Is it okay to begin bass study with a 5 string? Please advise...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by fLaT-fIfTh, Dec 20, 2004.

  1. fLaT-fIfTh


    Dec 20, 2004
    Producer: GospelChops Inc.
    First off, I'm not new to music. I'm just new to bass. I am fairly experienced on keys and I am comfortable with theory.
    Fortunately, I can buy a quality bass (Warwick Corvette or Thumb :hyper: ) and I don't want to have to upgrade later.

    Is it too difficult to begin with a 5 string? Am I making a stupid decision? All opinions/experiences will be appreciated from newbies and vets. Thanks!
  2. Minger


    Mar 15, 2004
    Rochester, NY
    Yes its ok.

    Just don't think 5 strings is necessarily better than 4...
  3. fLaT-fIfTh


    Dec 20, 2004
    Producer: GospelChops Inc.
    Thanks a lot! That's EXACTLY what I was thinking. :confused: Please explain...
  4. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    A friend of mine is starting with a fiver. Definitely go for it -- fives are becoming the new standard, so...why not? :)
  5. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    More is not always better. ;)

    If you string a 5 stringer BEADG, then in reality you only gain 5 notes when compared to a 4 string bass strung EADG. Also, many 4 string basses come with a D-Tuner which allows you to drop the E to a D, reducing the difference to 4 notes.

    Of course, things are more complicated than this; extended notes under your fingers if playing on the B string gives you more range because of the 5th string, for example. But, you pay for this convenience by playing on a wider neck, or playing a longer scale neck which can make playing the lower frets using one finger per fret more difficult than it would be on a 4 string.

    I have both 4 and 5 string basses and I feel they each have their uses, but I certainly wouldn't say one is better than the other. If that were true, why would 4 string basses even continue to be made? Also, why stop at 5 strings? If 5 strings are good, 11 must be the ultimate in bassy goodness, right?

    I'm not dissin' your desire to start out on a 5 string, please don't take my post as such. I'm just saying that 5 string basses aren't inherently better or worse than a 4 string (or 6 or 12 or...). If you want to start on a 5 string then go for it! Instruments are a personal choice and you should get what's right for you.
  6. if you can go to some music shops and just try out a few 4, 5, and maybe even 6 strings and decide afterwards. It really doesn't matter much what you start on. And if you know that you want to play 5 strings in the future there is no reason not to start with them directly.
  7. EricTheEZ1


    Nov 23, 2004
    Clawson, MI
    If you're into having a 5-string, you might as well start learning on one. It'll be easier for you then to learn 5 string after having a 4 banger for a long time. I was playing a Tobias 5 at a Guitar Center for a while and when I went home I forgot that I didn't have that Low B to go down to. This is after playing 4 string exclusively.

    I've found that a 5 string is definetly up my alley and I don't think I'll have too much trouble adjusting for a 5 string. Just keep in mind what you're going to use that Low B/High C for and if you really need it.

    Wooten uses 4s. ;)

  8. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    I started on 5 string after playing 4 for about 12 years, so I have no personal experience of beginning on a 5... but I don't see any problem...

    it's just that you have a bit more to think about because even when you go down just 3/4 semitones from the low E, those notes function in a completely different way and you have to take even more care how you use them.. (they give you a nice 'whooomph' of power but they're sometimes hard for the ear to pick out the actual note)

    but the fact that E is the lowest note on a standard bass guitar is probably fairly arbitrary... because it evolved from a centuries-old instrument that was maybe technically limited from going much lower... in fact the lowest note of the double bass might have been a 'C' if possible, so it could double the cello (I'm guessing here of course)

    the other perspective is.. why would would you want to lose 4 notes from your range by choosing a 4 over a 5?? I use my 4 for gigs but that's only because the music doesn't need those low notes, but for modern rock music etc, I'd use the 5... if the music you want to play requires those low notes, get a 5 :)

    and you're right to buy the best quality bass you can afford
  9. christoph h.

    christoph h.

