 2005.

  1. satch


    Jan 10, 2005
    Anyone have any good advice for an experienced guitar player switching to bass? For example, should I consider a 5 or 6 string due to the fact that I'm used to playing six strings anyway, or is their no relevance?

    Is it more difficult to play a 5 or 6 string bass? What are the negatives, if any? What are the advantages to a 4 string over a 5 or 6?
  2. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    Well, 4 string starts where the guitar is. EADG. That might be more familiar territory. Almost all 5's add a low B string to it, like a 7 string guitar. Six usually adds a high C. This can be different if you string it a bit differently, obviously. I would say start with a 4 to get familiar with the territory of playing rythm with strings in a way. But if you play a 5 and like it, go for it. The only way to really tell is to go to the guitar store and fiddle around until they kick you out, or you find what you like. Whichever comes first.
  3. Oh, Trevorus beat me. Whatever. My advice is to start on a four string if you don't have any particular need for a five string. However, if you want to play a five string, then you might as well go ahead and get one now. I'm planning on picking up a Lakland Skyline Joe Osborne five sometime in the future, because I have run into situations (especially church) where a fifth string would be nice. But you should be aware that, like Trevorus said, the extra strings on five and six string basses don't actually correspond to the strings on guitar. It could be confusing. Oh, some people prefer the wider string spacing of a four string bass, though many fives now come with wide spacing, too. Wide sixes are hard to come by. As a guitarist, you probably won't mind narrow string spacing, but it is a possible negative to a bass with more than four strings.
  4. De Teng

    De Teng

    Oct 27, 2003
    Utrecht, Holland
    To give my opinion about string spacing.

    I have been a guitarplayer since the age of 10, I'm now 24. I've been wandering around to choose for an education of a musician (due to advice of others), so perhaps it says a bit about my skills on guitar.

    I was playing the bass in a 'soft' way.... but I find it more and mroe pleasant to my ears to give it a harder attack (fingerstyle) and to do that I need a normal/wide spacing. Not the small stuff, but wide stuff. It gives a much more powerfull sound to the bass.

    I think you should stick to four. It's difficult enough.... no kidding, I'm talking from my own experience. Another string (B for instance) will be later on a good choice I think.
  5. I have played guitar for 15 years and bass for about 6. I started off by playing the communal 4-string at church, then getting a 6-string bass of my own. Try a few and see what you like; if you have friends that play bass, ask their advice, bring them bass shopping and try their basses out too if possible.
  6. satch


    Jan 10, 2005
    Very helpful info so far. I actually assumed that since a 4 string was strung like a guitar EADG that a 5 or 6 would be the same (EADGBE), but I realize know that I was very wrong! So am I correct in thinking that normal stringing on a 5 or 6 string bass would be CBEADG? That would be confusing, especially at first.

    I guess my thinking was that it was a natural progression, according skill level from 4 strings to 5 to 6 and I wanted to avoid having to upgrade later by biting the bullet now. Apparrantly that isn't the case though. I think I'd be fine with a 4, but I can see times when I'd like having that low B.

    So, I've decided to get a 4 or 5 string. Now, which one!!!!!!!!!!!?
  7. De Teng

    De Teng

    Oct 27, 2003
    Utrecht, Holland
    You are wrong again. The lowest string is a B, the highest string a C.... (BEADGC) A bit odd, because the guitar is tuned with a B. I doubt if I would choose a sixstring in the future, if I wouldn't tune it with a B as well. I am used to take chords in the 'guitar' way.... but taking a barré on the bass could be usefull too.... never mind.

    Welcome to bassland.

    I doubt if anyone here for 100% says he has THE Bass.... because everybody has a different basstaste. THE bass doesn't exist... only for you... if you're really lucky in your relative short life. :smug:
  8. I'm afraid you got it wrong.

    Traditionally a five string would be strung BEADG, low to high. Alternatively, but this is far less common, it can be strung with a high C as in EADGC. A six string would have the low string of the five string, that is a low B below the E string, as well as a high C above the G string.

    Hope that clears it up.
  9. satch


    Jan 10, 2005
    A 5 string would usually be strung BEADG.

    A 6 string would usually be strung BEADGC.

    I can see the low B on the 5 being useful, but not sure how useful the high C would be on the 6.
  10. JTGale


    Oct 26, 2004
    Hummelstown, PA
    I know I am not the only person here that started on guitar first. In fact, I grew up playing guitar in the era of Van Halen (late '70s) and I really, really wanted to be just like him. It was so bad that I had a red guitar with white stripes and everybody called me Eddie Van Galen (for reasons I won't disclose here ;) )! But I never really was happy playing the guitar, even though I fronted a punk/rock-type band called The Dirty Johns well into the late '80s that was rather successful. Then, I "discovered" I loved bass more. I have never looked back since.

    With that said, the transition was a little painful what with all the choices (i.e. 4, 5, and 6 strings). I started on a 4-string for the reasons posted above: It was just like the bottom 4 strings on a guitar. Then, I moved to 5 strings pretty quick. The best way that I can describe transitioning your guitar experience to a 5-string is to think of the bottom 2 strings like they were your top 2 strings on your guitar. When you think scales, arpegios, etc., flip them in your mind as you get to the bottom. It will open up the extensions for you. That way your previous experience with "work" with the new instrument. As for a 6-string, I am afraid (and I am sure that I am about to commit a sin) that I would tune the top string as a B instead of a C. It would work better for me.

