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Is there that much of a difference between a 4 and a 5 string?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Zoroaster03, May 12, 2003.

  1. I may be hashing up an old thread here, but I'm curious as to why there is so much difference (or why people' opinions vary so) between a four and a five-stringed bass.

    Feel free to post links, too :smug:
  2. yoshi


    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    I used to have a 5 string, a few months after I started. I never used the B string, and eventually sold it.

    However, now that I've started playing some harder stuff in my band, a 5 string would be handy regarding left hand movemnt for example one riff has a C to a G on the E string (8 to 3) which slows things down for me a bit as the guitarists have small frets to jump from when making such riffs. If I were on a five string I could just take it up to the G on the B string (fret 8) then go back to what I was doing a lot more fluently.

    Another factor why I sold it was because it wasnt as good to lsap on in my view. Now, I rarely play slap, and it wouldnt suit our music style at all.

    I suppose it's all down to how your going to use it really.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    So we have two questions here :

    1) Why is there so much difference between 4 and 5 stringed basses?

    2)Why do people's opinions vary so much about 4 and 5 string basses - well that's how I read it it but it's not very clear?

    So to answer :

    1) The 4 string bass was a happy accident made by Leo Fender playing about with and researching different configurations, then finding one that worked.

    Just adding a 5th string changes the equation - pickups don't work so well for thicker string, headstock is heavier - possible 'neck-dive' - how wide do you make the neck? Etc Etc.

    So really you have to re-design the whole instrument to make it work as well.

    2) People are people!! ;)
  4. Good on you, Mr Lindfield. I would have never thought of that other question!

    I was really only asking because I had played fivers in the shops (spent ages in them playing, so I can't be classed as someone who knows what they're talking about after half an hour) but I never really got used to them - i would love to play with the lower range, but I do really well with just a four, and as the old saying goes:

    "Jaco only needed four strings."

    But then I thought of JT, and I thought it would be better to rephrase my question.

    Hope this clears it up for future posters. :smug:
  5. rumblethump

    rumblethump Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2000
    Pioneer CA. 95666
    We are BASS players. Those 5 extra low notes when used tastefully are the bomb. The advantage to the 5 string is also 2 full octaves within 4 frets. I still play both 4s and 5s but the 5 string get most of the playing time. I have very small hands and the narrow spacing on my LB 75 has fit my playing style perfectly. YMMV
  6. I used to be a die hard 4 sting guy. I wanted a 5er just for the sake of having one. Now, it's my 4 bangers that stay in their cases most of the time. It took about a year and a half, but, now when I play a 4 I feel as though it's not complete.

    Once you start using those low notes on the B string you'll be hooked. ;)

  7. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I'm REALLY glad I have a bass extender.

    I love 4s...apart from a double neck 6 string hyper bass, I don't want anything else.

    and having the Drop-d switch really helps to satisfy any desire for lower than E notes.
  8. Cheers guys.

    I have small hands (I'm a small woman, but great things come in small packages.... unless you've just bought a bass....) so playing with the extra width is a little hard. but, like you guys said, it does take getting used to. I respect that.

    WR - what's a bass extender? I've never heard of one before.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I don't think hand size comes into it - I had lessons with a Jazz pro player, who leads his own bands and he could play some amazing stuff - he played 5 string all the time and played lead,chords, basslines that were incredibly intricate and complex at breakneck speed, and was jaw-dropping when I've seen him live at gigs.

    But when we had a one-to-one lesson, the immediately noticable thing was that his hands were about half the size of mine - yet I could play a fraction as well as him!! :meh:
  10. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Jaco only needed four strings, eh? Are you Jaco? Can you come anywhere close to his skill? Can any of us come close to his skill? And nobody needs a five or a sixer (or in some cases, 7s or 8s) but it can help contribute to the sound. It allows a much wider range, makes playing songs that crawl up and down the fretboard (read: Flea) easier, and like it's been said before -- three octaves in the first few frets. Six strings and above also makes things like tapping -- wait, nevermind, Jaco didn't need tapping. Let's all follow Jaco to the letter! Let's never get any kind of original tone because Jaco had a perfect one!


    Ugh. Don't do what Jaco did. Don't try to be Jaco, be yourself. No one's going to light the bass world on fire because they're so much like Jaco, because Jaco already did it with his playing...not yours. Maybe if you get an original tone and become good enough, you could light the bass world on fire with your own, original playing...but not Jaco's. It's his, not yours. Don't try to take it.

  11. *flush* there goes this thread right down the toilet for any further discussion, that just summed up almost every single "bass style" post around here, loved it.
  12. bassmonkeee


    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    Um....Miss the point much? :rolleyes:
  13. Please, don't stay down there too long, though... There's still 4 other strings! :)
  14. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    I'd like those extra low notes if I played in a loud guitar band but in all other situations I find low E plenty low enough for me, plus I don't appreciate the extra neck width of a 5. Also, I'm pretty quick at getting from top to bottom of the neck and from a purely visual perspective that amount of movement makes the bassist more noticeable which I like :)

    The 4 vs 5 argument is totally subjective - ultimately it comes down to whether or not you consider being able to play more notes without shifting more important than having a slim neck.


    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Supporting Member

    Does anyone play past the 12 fret on their low B, I have found it very hard to intonate correctly on the B.
  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I do - quite often, I like the rounder sound higher up the low strings.

    But I think that it was mentioned in the articles about designing the Roscoe Beck signature bass how hard it was to get a 5-string that intonated higher up the neck - to do with the mass of the thicker B string and the power of the magnets needed in the pickups - so these end up pulling the string out of intonation.

    That's one of the reasons why I said about a 5-string needing to be a complete re-design and not just a 4 with a wider neck!!
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    After using 4-strings equipped with Hipshot Extenders for over 15 years I switched to 5-string in Y2K and have only played 4-string when no fiver was available. As I've said many times, I wish 5-string was a realistic option back when I started. Hipshot extenders do work great but they're extremely limited, especially compared to a fiver.
  18. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    Bass extenders(for any that don't know)

    are switches that attach to your tuning machine, and will drop the tuning to a preset of your choice(it has a dial that you turn to adjust how much it drops)

    mine goes from E to D, and when I want lower I just crank the tuning peg a little down to a C.

    granted I don't get to B, It's still enough to satisfy me.

  19. I use a 5 string because It was what I learned to play on. Back when I started playing in the Marching band, Our music would require the B in every song I played. So I got a five string and never went back to the 4 string. I like the extra width of the Fretboard and I enjoy the fact that I can go lower than E when Im playing something heavy. But, Its all a matter of personal choice and Music preferences.

  20. Harsh, dood.

    I never said I wanted to be Jaco. Nor did I imply that. Jaco's style's his own, and I respect that.

    I don't want to take this further in the thread; PM me if you disagree.

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