    Mar 26, 2001
    i started on a fiver and had no problems at all.
  10. Guiseppe


    Oct 26, 2003
    Vancouver, WA
    I bought my first 5 a few months ago, and I'm not using my B nearly as much as I anticipated...I use that additional headroom to accent the bottom end (IMHO I don't find players who live on the B all that innovative, and a lot of the time unless they have good rigs they just sound muddy anyway). I often use the B to play an additional 5th or octave to fill a register; all things being equal, I have noticed that I am a lot better in my muting technique on account of having the B there.
  11. pontz


    Oct 31, 2003
    I started to get the itch for a 5er about 2 years after I started to play bass. Then one night I went to see a local band with Dave Overthrow on bass. I knew he was a bad ass, because I'd taken a few lessons from him and he's got a bunch of books out, but I never heard him play much.

    When I saw him play I was astounded, more so than I was by Les, Lesh, Porter, maybe even Oteil (my personal fav.). And he did it all on 4 strings.

    I'm not knocking 5 strings, or even 6, but I realized that night that I had a life-time of work to do on my 4 string and decided not to buy a 5 (so I'm dreaming of a fretless 4 instead). My qestion is, other than a slightly extended range, what's the advantage of a low B?


  12. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    erm.. you have somewhere to rest your thumb :)

    and you also have 2 octaves worth of notes under your left hand.. so you can sometimes play a line easier than if you had to do it on a 4 string
  13. Lewis7789


    Sep 17, 2004
    Akron, Ohio USA
    Sales; ClearSonic Mfg.
    I figure it would be easier to start with a 4 string for the simple fact that most instruction books, cd's and cd-roms are used with a 4 string. But you have very good point about buying a quality bass now to start with. Most cats are playing 5 string basses now, as noted before. It's more of a standard for a bassist to have at least one 5'er. But it also depends on what kind of music you anticipate to play. If you're playing with a keyboardist or drop-D guitarist, you'd want a 5'er. But I've just got two 4 stringers, though I do miss my 6'er...

    You can start on a nice 4 stringer and pick up a 5 string later on down the road? I think most guys have a good 4 string slapper, then a 5 string for everything else.
  14. RicPlaya


    Apr 22, 2003
    Whitmoretucky MI
    I own both 4's and 5's. I started learning on both at the same time. I own a 4 and 5 of the same bass, same model, same electronics etc. all I can tell you is the 5 string sounds huge compared to the four and it's the exact same bass just with an extra string. Maybe it's the bigger neck, but my E soundsawesome and my B is just sick. Go for it!
  15. Guiseppe


    Oct 26, 2003
    Vancouver, WA
  16. tucker

    tucker Guest

    Jan 21, 2001
    North Carolina
    whats the advantage of a B string? There are many. Its not just octaves or to fill in the register or my fav. thumb rest. The advantage is to play in one position without having to move all around the fretboard. I learned on a four and my bass teacher at the time had a 5 fretless. He played in the first position( i didnt know it then) and played a flurry of notes without even movingtoo much. Then looks at me and said it might be intimidating to look or even play a bass with more than 4 strings but the reason why i choose this is because i can play without making much of an effort. when i have to move to higher notes or lower notes depending my position i just shift. and it makes things really easy. therefore making the bass easier to play seeing that the necks are huge when they get bigger. you dont see oteil just playing on one string. all the guys that have 5s and up can play complicated, fast, jumpy whatever lines with ease. but go ahead 5's are fun. oh yeah who ever said wooten uses 4s lied. he plays 5s as well.
  17. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Well, clearly they didn't lie, because he DOES use 4's. Yeah, he uses five (and IIRC, even has a couple sixes) but he's still known for his work on fretted 4 strings.
  18. fLaT-fIfTh


    Dec 20, 2004
    Producer: GospelChops Inc.
    EXACTLY! Thanks for all of your posts! I took the plunge! I've had my fiver for two days, started learning scales, and it's great to have two octaves in one position. Of course I can't apply it yet after only 2 days, but I do at least SEE it. :hyper:

    Thanks TB! I'm on my way! :bassist:
  19. tucker

    tucker Guest

    Jan 21, 2001
    North Carolina
    no problem flat fifth, govithoy i didnt mean that they deliberatly lied, he should of just said he mainly uses 4s. thats like me telling you chicken is great, its great with bbq sauce too but i'd prefer plain ol' chicken.