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How to decide between 5 or 6 strings

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by el murdoque, Feb 13, 2014.

  1. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    My project for the Future, and that might take a while, is to aquire
    a bass that could well be the last one in my collection, some beautiful work of art like a Dingwall or a le Fay or a Little.
    I want fanned frets, that much is for sure. But here's the bummer: I don't know whether to get a 5 or a 6 string. When i went from 4 to 5 i had the need of the low B to be able to compete with heavily detuned guitars in a doom band. I've grown out of this but never went back to 4 strings (i own 4 string basses but i consider myself as a 5 string guy). So lately, i've cast an eye on 6 string basses and wondered over and over whether this is the way to go for me or not.

    My normal approach to this would be to simply buy such a bass and see how we're working out and after some time, make the decision to order a Dingwall with 5 or 6 strings.

    But i can already tell that i will not be spending much time with a cheap-o model while my custom fanned fret 5 string sits in his case. The used market for 6 string basses is quite small in germany and the used market for 6ers with fanned frets is virtually non existent.

    What do you think, will a mid-priced, halfway decent instrument like the Ibanez BTB676 be able to give me the deeper insight of the 6th string or will i have it sitting around while playing my 5 string custom all the time due to superior feel and tone ?
    I expect a few BTB676s to hit the used market once the single cut is out and i might just be able to afford one, once i sold some other gear.
  2. bassofthe


    Jun 5, 2011
    A sixer is a fiver with an extra string. You can play it like a four-string, three string, et cetera, while the reverse is not true.

    Also of note; I ordered my first Dingwall sixer without having ever played a sixer or a Dingwall. I now have a third one on the way.
  3. MaGrass


    Apr 14, 2013
    London, UK
    Yamaha trb man.....
    if you want a 6er which does not only have 6 strings but it gives you the pleasure of playing all of those 6 , go for a 90s trb (if you can find it!!) ...

    Much better stuff than the rest, I Never got into 6ers until I played this trb, I bought it 2 months ago and I cannot stop playing it... you want an instrument that inspires you to play rather than make you fight with it.
  4. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    I'm guessing you'll make the transition to 6 just fine. As far as how often you play it - my experience has been I love my 6s but I consider them a very slight speed disadvantage. 4s are speedy but I wanted the low B - I now have nine 5s, two 6s and no 4s. But I only use the 6 for material that really needs it or doesn't require my best speed. You can do beautiful things on 6 that can't be done [practically] otherwise - chords, double/triple stops,arpeggios.

    Buying any new gear raises the potential of it becoming your new favorite and some other bass gathering dust.

    I think an Ibby BTB 6 will be quite sufficient for you to get a taste and shouldn't be hard to sell.
  5. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    This is EXACTLY the point. There is no such thing as a "last bass' you buy unless it's the one you got right before you died! For that would imply music is static and not changing anymore which never happens.

    And obviously you can never own too many Dingwalls!

    As for 6 or 5 it depends on your musical needs. I play 6er and I play 5ers. For a while virtually all I played were my 6ers. I needed the upper range. I had my AC50 5er and I played and strung it EADGC to get the upper range on a 5er. Now all i'm playing is 5ers strung BEADG Don't need the high end range right now and just don't want to bother carrying around any extra weight, strings, or deal with wider neck if I don't have to. So I don't.

    And that tells you right away that if you want your Dingwall, to cover the musical bases you need BOTH a 5 and 6 string! :) See rule above about owning Dingwalls. :D

    Of course a cheaper 6 is a nice thing to have I have a couple and I love my Ibbies! But Since I don't own a Dingwall I can't say how much it messes with your mind to constantly switch between fanned fret and normal basses. To me the choice between 5 and 6 though isn't about tone and playability...that is about WHICH bass of a given string number to choose. 5 or 6 is about how much upper range (solos, chords, etc) you want to have available.
  6. GMC


    Jan 1, 2006
    It's amazing how few manufacturers make 6 string basses these days. It seems they are not a popular as they used to be. It makes sense to play a sixer if you are into chords and higher register stuff, but many still prefer the simplicity of a 4 / 5 string and choose to play up the neck as opposed to across it. Personally, I'd play a sixer or a five if the string spacing was the same as a 4 but often they are a lot narrower.
  7. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011
    I wanted a 6 strings because it made a lot of sense to me. I could see in my head where the notes will be and what it opened etc.

    I didn't wait to have some music to play with it, I didn't wait to have a situation that require it. If I would have wait for that it would never happen. I play the 6 anywhere and it become me quite fast.

    I know sometimes it could be done with a 4 or a 5 but I like it the way it is.
  8. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
  9. bassofthe


    Jun 5, 2011

    Or lower. F#, anyone?
  10. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    The market for a fanned 6'er is very small.
    I'd try and convert a Low B 5'er and get a feel for the Hi-C.
    IMO I would go for an Ibby 6 first before laying out some big money.
    All my basses are 5'ers with Low B & some Hi-C.
    Most of my gigging I still pump EADG strings.
    If you go custom keep Stambaugh in mind. Great value & great basses.
  11. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    Out of curiousity....to those who play a 6 string bass, what kind of music do you play to where that high string is useful?

    Not knocking anything at all. I'm just looking at my own playing and at the kind of player I am. I don't know what I'd do with a higher string!

