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How hard is it to switch back and forth from 4 to 5 strings?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Biggbass, Jan 5, 2012.

  1. Biggbass


    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    I've been tossing around the notion of a 5 string bass for quite some time...just love the rumble and sound of that low B. But I have wondered about the awkwardness of switching back and forth between a 4 and a 5 during a gig.
    For those that do ... does it throw you off your game at all or is it a quick adjustment? Or do you just use a 5 string and leave the 4 at home?
  2. southpaw420


    Aug 25, 2007
    I dont find it to be hard at all. If you can play comfortably on both, you should have no problem.
  3. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    Not hard for me at all. But, if I switch between basses with big differences in the string spacing at the nut end, that does throw me off, and a prime example would be, say, a 4-string Precision with a 1 3/4" nut, going to a 5-string with a 1 3/4" nut. The strings on the 5 would be enough closer together to throw me off for a while.

    But, I prefer Jazz necks anyway, so going from a J neck (1 1/2" nut) 4-string to a 1 3/4" 5-string doesn't slow me down at all.
  4. Fretless1!


    Feb 19, 2007
    String spacing bothers me more than the number of strings.
  5. chadhargis

    chadhargis Jack of all grooves, master of none Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I go between a 4, 5, and 6 string and really don't have any problems. I'm typically not playing anything overly difficult, so that may make a difference. My two four strings are both P necks, so it's a big shift from a P neck 4 to a 6 string.
  6. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Why would you want to do that? There's nothing you can play on a fourbanger that you can't play on a fiver (except maybe for slapping on the E string, but I really wouldn't know about that), plus in addition to the extra 5 notes below the E, the B string gives you alternatives for lots of other notes. I'd just play the fiver.
  7. The low B takes some getting used to at first, but after that it's an easy switch. I prefer a 4 string, but have no trouble on a fiver.
  8. amadden


    Nov 25, 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    If I switch back and forth constantly, it's not a problem at all for me and I don't really notice it.

    But, I find if I tend to just stick with say my 5 string for a long time, when I pick up my 4 string again (or vice versa), the spacing will be kind of "off" and it will take a little bit to get used to it again. Not very long though, maybe 20-30 minutes or so, but it's still noticeable. But that's like playing only one for a couple weeks without even touching the other.

    On the bright side though, switching back to the 4-string makes it pretty easy to deal with for a little while, I've found. Less strings to deal with, and more spacing lets you be a little more "sloppy" with your playing. That's a bit of a bonus, I suppose.
  9. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    My fives and sixes are 19mm, just like a standard P bass so switching spacewise to a four is not an issue for me. As far as number of strings, I don't stress about it so that part's easy too. The only "problem" is that I tend to wank more when I play fours.
  10. +1
  11. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Yep, it's easy
  12. JonahTheAmazing


    Dec 19, 2010
    I think everyone who plays can find that width that clicks, or 4s and 5s. I prefer a thinner neck, so naturally chunky neck would give me problems. But everyone's different. Switching constantly might be a little disorienting, but not to the point of disabling ability.
  13. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    to me,...

    it's like cheating on my skinny gf with my fat gf. i love them both, but sometimes the fat one will do things the skinny one can't, FTW!!! YMWNV
  14. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    +1 to all mentions about string spacing being worse than during count.

    After I got my first 5 string I really didnt play it that much at first compared to my old 4 bangers because of this problem. Now I switch back and forth between songs during a set. The trick for me was to stop thinking about it and just try and play as fast and clearly as possible. Just like normal. The problem was all in my head.
  15. Not really hard at all! Spend a couple of days alternating which basses you play and you'll soon find you can switch without issue, if there was even an issue to start with! (I never had much trouble).
  16. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I guess that's why I don't get too worked up over the "4 vs. 5" threads. One doesn't preclude the other. I like fours because they're very comfortable and it's generally easier to find a "character" bass (e.g. a violin bass) in a four rather than five. Fives do what they do and I have one five that will be the last bass of all to go, but in the end they're just tools and five extra semi-tones isn't worth losing sleep over.

    The best argument I've heard for a five was a guy who just today posted that he often needs to sight read in "horn keys" - all those pesky flatted keys, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db - and it simplified his life tremendously. Other than that, there may be "nothing that a four can do that a five can't", but really there's very little a five can do that a four can't.

    My fives come out to play at church during Advent and Lent because there are a lot of things in D where a five comes in handy. I could easily do it with a four string and not miss that low D too much. But since I have the fives and I'm comfortable playing them, why not?

  17. XtheDeadPawn


    May 24, 2008
    My ATK305 is a good gigger my beater or my first bass the Yamaha RBX170 really doesn't get that much playtime anymore. I've never brought back ups and it's an active.
    My ATK305 is really good so I don't think I'll go back to fours anytime soon but, everytime I stop by a music store I pick up certain four strings that intrique me and I've never felt akward it's like riding a bike for me off topic (I've never learned to ride a bike instead skateboarded and rollerbladed aka Aggressive Inlining God the 90's).
  18. After playing nothing but 5-string for almost two years, I've gone back to the 4-string for some things lately, and I'm finding the 4 harder to play. The skinny, J-width neck feels like a pencil and makes my fretting hand cramp up. The wider neck on the 5 just feels like home now. I like being able to play first-position E-string stuff farther up the neck on the B. And I like having a fretted low E. I think I've gone to the dark side for good. Playing the 4 at this point feels like playing through a low-watt amp that you have to max out to get loud enough. I want headroom, dammit! :D
  19. AmadeusXeno


    Mar 8, 2011
    I switch back and forth between a 4 and a 6 all the time. I'd say it's not hard at all.
  20. TinIndian


    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    I bring a 4 and a 5 with me to every gig. I switch between them depending on what I want for a given set. So really it's not a big deal at all. The only thing I find that I have to watch for is the narrower string spacing on my 5. Thats why I'm starting to look at another 5 string - one with a wider spacing.

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