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How long to adjust to a 5 string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bumperbass, Jun 10, 2018.

  1. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    That's a lot to chew in one bite. I know that I was in the middle of a show when I started in on a 5er. I did take it to rehearsal one time and stumbled so badly that I would practice with it at home, but felt it unwise to use it in a performance. Not sure how you're learning those songs, but the nice thing about shows is the bass part is mostly written out. So the notes are right there and all I have to do is figure out which positions are most fluid.

    I hope you chose Popeyes.

    Yes, but no (if I'm understanding you correctly). I would have liked to have thought that I could identify strings tactically from 1 through 5 rather than 5 through 1 when I first picked up a 5er. In a way I tried it, mentally saying to myself "just ignore the low string and play it like a 4". But it didn't work that way. While some logic would make the 1st string as the tactile reference I don't believe it works that way for most. When I set my hand on a bass I'm not feeling for the 1st string to begin. On a 4 string my relaxed fingers go all the way across. And years of playing know where the strings are. On a 5er, the way my hand would lay would be no different and let me tell you how many times I had to grope for an A or a D string because they weren't where my fingers naturally expected them to be. And mentally, when we think of scales most of us begin by thinking of them in ascending fashion. Right? So when I begin to process the notes in my head I'm thinking of going up. But the strings and notes initially aren't where the fingers expect them to be naturally. And so if was for instance playing in the key of G, finding that C was sometimes tricky because I had to look as well as feel to make sure I was on the right string combination. So, while you're correct that from a tactile angle one would be pretty well off if they could orient themselves from the G to B. But from a human processing standpoint I believe that most of us would do it the other way naturally. For us, too do otherwise would be like trying to aim a pistol with your sub-dominant eye, requiring quite a bit of cerebral processing.
  2. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    So, while you're correct that from a tactile angle one would be pretty well off if they could orient themselves from the G to B. But from a human processing standpoint I believe that most of us would do it the other way naturally.

    That's how I see it, too. But as I said, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that you practice until it feels natural. I feel pretty comfortable already, actually. Our last show went pretty smoothly. What's funny, though, is that even though I had little difficulty playing the tunes, on a few of them I actually asked the guitar player what key we were supposed to be in. Then after I knew that, things fell into place.
  3. somebrains

    somebrains Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2017
    Always Popeyes, but the blackened ranch just didn't have the kick and depth it should have.

    You can try the 5 is a 4 with a B string as a thumb rest thing but you can always run up the neck and transpose a few songs. The thing that helped me feel at home was that there's less motion and stopping myself playing a box instead of sliding up and down.
  4. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    1) Bring your own sriracha next time.

    2) I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all approach to adapting to a 5er. While it seems like it should be automatic we know it isn't. There are just some growing pains we have to endure. It is a lot like learning to ride a bike with clipless pedals (and I have no idea why they call them that because you have to "clip in" :) ). Everyone seems to have to take their "three obligatory falls" before it becomes natural.

    For me I think it's a matter of being enamored with my new 5ers that I didn't want to play my old 4 strings. So I've just kept with it. Still after 4 months I still fumble from time to time, but less and less. But the funny thing is that my 4 string now feels weird. I never did anchor my right thumb. But I've gotten so used to letting it mute the strings (floating thumb, I guess) that when I'm playing the low E on the 4 it's just hanging in air and doesn't quite know what to do with itself . The neck on the 4 string jazz now feels extra skinny. I like my 4 string, but don't see it in play very much any more. The only thing is that with aging D'Addario EXL170BT strings on it I can go for more of a P Bass sound that's harder to achieve on the others.
  5. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    That's how any school teaches and there's a reason for that.

    You may say "it doesn't matter" if you can play and the other guy can play too, but it takes 5 minutes for the other guy to adapt to a 5er, while you're still frozen after a month (hypothetically). So, it matters.
  6. bumperbass

    bumperbass Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2012
    I've learned the hard way all my life.
    Actually, for me anyway, I don't really understand why it matters which way we learn where the strings are. I never analyzed it 50 years ago when I started out. It was a bass, I liked it, I found out I was pretty good at it, and I learned my parts. That's all there was. Nothing has changed for me. I learn my parts on my new (to me) 5'er and eventually I'll be where I want to be.
    There's more than one way to skin a bass.
  7. Elusive1


    Jun 21, 2018
    Took me roughly a week to get used to my 5-string when I first got it about three years back. Kept mixing up the notes/strings in the beginning, but eventually got used to it as I played 5 strings exclusively for a couple of years - to the point that I nearly had to 'relearn' how to play when I got back into 4 strings earlier this year. Now I can make the transition between both pretty smoothly.

    As some of us have suggested, put away the 4-string until you get the hang of the 5, then keep both in practice concurrently. I find (for me at least) one method to playing a 5-string is to avoid thinking of it as a 5-string, and instead think of it as a 4-string with an additional string (which is essentially what it is, anyway).
  8. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    After I bought my first 5er I realised that I had always "arranged" myself on a bass from the bottom string up, ie from the E string. If I wasn't thinking, putting that extra string in made me do the usual starting-on-the-wrong-string thing. After the song started I had no trouble with the B, so I just "planned" where the first note was before each song. Hey presto, no problem.

    I also tried switching 4's and 5's during the set. That wasn't good for playing either instrument, so I put the 4 away and just played the 5. Everything fell into place after that.

