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Is a 5-string necesary?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by KrazyB, Mar 7, 2005.

  1. KrazyB


    Jan 31, 2004
    I am in a project that tunes to B. Now the natural thing to do would be to go with the 5-string. But I am not a fan of trying to thump that fast on the thicker string. Is there anything I or a professional can do to the bridge of a 4-string that will get the E tuned down to a B that responds just fine? should I just tune it down and lose some of the sustain or just keep with the 5??
  2. To tune a string the thickness of your E string down to B would probably make it very sloppy. Obviously lengthening the scale would make it tighter but just moving or altering your bridge would cause your frets (if its fretted) to be "off".

    Another suggestion would be to just re-string your 4 string with the lowest strings of a 5 string package of strings and tune it BEAD (instead of EADG)
  3. Hofbrauhaus


    Feb 10, 2002
    Upton, MA
    Hmm, if I was in your situation I would tune the 4-string BEAD, but use lighter gauge strings (maybe a .120 for the B) if you don't want to thump on a much thicker string than you're accustomed to. Maybe I'm just stating the obvious, but that's what I'd do!
  4. RockBass


    Mar 6, 2005
    South Florida
    Instead of restringing or tuning down, isn't there some way to adjust the tone coming out of the guitar?

    A = 440 Hz right?

    so E = some fixed value. And so does B.

    So couldn't you add some simple circuitry with an ON/OFF switch that would lower your sound on your strings from EADG to BEAD?

    Drop all freqs by a finite amount (necessary to get E to sound like B) across the board. This means you lose the G string, but I'd rather do that than restring or retune.

    Flip of a switch. ;)
  5. Nadav


    Nov 13, 2004
    Atlanta, GA
    Or use a Hipshot detuner - http://www.hipshotproducts.com/xtenders.htm.
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Sounds like what an octaver or a pitch shifter does-it's tough to get your tone to sound unaffected when you use them though.
  7. The Clap

    The Clap

    Jan 5, 2004
    Scottsdale, AZ
    If it worked like that, you wouldn't have to learn things in different keys. Simply knowing that E=41hz doesn't really tell you much about what sound is coming out of a bass playing that note.
  8. i would recomend restringing and tunning BEAD i did that before i could afford my 5-string, just make sure u adjust the setup
  9. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    i would say get a 5 and if you dont like the b string, mabey a higher gauge(spelling?)
  10. Craigle

    Craigle "Careful with that joke, it's an antique!"

    Mar 10, 2004
    New Orleans, Louisiana
    In my old band, I had to tune to C on my bass. At the time, I had a 5-string, but the nut was broken at the fifth string (don't know how the P.O. did that), so I just detuned one of the E-strings to a C.

    That was the most ungodly floppy string I have ever played!! I absolutely hated it, and I got almost no tone out of my bass strung like that. Of course, I was using a standard E string to do this.

    My advice would be to either use a B string from a 5-string pack, or invest in an actual 5-string bass. Trust me, you'll get used to playing on the thicker string.

    Needless to say I don't recomend just dropping your E string down to a B. Not that it'll hurt anything, I just hated the tone I got (my guitarist loved it, he thought it sounded like a built in distortion...go figure).

  11. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Man up and get the Five string, the E string is not going to sound that hot flapping around and sticking to your pick-up (which is what is going to happen if you try to tune it down that low). You need to be comfortable thumping on big strings, your a bass player and that is your job!!
  12. DiazRomero


    Jun 25, 2004
    Moss Beach, CA
    Go for the 5 string. Once you get accustommed to it you'll see a whole new realm of possibilities. Try a few out before you buy one to make sure the B string isn't sloppy. :bassist:
  13. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    If you really don't want to play a 5 setting up a 4 string for bariton tuning only takes about an hour. You will need to move up to a heavier gauge string, I would say at least .115. You will also need a full setup by either yourself or a good tech. It helps if your bass has a 35 inch scale too.
  14. Word.

    I always thought tuning down the E string to get lower notes is like flying a small airplane and adding sheets of metal to the ends of the wings, rather than just flying a bigger plane.

    Man, I can't believe how some people are so 5-string Phobic. It's as if some 4-string players think the fretboard is as wide as a Chapman Freaking Stick or the "B" string creates a whole different fingering paradigm to them. PUH-LEASE! Everything's in 4ths! FIVE STRING IS EASY!!!!
  15. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Four strings were enough for Jaco. Four strings are enough for DB players in a symphony orchestra. E is low enough for anyone. 4 strings are enough for anyone.

    I'm half-kidding, but isn't it the case that since the 50's people have made fantastic music with bass guitars without feeling a need for 5 strings (or 6, or 7....)? To me, the beauty of a bass is it's simplicity. I don't see too many people raving about 5 string violins or 7 string guitars. Are bassists who want 5+ strings somehow frustrated by their chosen instrument? Or is it a fashion thing, maybe? I don't know... I've toyed with the idea of a 5 string myself, but never really gone for it. What do you people think? I'm sure somebody must have done a 4 vs. 5 poll on TB... what was the verdict?
  16. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Whether or not you agree, the original poster asked a specific question. I also don't see the need for a B string, but here is my suggestion:

    A typical E string won't go low enough for you. You can go with a light gauge 5 string set with a B string. It won't be as thin as your E string, but it might feel acceptable to you.

    All in all, probably buying a 5-string is the answer, but I wouldn't do it unless you see yourself playing 5-string a year from now.
  17. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Actually, 5 strings or string extensions are common place or even required in many orchestral bass situations. This not due to "new" music, many "classical" pieces require use of this lower register, Wagner, Schumann and many many more. Bach's many works on organ make extensive use of LOW notes that will put any Hi Fi system to the test. Low notes are not a new thing, the technology to effectively reproduce them.....getting better all the time!! I still hear people KILLING with 4 strings, and I can't say that I hear anything missing, but for me, I camp out in the cellar...
  18. Kazuki


    Aug 14, 2004
    The old school v.s. Extended range is slippery terrain, indeed. It broke into fights before, so we better not go there :) People have their reasons for wanting the particular instrument they have, and I think any musician should be able to respect that.

    As for the question at hand, well, it it is the number of strings that is a problem, then yes, it is possible to tune to BEAD and have the same number of strings with access to the lower register of a five. However, if it is the SIZE that is the problem, it becomes a less viable option...

    As people said, to get a good tone out of the B string, you would need to use the bigger gauges (I would say .115 as a minimum, but anywhere from .120 to .130 would be preferable - mind you, this is my own unprofessional and very humble opinion) . You would aslo have to take into account that depending on the bass, a tune up would probably be required to make sure the string fits (especially in your nut) and has the right tension (a strange fact, but higher gauges B strings usually exert less pressure on the neck than the E string). You might want to intonate too, if you want to use this tuning a lot.

    It might sound like a bit of work, but it can be done - professionally, if my memory is correct, Justin Chancellor from Tool used the BEAD tuning frequently. It's all a matter of what feel you want, in the end... Although I fear to get a good tone from a low B, higher gauges a pretty much unavoidable, IMO :/

    Hope this helps...
  19. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I have much respect and hope anyone didn't feel ANY lacking from me. What I am saying is Extended range IS old school!!
    A great part of western tonal harmony evolved with this sonic range as it's foundation.
  20. Kazuki


    Aug 14, 2004
    Oh yeah, I wasn't referring to your opinion, which I think brings a very valid point :)

    I love the extended low range, so I'm biased, hehe. :ninja: