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Last Minute Advise: 5 or 6 String Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassmanbob, Apr 9, 2003.

  1. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    I know this has been rehashed more than a few times, but I'm asking how I may figure out if I should get a 5 or a 6 string fretted bass.

    I'm going to buy a Roscoe SKB fretted bass (or order it) next Thursday. I have been flipping back and forth on either the 5 or 6 strings. Here is some of my info:
    1. I play mostly classic dancable rock, but my band is beginning to play some funk and current dancable music. I play mostly finger style and a little slap. I currently have a 4 fretted.
    2. I'm not much of a soloist, but I've been working on it more than ever. The band wants me to do a little more than I currently do.
    3. I do have small hands, but I've felt comfortable with the 6 stringed basses I've tried in stores-- but I've never played one for extended periods.

    My concerns: If I buy a 5, I'll wish I had the extra string to help me play in one position (or at least prevent me from running up and down the neck as frequently). If I buy a 6, I may never use the C string and it will just be another string to try to mute when I'm playing.

    One request: Please don't get into the 5 is better than 6, 6 is better than 5, or "Jaco only needed 4 strings" nonsense. I'm looking for a more objective response with the thought process behind it. Thank you in advance.
  2. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    Assuming you feel comfortable on a 6 I think you should get one. However, you really should go play one for an extended period of time to see if you like it or not. If you are comfortable on a 6, get one, as the worst thing that could happen is you don't use the C that much. If you get a five, then realize you want to use a high C, you will be kicking yourself. My two cents.
  3. I agree 100%.
    You'll use your C once you see how little you have to run up and down the neck, I reckon. I'm a sixer and I'm never goin' back!
  4. vanselus

    vanselus Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    I disagree, but only on the basis of my own experience - you may feel completely different. I had a Smith 6 & a Lawrence 6 fretless and realized that the C string just doesn't do anything for me. I have large hands and being a piano player for 25 years I have no problems with chords and things - but the reason I love bass is the low notes. Therefore the 6th string is just extra, once the novelty wore off, I rarely used it. I would strongly suggest NOT ordering that Roscoe until you know for sure - no reason blowing your wad on something that isn't exactly what you want. I would buy a cheaper used 6 first that you know you can sell for the same price you paid for it - that way you can give it a test without paying the premium (for a new bass).

    [and really, there's plenty of 5's and 6's that are Roscoes and used - why not save $1k and get one?]
  5. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    True, that is quite a bit of money to be spending on something you are not sure on. That is why you really should be sure before you buy.
  6. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    With regards to the high C... IMO its better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!!
  7. Seems like the 5 string is just for you, but take in count that if you already feel OK playing the 6 stringer, You will end up expanding your range further and your posibilities If you get it.
  8. Si-bob


    Jun 30, 2001
    Hemel Hempstead, UK
    Focusrite / Novation
    coming from a 5 stringer who's tryed a lot of 6er's my opinion is that 5's are more then enough for the average player. Any bass soloing that needs to be done can, on the most part, be performed on a 4/5 string, your only getting 5 extra notes on a 6 string!
    Also, on both 5 & 6 you'll have to allow time to adjust your technique, a lot more muting of the strings against sympathetic vibrations etc! and a 6 is a lot harder to do that then a 5.


    if your intersted in extended techniques such as monster tapping and chordal work, then get a 6/7 ;)
  9. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    I've owned a few 6ers and have always reverted back to 5. They are just "right" for the style of music I play. I found I seldom used the "C" string and spent more time muting it that using it.

    I hardly every needed a 1st position "D" or "E" and I am just more comfortable playing between the 12th and 17th frets as I was lower on the neck.

    I wish I had the time to dedicate to chording and solo techniques, in which I think a 6 would be more useful, but then I doubt I would have many opportunities to use them. Plus, there are only so many hours in a day and my practice time is spent leaning new songs and working on groove.

    The 5 just works best for me.