    I could easily switch back and forth now but I don't see any benefit for me to do that.
    mrcbass likes this.
  9. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Yeah, yeah, yeah
    And you don't need more than 3 gears
    And you don't need more than one room
    And you don't need more than one pair of shoes
    And you don't need more than one meal a day

    As has been already said if YOOOOOOO don't need a 5string then goody for you but if , for whatever reason that YOOOOO may not agree with (and who cares if you do), need one than fine. I happen to need one. We play a lot of stuff that is written with notes lower than low E and sometime we make a key change to accomodate the singer's range.

    And 40 pounds of gear? What century do you living in? I have a 5 string and I've practically cut the weight in half recently. Went from a QSC amp with a Demeter pre and a NV215 to a Shuttle 9.0 and two BA-12-3's. Extra 40 LBS, LOL
    chris_b likes this.
  10. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    There are several ways you may fillet a bass, or a salmon.

    With proper technique and right tools, you'll do it perfectly in roughly 1 minute. But you can develop your own way and take one hour, also good.

    If you serve bass on Sundays for your guests, who cares how much time it takes for you to prepare it? But you won't work as a cook if you take one hour to prepare a fish. Not saying you want to... What you do with your skills is up to you, but there's a proper, professional way to do these things.
  11. 7615


    Nov 19, 2015
    Which century do I live or am I living in? I play written music and go up where it require the lower notes. But they are so infrequent.
    And I note you didn’t say how much your gear weighs? You simply chortled.

    As for the top part of your post - how do you play a five string on 1 meal a day? And with 3 gears how do you tune 2 of the strings? As for shoes and rooms - do you mean - at a time?

    And in response to who cares if you (I) do - you do - as evidenced by your effort to respond. I am touched.

    5 stringers are so uncool - always in a tizzy - really must be a stinger all that great music that was played on 4 strings .
    All over a string that no one can hear on your average car radio.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  12. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
  13. caledoneus83


    Feb 26, 2018
    That's like.... your opinion dude.
  14. 7615


    Nov 19, 2015
    Say something controversial.
  15. 7615


    Nov 19, 2015
    Ever notice she is always in the same room. I guess that answers the one question. And she plays a 4 string..
  16. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I'm sorry, but I'm going to challenge you on that. While I've never taken formal bass lessons, I was playing bass actively as a kid. I've taken many years of guitar lessons (folk, jazz, rock) and have seen tons of instructional videos on bass playing, etc and never once have I seen it suggested that you orient based on the 1st string. When we introduce a scale we never do so from the high note down but almost always ascending. Naturally the orientation is from the lower strings. However if you can provide me with any instructions on video or written to support your assertion I'll be happy to at least accept that some may advocate tactile orientation from the 1st string and would happily see if I could adopt such an approach. My personal experience is that I have never heard from anyone who could move from 4 string to 5 string "in 5 minutes". Respectfully.
  17. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
    Scales are taught ascending because that's how they are generally taught in music, which trumps the study of stringed instruments. But dexterity exercises and open string basic exercises have always started from the highest string. That's why we say a guitar is tuned EBGDAE and a bass is tuned GDAE or GDAEB, or even CGDAEB. This is a global notation and concept.

    I did. Less than 5 minutes actually. Had a problem with my bass and a friend had his 5er with him. Did the gig normally and have been playing 5ers since.

    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  18. vindibona1


    Apr 18, 2015
    I'm sorry, but I believe that those who think of their guitar strings in the above order are in the vast minority. Humans are primarily visual creatures. We tend to orient from the nearest point to the farthest point, the lowest on a 5er as being the low B. Here's a videos of how most people think. I've started it into the video, but you will note he is NOT tuning EBGDAE. I know few who tune EBGDAE on guitar, probably because the way the lower strings affect neck tension.

    I congratulate you for being able to do it. But I suggest that most people do not orient themselves as you do and consequently have more difficulty switching to a 5er. While I can *think* GDAE(B), when auto-pilot kicks in, the fingers still need to find home base to know how to find the notes without looking. I find the most difficult notes are on the A string as the A string doesn't naturally feel in the right place. If I'm going for a C (A string 3rd fr) my orientation of feel is one off from the top, not the third from the bottom. And THAT is what has to be programmed into the basal ganglia (in the brain). So even if one can think high to low, it's still about tactile orientation and muscle memory. And that gets into a whole 'nother subject of relatively string spacing and feel. Case in point:

    I own a (1972) Martin acoustic with a 1 11/16th" nut. I have a couple Taylors with a 1 3/4" nut. A few months back I was practicing exclusively with the Taylors for roughly a month. But when it came time to once again play the Martin, for a short while my fingers did not know where to land. I recall going for a Bm chord and ending up with my fingers landing not where intended. So, even though my brain didn't have to transpose which strings were where and the strings were all in the same order, it took a moment for my brain to reorganize to recognize where the strings on the Martin were located. So if we take that and then change up the strings, even if one can think GDAEB, the fingers may still not know where to land if your switching from a 4 to a 5.
  19. guitarbrent

    guitarbrent Supporting Member

    Feb 16, 2016
    Oh good grief...

    I go from my kid’s 3/4 size guitar to my 1 3/4 nut acoustics to my 1 11/16 electrics to my 4,5 and 6 string Basses with different string spacing all the time. It’s not that big of a deal guys...don’t over think it...
  20. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    ^^^^This^^^^. I also think people are over thinking this. I transitioned fairly easily and quickly but I understand not everyone will but it's not rocket surgery.

    Anybody ever go from a 3 speed manual shift to a 4 speed, where first gear on the 4 was where reverse was on the 3? (I'm showing my age LOL). How long did that take to adjust to? Not long if you didn't wanna hit the car behind you.

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