Has anyone here abandoned their 5 string basses totally for 4 strings?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by HalfManHalfBass, May 25, 2012.

  1. HalfManHalfBass


    Jan 21, 2003
    Has anyone ever (like I’m finding myself contemplating doing) given up with 5 string basses completely and returned solely to 4 strings?

    Many years ago my bass collection was mainly full of 5 strings and I wouldn’t even look at a new bass unless it had a low B.

    I’ve played on hundreds of 5 strings over the years and of the ones I’ve actually owned, I would rate them as among some of the better examples available: Status(s), Musicman Stingray 5, Lakland, MTD (Kingston and Heir models), Conklin, Yamaha(s), Bass Collection, Ibanez(s), Jaydee and even a terrible old Aria Pro!

    But I am finding myself trying to decide once and for all whether I’m going to sell my last 5 string now, seeing as all my main basses are 4 strings.

    I know there are a lot of people who swear by them, not just because they use the 5 extra low notes regularly but because they like being able to play lower notes whilst playing in the one hand position a little higher up on the neck. However, I just keep on finding myself avoiding the B string for anything other the first low 5 notes that it gives me. Even then, I would say I find myself mainly using only the B, C and D notes!

    I’m finding more and more that I can hear / notice unpleasant ‘overtones’ on B strings when playing above the 5th fret (all my basses have suffered from this) and I much prefer playing the lower notes on the E string to those on the higher frets of the B.

    I’ve tried different scale basses, many different brands of string (also the various tapered types too), but there is just something ‘bad’ to my ears with the notes after the D# on the B string. It kind of ‘warbles’ and has a mild ‘wolftone’ thing going on, regardless of pickup height, light or heavy gauged strings and the quality / timbre of the higher notes never sound as consistent with those of the other strings when played higher up the neck.

    I’m now thinking of just using a synth or an octave pedal if I ever find myself ‘needing’ to hear those 5 extra low notes now, but at the same time I’m also well aware as to the pains of GAS and equally know I could well regret not having at least one bass with 5 strings……

    At least for some time now I’ve been finding it difficult to justify having a 5 string and making rare use of those 5 extra notes. Especially as because they then come at the cost of giving me more strings to mute when I’m playing, having a much wider fingerboard to contend with and (usually – dependant on model) some kind of compromise with regards to string spacing……

    I'm sorry for a lengthy post but seeing as this is ‘TALK’ bass I would be very grateful for any comments, experiences and observations from my fellow bass brothers and sisters.

    So, has anyone else ever felt like this and regretted it afterwards?
  2. 999Brent

    999Brent Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2011
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Yep, I played 5 strings for some time, now just use 4 strings.
    I found I had forearm issues with the 5, never a problem with the 4, I always felt I was under playing or over playing the B string, played it for years, but for some reason never found a happy medium.
    Now only own 4 strings and have no regrets at all, do not miss those 5 extra notes at all.

    Buts that's just me....

    One thing I did to make sure I was happy was to leave the 5 string at my in-laws place for 6 months after I decided I might switch back to 4, so I was used to being without it, I did not miss it, so sold it at that point.

    I guess if you are not sure, you could do a similar thing.....
  3. I played exclusively 6 string basses for my first 4 years, i then moved on to 4 and have not played a bass with more than 4 strings since.

    IMO a low B is just to low and doesn't sound right to my ears, a high C is to thin sounding for anything else than chordal work and soloing, which i don't do anymore.
  4. Evil Undead

    Evil Undead

    Oct 31, 2009
    I liked 5 strings when I had one, but now I'm all about the Fender 4 strings.
  5. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Changing tastes and requirements are okay. I would retain one good five string just in case something comes up that needs it... A Musical, contemporary country, gospel, and anything else where a five string is standard. Even though I'm about to sell my sixer, I will replace it with a five for the above reason.
  6. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    Yep, been there, done that ;).

    Like yourself, I found that I always played my 5 strings like a 4 string with a few lower notes, and used the B string mainly as a thumb rest. Even on my Warwick Thumb which was tight and punchy as hell, I found the B string got too 'wooly' if I played past the 5th fret.