  10. Mike


    Sep 7, 2000
    I had a 6 for a few weeks. Great bass but I had very little use for the C and, consequently, it got very little use from me. I'm just 100% comfortable with 5's. That's the limit for me. 6's and up are fine for those who enjoy them. However, what I dug most about jumping from 4's to 5's were the additional low notes and previously unhad positions. I'm cool with 5's for good. I can't even play a 4 anymore. I mistake the D for the A and hit every wrong note possible on every other string. Brutal.
  11. herrera


    Feb 15, 2002
    5 strings 26 frets ...i thik i got it all!
  12. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    a 6 string bass does not it a better instrument to solo on. Nor does it make a better funk bass. I am in a funk band and we play plenty of groove filled dancelike music and I only use my Elrick 5-string.... and when I solo I never wish I had that extra hich-c string...

    That said I have nothing against six string basses, if it feels right to you and its what you think you want, then you should go for it..
  13. Aram


    Feb 2, 2003
    New York, NY

    One thing to think about with a 6-string is the spacing. If you're going to slap a lot, you're going to need a decent amt of between-string spacing, and if it's a narrow 6, the C might get in the way when you're trying to pop the G, etc...My current 6 string is too narrow for me to slap well, but I'm having one made with much wider spacing to make it a little easier.

    That being said, I find I use the C-string quite a bit for bass lines, and to fill out chords when the guitarist is soloing (the band is R&B/rock [with a little funk]). Not to say some of them couldn't be done on a 4 or 5-string, but it would involve more shifting.

    Another thing I love about the C string is the timbre of the notes (as opposed to the same notes played high on the G string). In the lower positions on the C, the notes come out snappy -- whereas in the high positions on the G they're a bit more mellow. Neither way is better or worse, they just offer different tonal qualities (IMO).
  14. Snoopy says - get the 5. If you're on the high-C string, you're no longer playing "bass".

  15. Bob -



    I'm with Prog: Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

    The Roscoe 6's play great, as do the 5's - of course you already know that! You can't make a bad choice here...

    ...look forward to hearing from you!

  16. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    Thanks guys for your input so far. I went to the local Guitar Center to try a few basses, but they didn't have any 6s. I didn't care much for the few 5s they had too.

    Next time I try a 6 will be on Thursday next week when I'm planning on visiting the boys in Orlando. It's pretty definite that that's the day I put some money on whatever I'm getting. I got the OK from my accountant and my wife. Now I don't have to fight with anyone for this purchase. Gard, I'll see you then.

    No more input from you Gard. I want to hear what everyone else is saying. I'll get your input in person next week. BTW... canolli, cookies, or pastery? You guys are too skinny.

    Thanks guys, and keep your opinions flowing.
  17. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    I really haven't noticed a big difference in muting strings from sympathetic/unintentional vibrations between a 5 and a 6.

    I also don't think that there is really that big of a difference, provided that they are both comfortable to you. A wide, thin neck feels very comfortable to me, and my 6 is the most comfortable bass I have played.

    It is really personal preference. If one is more comfortable than the other to you, I would go for comfort. If they are equally comfortable, tough choice. I would go with what Progzilla and Gard said on that.

    As for slapping... I haven't had any troubles popping the G with a high C. I don't have problems popping the D either. This is probably more a function of string spacing and your specific technique than the number of strings.

  18. Aram


    Feb 2, 2003
    New York, NY
    so true -- narrow spacing and crappy technique make my popping really atrocious :bawl:

    I agree about the wide, thin neck too -- my new bass is going to have those specs. Now to work on that technique........
  19. Excellent, look forward to seein' ya! :D


    Meanie! :p

    You're forgiven: Canolli! :D

    Although I'd argue with the "too skinny" comment! I'm a fat bastid! :eek: Hopper & Perry though, those guys need canolli, good wind'll blow 'em away!
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    5 is perfect for me. I've played some very nice sixes ranging from Yamaha to Pedulla, but I haven't found a C string I liked and I simply don't need one regardless. Also, with a six, either the neck is too wide or string spacing too narrow.

    But that's just me... YMMV. If you've got your heart set on soloing, 6 might be better.

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