    All in all, I am back to playing a 4-string for the primary reason that it is easier for me to focus on the groove and holding down the bottom end without concentrating on extended scales and paterns. Hope all of this helps.

    BTW, welcome to the bottom side of things. It is really nice down here! :D
  11. Ken Lloyd

    Ken Lloyd Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2004
    Portland, Maine
    Well, you've elicted some excellent responses.

    I play guitar and bass, with much more experience and gig time on bass. It's easier to move to 4 string bass since the low 4 strings on guitar match the low 4 on bass.

    It took me quite a while to get used to a 5 string. If you want to get gigging soon and want to progress quickly, I'd say pick the 4.

    The most important thing about playing bass is the groove and time pulse and rhythmic contribution, all being different ways of saying the same thing. I recommend practicing with J Aebersold tunes with the bass turned off and the chart in front of you. That way you get constant from the drums, and you can tell when you're in the pocket and when you're out. I tell people who ask, that when practicing, consider mistakes in timing just as big as mistakes in notes.

    Bass is about time, much more than guitar. A good bass player can hold a song together even if the players don't know the tune well. Good luck! Bass is so much fun.
  12. satch


    Jan 10, 2005
    I think I've decided to go with a 4 string. That was the easy part. Now I have to decide which one.
  13. JayAmel

    JayAmel Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Carcassonne, France
    What kind of tone are you looking for ?
    Do you have small or big hands ?
    Do you prefer thin or broad necks ?
    What is your budget ?

    These answers will be useful to help you find your bass.

  14. Sundogue


    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    If I can offer one bit of advice...

    DO NOT play or think like a guitar player when playing bass. I can't tell you how many guitarists think playing bass is the same as playing a guitar (only with two fewer strings). And they would be wrong.

    I started out on guitar (and still have an acoustic I play occasionally for my own benefit) and switched to bass simply because I found the low end was where it's at for me.

    Many guitarists play guitar on the bass. It is a different animal. You are so much more locked into the drummer. You are part of the rhythm section. Bass players are the driving force in the music. And think about it...people who dance to music aren't dancing to the guitar, they're dancing to the bass.

    There is more power in one note on the bass than there is in any power chord on guitar. And also, think about space. The notes you DON'T play are equally as important as the ones you do.

    Play with a drummer alone, without any other instruments. Lock into his beat and find the groove. Listen to as many bass players as you can to find where they are coming from.

    I know plenty of accomplished guitar players who can't play bass to save their lives. Not because they lack talent...they simply cannot get past playing guitar.

    Having said that, it's not like you have to only play simple root notes, but think more like a bass player and less like a guitar player.

    As far as the number of strings, I think a 4 string strung EADG, would serve you best for now. It'll be enough to rethink how you play a bass without having to think about where these strings are moved about. Then again, who knows...you might have an easier time with it than any of us think.

    Whatever the case may be...good luck and welcome to the low end of things. :D

    As far as what bass...try either a Fender P-Bass or a Jazz. Both are solid basses that give you an option of neck size and tones. You might also want to try out a light set of strings with low action...say 100 to .40 (low E = 100 and the G = .40) as you will find that bass strings are going to take more effort to play than those tiny guitar strings.
  15. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Depends on how you approach the instrument. I have a five string tuned E-C. I find the C string much more useful than the B when making music. And I can hold the low end down just fine as well.
  16. Quencher


    Jan 11, 2005
    hey satch,
    You will probably want a bass with the best action, and probably not too exspensive if you want to switch to a 5 string later. Some 4 strings can take a low C without being too muddy ( look at GHS B52 strings) if you likes that low sound. Elixir strings are exspensive, but they slide like butter and if you get the right combo of bridge and neck action in your bass, it will feel just like playing a guitar one string at a time. Look at a Schecter ( comes w/elixirs) or a nice old late 70's Rickenbacker, if you can steal one. Word of warning, Elixirs dont like picks.
    I work at a GC and get to fiddle with lots of varieties all the time, and the Schecter Diamond Series C4 will give you the best bang for the buck ( with active EMG's ) under $500. If you want somethin cheap and playable, Yamaha and Ibanez make some adequate cheap stuff for under $200. It's all in the action, strings and your own style.
    Good Luck Man and welcome to the Underground.
  17. LoJoe


    Sep 5, 2002
    Concord, NC USA.
    Very excellent post. As a long time guitar player who converted to the low side 3 years ago, that was exactly my problem. Playing bass like I played guitar. I was able to "play" within a very short time of picking one up, but my lines were so cluttered up with licks, riffs, slides, arpeggios, bends and hammer ons that there was simply no groove to speak of. I had no connection with the drummer either. It took me hearing a recording of the band to realize how obnoxious I sounded. Once I eliminated about 80% of the notes I was trying to cram into each measure, it really started to sound respectable.
  18. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    Sometimes I rent a 6 just to fool around.

    Usually, if I actually "use" it, it will be in a Jazz-Fusion scenario where I hold down the lines with the lower strings and that high C will be used in soloing.
  19. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    What's your budget?