    Again, just curious.
  12. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    Chords, double and triple "stops", arpeggiating of chords. Very useful for quieter, melodic stuff, classical inspired stuff, filling in the sonic range when it's just you and a guitarist with very limited skills - did that at a church for 2 years. I'd go up neck and softly arpegiate the chords of a song they just did while the pastor prayed....was a very powerful effect, seemed to push the pastor to a whole different level and people always gave me ata-boys for it.

    Ironically I have one original rock song I can only play on my 5. I hit a double stop of low B 10th fret with G string 9th - schwinging to low B 10th with G 12th. I do the first double stop with just my index finger across all five strings. Can't do it on my 6 and moving down neck(toward tuners) and one string over is of no help as the frets are too far apart to do the same there. That is one of the major benefits of going up neck at times - frets are closer together.
  13. Sgroh87


    Dec 4, 2012
    DFW, Texas
    The thing you have to consider is that a high C string isn't just five more notes, it's five new notes and 18 more options. I use the C string for staying in the same position and moving across the neck instead of up and down it. A six can play two octaves and a third with no shifting while a four can only do an octave and a fourth. I use it for playing melodies, chords, and solos in a more comfortable range (the middle of the neck instead of up near the body). I use it a lot for classical solo pieces that require lots of shifting otherwise (there's a Bach Prelude my teacher had me working on for a while that would span from the fifth to the nineteenth fret on a four string, but I could stay in the ninth to fifteenth fret region, cutting my shifting in half. I also can do some cool droning stuff (for example, letting the D string ring and arpeggiating the chord on the C string; I play finger style so if I were to do that on the G, I'd have to be careful not to mute the lower string).

    I do feel that I'm a little bit slower than people on a four string because of the need to be more exact, but once I've found my spot I'm faster because I don't have to shift nearly as much.
  14. Wallace320

    Wallace320 Commercial User

    Mar 19, 2012
    Milan, Italy
    To reply to last posts, I'd go down my experience.

    As many of us over here, I got started a guitar player.

    But I was a kid in the '80s where flamboyancy and shred were up to date. So I sure wasn't on that level. Yet I wanted to gig
    and you know darn well ho easy is to get the gig to complete a bass lackin' band then go out there and play. So I did like that.

    I own a 2013 limited edition Btb 7 stringer and I use it like this:
    instead of keepin' usual by 4th progression on all strings, so that it should be strung like this B, E, A, D, G, C, F I instead tune it B, E, A, D, G, B, E = much like a 7 string guitar

    (actually A, D, G, C, F, A, D for my band plays a fullstep down)

    I'm awaitin' the new single cut Btb 6er to tune it like this:
    B, E, A, D, Gb, B = much like a 6 string baritone guitar

    (actually A, D, G, C, E, A for my band plays a fullstep down)

    In these very cases, you could follow harmony lines or dig into
    a solo, much like guitar fills, still keepin' the necessary lowend.

  15. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    ++ on the droning, forgot to mention that. I'm doing that on a new tune where I have my delay pedal set for 4 repeats - I wack an F twice at 6th fret B string, jump up to 17th fret on G string to arpeggio a "rain" effect - song is called Rain Down. Delay pedal keeps the F droning nicely until I come back to wack 2 quick Gs on the B string, back to rain making. Would get terribly messy and prone to muting accidents on fewer strings. Increased distance sometimes adds clarity to what you are doing. Like keeping a safe distance to the traffic ahead :cool:
  16. milo


    Jul 22, 2004
    I had 4 and 5 stringers in the past but if I made decision now I would go from 4 direct to 6
  17. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    While this post is full of sound advice, it yells at me to buy two Dingwalls to get started and that is way out of my league, financially speaking, at least for the next few years.
    I own a fanned fret fivestring that i actually bought because i was saving money to get a pre fire Dingwall prima 5 that sat used in a shop nearby. When i had the money, the Dingwall was gone. I will buy a Dingwall. I only need to figure out wether it'll be a 5er or a 6er.
    I can make the jump from 5 to 6 without problems, i played on 6ers occasionally and never had problems with the additional string.
    As i see it, it will give me more options. Not only will i have 4 additional notes under my fretting hand at any time, but also the possibility to move licks to lower neck positions and play them on thinner strings with a different sound.
    When going from 4 to 5, i never felt that i was missing out on anything, it just felt like pure progression. But with the high C string, i fear that due to the wider neck i might loose speed.

    That is why i am in this dilemma. I feel like i need to spend some time really getting into six strings before taking the leap and ordering an expensive custom instrument, but, being used to play high quality custom instruments, i might not settle for anything less.

    So to decide whether or not to buy a custom 6 string, i need to buy a custom six string.
  18. bassofthe


    Jun 5, 2011
    For what it's worth, that was not an issue for me. The wider neck of the sixer didn't slow me down at all. In fact, I found it easier to play than my old fiver (Ibanez BTB) in every possible way.

    And regarding "get both" - I ordered my second and third one and two years after the first, respectively. Nothing saying you need one of each now.

    But get the sixer first:bag:

    You might not even want a fiver after making yourself familiar with the sixer.
  19. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    Aug 11, 2012
    Upstate NY, USA
    Get a used Carvin, spend less coin, and end up with something that will give your custom a run for its money. :cool:
  20. Clef_de_fa


    Dec 25, 2011

    you know ... you can tap those notes on a 4 strings bass