I hate it, but it makes me a better player

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by LBS-bass, May 25, 2021.

  1. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    I have been playing my 5-strings a lot recently, because I'm learning repertoire for a band that has some songs that need it. I struggle with the size of the neck, the string placement, pretty much everything. Even when I put my favorite low-tension strings on the fiver, it doesn't feel like "home" to me and I have to work hard to get anything close to what I want from it.

    Recently I realized that there are only a few songs in that repertoire that absolutely demand the fiver. So last rehearsal I took my favorite 4 string and brought the fiver for those few songs. The 4 string feels like a toy at this point. It's so easy to play that it's comical. So, yeah, I hate playing the fiver, but it makes me a better player.

    I'm sure we can say this about a lot of things we do, like scales and arpeggios. Ultimately the proof of the worth of something is in the pudding, I guess. I should still play through that repertoire on the fiver, but I don't wanna :)
  2. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Sounds to me like you haven't got a problem with 5 string basses, just a problem with that 5 string bass!

    Find another one that suits you and move on.
  3. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    As a doubler I can make a similar comparison between double bass and electric bass. I am a much better electric bass player than I am a double bass player, in part because of the comparative ease of playing electric after wood shedding on double bass.

    I am reminded of my time on the swim team in high school when coach had us swim distances wearing sweats, followed by sprints wearing Speedos.
  4. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    if I were to hold my hand against yours to compare size, it’d be more clear why this is likely a matter of physical limitation. I own two fivers, one has a very slim neck profile, but I still find it laborious to play, even after extensive practice. Conclusion is that I’ll play it when I have to but I’m not interested in compromising my chops otherwise.
    Mikey58 and JMacBass65 like this.
  5. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    Same feeling for me when I switch between my P Bass and my Sire V7. The Sire neck feels like a damn toothpick. Playing the P makes my left hand position better on the Sire. Never played a five string but I'm sure it would make the P bass neck feel slim :)
    LBS-bass likes this.
  6. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Yeah, my slim-necked fiver is a Sire and I don't think you can get much smaller unless you go with a really narrow string spacing, like an Ibby. I didn't like the feel of that when I played one, so sort of stuck here.

    I also have a bit of arthritis and stiffness in my hands. Maybe I could have mastered it more easily if I'd started with it at 19, like I did with the four string. But, being in my 60's, I have lowered my personal expectations.
    Jim Kernan likes this.
  7. Playing Fretless bass has really helped my fretted bass playing.
  8. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    I've been thinking about fretless, but I'm concerned it'll take away my focus on fretted. I still have a long way to go on fretted. How do you balance the two?
  9. I had plenty of free time when I was 18yrs old.
    Yonni, SteveCS and WrapRough like this.
  10. WrapRough


    Jan 26, 2021
    Yeah, good times my man, good times. Nowadays I can't even go toilet in peace!
    Yonni, RyanKinBK, fat_nermil and 3 others like this.
  11. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i practice things i'm not crazy about --- just for maintenance. :D i get a tiny bit of the OP's experience just by playing different neck profiles, but i realize that's not the same as a 5th string and the neck/fingerboard that it takes to accommodate it.

    i was the opposite --- and then some: fretted was always a chore...i went to fretless only = what a relief! :laugh:

    try fretless, wraprough, you may be one who decides you don't need a fretted bass in your life! ;) or, like @Groove Doctor, a fretless may help you on your fretted!
    Yonni, SteveCS, 12BitSlab and 4 others like this.
  12. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    Stick with it, and you'll get there. My first 2 attempts to get into 5's didn't click with me. The 3rd time, I really buckled down.....success! Now I play 5's 90% of the time. I still pick up my 4 every week or 2 just to keep my brain conditioned. I can go back and forth with no problem. Maybe stick to a 5 exclusively for a few weeks? If I can do it, anyone can! BTW, I'm 5'7" and have small hands. I have wide neck 5's. Good luck!
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
  13. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Thanks. I bought them a couple of years ago to learn repertoire for a recording artist I was hired to back. I got good enough to do the work; it's just not the tool I'd prefer to use if it isn't needed!
    mikewalker and Joedog like this.
  14. BassFalcon


    Nov 18, 2020
    Is stringing a 4 string BEAD an option for you? If you can get by without the few notes on a G-string not available elsewhere on the neck, that may be a viable option for you. You keep the 4-string “form factor” but you gain the lower range of the 5.
  15. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    Yer not alone there... my fiver lasted one show (and I only used it for the two songs that needed it). Sold it right away - "didn't bond" was a colossal understatement!
    PS: Some 30+ years ago I built a 30 inch scale 4-string tuned to BEAD and it was extremely serviceable. If I ever want those low notes again, that's what I shall do again :)
    LBS-bass likes this.
  16. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    It's possible. I'm ok with swapping out for a few songs, though. It's not that I am awful on it, it just doesn't feel like home to me and I always feel like it's a bit of a struggle. Not as much fun for me.
    woodyng2, BassFalcon and Bunk McNulty like this.
  17. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    At least you got it to work! I tried four times over the years to make friends with a fiver. I have given up. Too big, too heavy, and in the end, too frustrating. Just couldn’t get the hang of it, not even after trying your solution of only playing it when you need to!
    JRA and LBS-bass like this.
  18. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    my experience with frets --- i'm actually not that bad with it...but it's not a fun playdown!
    red_bassist, Blueinred and LBS-bass like this.
  19. Peteyboy


    Apr 2, 2018
    Los Angeles
    I have never even picked one of these up. Not for or against, just admittedly ignorant. What are some examples of songs that are better served by a 5 string?
    12BitSlab likes this.
  20. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Just about anything that was originally played in Eb, unless the singer wants to modulate up. So that could be Superstition, Black Velvet (originally keys, has a bunch of unnatural runs in it for bass guitar, which adds contortionist fun to the mix) and so forth. I am also learning this one which has a prominent part with a low D and lower at certain points.

    Lots of more modern songs use the lower notes, and especially modern country songs. I don't recall what songs they were but I auditioned for a modern country band a couple of years ago and almost every song was a fiver song. Some of it you can transpose up but sometimes you need that low end power.
    Last edited: May 25, 2021
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