    I know play 4 strings again, but with Hipshot D-tuners on the low E for the times I need to reach for a low D (actually, I think I only ever needed to go lower than D on one song, which we don't play any more). Strangely, I find drop tuning more intuitive than having an extra string. Besides, I was never satisfied with playing drop D tunes/riffs on the 5 string, they never sounded quite right.
  7. moonshinegtrs

    moonshinegtrs Inactive Commercial User

    Jan 28, 2009
    White Bluff,Tn.
    Owner: Moonshine Custom Guitars
    Even though I still keep a couple of 5 strings around, I have taken to stringing a couple of my fours "BEAD" (lower four strings of a five string set); in particular, I have a Peavey G-Bass with a 35" scale and a graphite neck & a Moonshine Custom Headless (34" scale, also with a graphite neck), these works really well with this set-up.

    I use a low B when playing contemporary Christian music; I don't use one exclusively, but it's good to have one on hand when the vocalists start changing keys ... I use a 4 for everything else.

    Moonshine :bassist:
  8. N.F.A.


    Jun 25, 2009
    In a blue funk
    I am getting ready to go the other way. Just bought a 5 string and am going to give learning it an honest effort. My teacher plays one and recommended that I join the party.
  9. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I was the same way. I wouldn't even look at a 4 string bass a few years back. I owned a few, but they saw virtually no playing time at all.

    I haven't totally abandoned my 5ers, but I play my 4's much more often now. I mainly used 5ers in my original band, but I left a while back. Most of the stuff I'm playing now doesn't require it, so I find myself switching around on basses much more often.
  10. Lichtaffen


    Sep 29, 2008
    Rhode Island
    Sounds very familiar. I think a lot of it depends on the style of music you play. Of all the albums I listened to maybe 2 or 3 of them had players utilizing a 5 string. For me I find that the extra 5 notes are not worth the hassles you speak of. I agree that those 5 notes sound a little too flubby for me. I do like the "idea" of a 5 string, but it's not practical for me.

    Maybe find one 5 string that you really love and hold onto it for those "just in case" situations. I like what 999Brent did. I put my 5 in the closet for a few weeks to see if my playing needed it. It just sat there and the only reason I took it out was because it was fun to play, but it had no practical purpose for me personally.
  11. I played five strings for a few months a couple years back, and quickly realized that it just isn't for me. Ive had no issues with sticking with four strings.
  12. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Yes and I don't miss 5's a bit!!!
  13. FutureTense

    FutureTense Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2008
    Wilton, Iowa
    I still own a 5-string bass, but I play almost exclusively 4-strings now.

    It's mostly just that I never really need anything lower than Drop D for what I do.
  14. PhantomApex


    May 9, 2012
    I like the straight-forwardness of 4 strings personally.
  15. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I have never owned a 5-string, and don't plan to. I've always felt that those low notes are just too low when I hear someone else playing them. Four strings for me. And passive Fenders.
  16. Went from a Stingray 5 to a Lakland 4-string P. No looking back.
  17. msb


    Jul 3, 2002
    Halifax,N,S. Canada
    Going to hang on to the five string , but rarely play it .
  18. soulman969

    soulman969 Inactive

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    I gave up my 5 string a few years back. As a vocalist dealing with muting that B was just too much of a distraction although I used it lot at jams when I was just playing.

    I've always played Jazz Basses and I'm fine with a 4 string. Leo seemed to think that was enough when developed them so I guess that's good enough for me.
  19. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    I have. My problem is that I like basses, period. If I find one I like, and it happens to be a 4, I try to convince myself it will be OK. And it is...

    ...for a while.

    The problems you mention (wolf notes, hand issues) are all surmountable with the right combination of gear and dedication. It took me years and a lot of dead ends to figure it all out, but at this point, that B-string is like my right hand: I could live without it if I had to, but I sure wouldn't look forward to it.

    But hey, this is music, and all of this stuff is unique and personal. I don't know of a single piece of popular music that couldn't be played on 4 strings (or 7, for that matter).

    4's are cheaper to buy and maintain, and they're not as difficult to amplify and EQ. If you don't need the 5th string for personal expression, and if you don't have a high-paying gig where the leader demands it, then why put up with the extra complications it brings?
  20. robboy


    Jul 13, 2006
    Boca raton Florida
    I stopped playing anything other than a 4 when I realized that I just never needed the low B. I'm sure others need it but for what I do it's not needed. I did add a D tuner just in case but rarely use that either.
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