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Is it "cooler" to play a 4 string bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by phillipkregg, Jun 9, 2018.

  1. So I've played 5 strings for years and have about 6 of those basses sitting in my living room right now. But I just bought a nice Fender P bass with flats from the classifieds last night because of what I'm starting to notice.

    Over the past few years I've seen a lot of "cool" young bands seem to only have bassists with 4 stringers. I know that "cool" is totally subjective, but they're usually bands that stir up a good bit of publicity in the pop and indie rock worlds.

    Bands like...

    Vulfpeck with Joe Dart. He always has a variety of basses, but they are only 4 strings:

    Michael League of Snarky Puppy is almost always seen with one of his classic P basses:

    The band Pomplamoose:

    The 1975:

    Greta Van Fleet:

    Even the brilliant music educator Adam Neely has switched over to a 4 string P bass with flats:

    Of course, these are just a handful of modern bands and players. We could make a list miles long of all the bands that have 4 string bassists.

    I primarily play 5 strings and my jazz ensembles band leader constantly rags on me for having a 5 string bass. There are of course, lots of cats in Nashville who play 5 and 6 string basses, but the trend seems to be toward playing a 4 string P bass with flats.

    A few months ago I even went out and got a Fender American Pro 5 string and put Chromes on it. I love the bass, but I still get strange looks from people. It's hard to believe that in the year 2018 there seems to be a bias against bassists with multiple strings. You saw them everywhere in the 80s and 90s, but nowadays you seem to only see extended range basses in the Jazz/Fusion world, Gospel, and in Metal bands. Hardly ever do you see them on a stage with a band that's considered "modern" and "cool".

    So is it just me, or is anyone else noticing a trending bias against extended range basses in favor of the 4 string? Even more interestingly, do you feel that bringing more than 4 strings to an audition might cost you the gig?
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2018
  2. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    If you feel you have to check what others are doing/playing to see if you are "cool", the answer is probably not.
    Geri O, chadds, patrickj and 78 others like this.
  3. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    I've never understood why people care about the strings I don't use...
    I could possibly use a BEAD 4 - but sometimes I find myself up on the G.
    C is just there 'for future expansion.'
    I can't afford a lot of basses, so I bought 2 that will cover everything I expect to encounter.
    So far it's mostly working, except for a couple of guys I play with who seem to think they deserve a say in my instrument choice.
    Interestingly, I don't see them ragging on the keys player for bringing 88 when arguably 64 is plenty...
  4. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Meh. If the number of strings on a bass dictates whether I’m cool or not, I’ll choose not, and play whatever the hell i’m comfortable playing.
    gebass6, blend120, T-Funk and 54 others like this.
  5. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Got it, jeez!
    twinjet, TH63, candiehappy and 4 others like this.
  6. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    The coolest bass ever is a single string washtub, so the logic follows.
  7. Herrick


    Jul 21, 2010
    Munchkin Land
    I don't know about those other bands (can't watch the videos because I'm at work) but Greta Van Fleet is trying to be like Led Zeppelin so it wouldn't make sense for their bassist to play something with more than four strings.
    PTS74, Novarocker, Fuzzbass and 4 others like this.
  8. As far as I'm concerned, being a bass player is what's cool in and of itself. :thumbsup:

    I don't care how many strings.
    zZippy, 928cat, blend120 and 61 others like this.
  9. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    prooftheory, Selios, JRA and 6 others like this.
  10. Unless someone starts paying for my music gear, I have no interest in their opinion. Until such a time, and I have no reason to expect it, I will play whatever I wish.
  11. When were 4 strings out of fashion ?
  12. EatS1stBassist


    Apr 15, 2016
    So cal
    Less has always been more
  13. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    I play one.
    Not everyone is me, of course, so…
    fretlessguy and Spidey2112 like this.
  14. bobba66


    May 18, 2006
    Arlington, Texas
    Much cooler to play 4-string.:woot:
    Staccato likes this.
  15. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    Except for when less has actually been less.
  16. oMetaloHead


    Jul 9, 2013
    I won't say 4 is cooler than 5 or vice versa, but I will say 6+ are a drastic step down
  17. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    My apologies....my PC somehow shifted into "repeat mode" for some unknown reason. Kind of like watching the movie Groundhog Day, over and over! Not intentional!
  18. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    Personally, I think 4 strings look cooler.

    For better or worse, I associate 5 and 6 string basses with music that I don't like.

    As an earlier post asked, when were 4 strings ever out of style or not considered cool?
  19. bluesblaster


    Jan 2, 2008
    Define "cool" , I don't know if its cooler to play a 4 than say a 5,6,7 or whatever. I just watched a demo with Tom Petersen of Cheap Trick with his Gretsch 12 string bass, that thing sounds huge.......and pretty cool.

    I guess whatever works for you , make that cool.

    I always thought passive 4 strings sounded much punchier than ERB's with on board electronics anyway.
  20. Meh.

    I think it depends mostly on what style you play, much more than about "cool" or "not cool". The 4-string bass is simply a better fit for a vast majority of players / bands / genres, that's why you see much more of them IMO.

    I bought my first good bass in the late '90s, and it seemed like everyone was getting 5-string basses back then. I listened and played alternative rock and metal at that time and I made use the low-B somewhat frequently.

    Now my interest has shifted mostly to jazz and funk and I find the 4 string to be a much better fit for what I do these days. I find that having only 4 strings "forces" me to use the entire fingerboard in a more creative way, which has lead me to better, more interesting basslines.

    I still have my 5-string, though.
    MarkA, Inara, Commreman and 15 others like this.

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