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Learned to play 5 string, wound up hating it

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dbd1963, Jul 20, 2012.

  1. dbd1963


    May 18, 2010
    Northern Virginia
    Let me modify that a bit - I loved the feel of the 5 string, which for me was a German made Warwick Corvette. That neck is something to admire, for sure.

    And once I got used to the low B string, it was easy to use.

    The problem I have is, I hate the sound of anything played on the B except what's below open E. But even then, really the D is the only note that sounds ok. (And even then, an open D sounds better.)

    I tried various strings for it and I'm pretty sure I just don't like the way a string that fat sounds, especially live. Go up the neck and you really get a muffled crappy sound out of it.

    It's great for playing without having to move up and down the neck so much, but the tone isn't there so I wind up going up an down the neck anyway, and the low B is just a thumb rest most of the time. :spit:
  2. Jazzkuma


    Sep 12, 2008
    Yeah corvettes are great basses, I think that to get a good sound out of a B string you need a lighter touch. If I play the B string with the same attack of the other strings it will sound bad since it is "floppier" than the other strings. On my bass and using a lighter touch I can get up to the G and it will sound nice (much warmer than playing it on the E string) but the higher you go the weaker it gets.
  3. Definitely do need a lighter touch on most B strings. They have a LOT of windings on them, and they are lower tension. Also as they are bigger they have more surface area so it's easier to put too much "power" on them.

    Another thing to look at is whether they are tapered at the bridge, or not. I know some hate tapered, but for me they are the only way to go. Also seems to make intonation easier.

    another option would be to look at a 35 or 35.25 scale bass. the extra inch adds a bunch of tension which can turn that floppy B into a nice tight B.
  4. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I'm sitting here playing a 5 string bass. It's just an old SX for crying out loud and I'm testing notes on the B string compared to higher strings.

    I DEFY you hear any difference! But then, I don't buy 5 string basses unless I can't hear any difference between notes on the B string and other strings. And that includes open E and E on the B string.

    I have never liked Warwicks.
  5. masonsjax

    masonsjax Supporting Member

    Jun 10, 2010
    Frederick, MD
    Hex core strings and a 35+ scale and its heavenly.
  6. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    I had one for years. Liked the D and E. For the rest, I played as I would a four string. Got rid of it and just have fours one tuned E std. and one D std.
  7. tjnkoo


    Apr 19, 2011
    Metro Atlanta
    Dingwalls with low B. That's bass.
  8. Musicman. Done.
  9. They're not that great. TB tends to act like the Music Man or Warwick are the end-all in the low B dept, but there are many luthiers whose primary objective is making a bass with an astounding low B.
  10. jlepre


    Nov 12, 2007
    Parsippany, NJ
    It's the brand of bass that may be your problem. I've owned many EBMM musicman basses, and in the 34 scale basses, they have a very tight B string. Not floppy at all.
  11. True, but I personally want a balanced tone on all strings.
    I admit Dingwall are well hot on this.

    the 34" EBMM 5 strings are perfect for my tastes. The Ray 5 is the biggest selling 5 string of all time, (or so I've heard).
  12. The things that improve the B don't necessarily hurt the tone on other strings.

    I'm not even bashing the Musicman, but everyone claims it's the best, but compared to what? Having been a musician for a "while", it's not too hard to figure that most haven't tried much beyond Fender, Ibanez, and Musicman.
  13. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have owned almost every bass mentioned. Roscoe kicks them all!
  14. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    The Corvette is probably a 34" scale bass, that is why the B string is not clear all the way up the neck. It is a fairly common issue amongst 34" scale B strings. Nothing you can do about it once the bass is finished being built. I find a thin core string like LaBella or Dingwall can somewhat help but I also think it might just be a placebo effect as the results are not drastic. Some folks say they have 34" scale basses that do not exhibit the issue but I have not personally seen one or played one. The ones people mention are all bolt-ons for what that is worth. A 35" scale is better but is certainly not perfect, there is a reason the Dingwall 37" low B is world class all the way up the neck.

    Also, I would not consider the EBMM B string to be great, in fact, many players including myself find it to be quite sloppy and muddy. Fender's B has always been disappointing for me. Ibanez 35" B gets great response all the way up the neck, but is inherently sloppier than the other 4/5 strings, certainly not world class. Does Ibanez have 34" scale B strings? I have not seen one so I cannot attest for it.

    Carvin and Dingwall make the best B string in my experience, bar none. My Carvin open B is tight and responsive and I get all the way up to the first octave before exhibiting the issue where the B string becomes wolfy, boomy, muddy, whatever you want to call it. The Dingwall B is a B that sets a standard for all other Bs to be compared to.
  15. stodgers


    Jul 10, 2005
    Columbus, MT
    You say you've tried different strings, but have you tried different gauges?

    I agree that tapered strings make a difference, and I'm not sure if the Corvette is a string-thru or not, but that also makes a difference to me. At my last set-up, my luthier ran my B through the bridge instead of the body. I noticed it sounded like crap but couldn't figure out why until I noticed that the B was the only string not going through the body. Odd that he did that.

    I have a Fender Jazz V strung with normal DR Lo Riders and a regular Jazz strung to low B with a tapered B string. I prefer the tapered and can tell the difference. I use that for heavier stuff, and the looser B on the Jazz V for mellower stuff where I'm not plucking as hard.
  16. The TB community is very sorry you feel this way.
  17. garmenteros

    garmenteros Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    Dominican Republic
    35 scales and good strings do wonders for a low B. That said I own a musicman 5 string and its B is okay, I have to adjust my attack in regards to the other strings but it sounds perfectly fine. My other 5 stringers are 35 scale and I'm much happier with them.
  18. Just common among common basses. Since the general public doesn't care or vote elsewhere with their wallets, the bass companies don't exactly put much effort into improving the low B, other than a wider neck, bridge, and pickups.

    Scale length is part of the equation, but another area where it's not the only solution. Sure, in the budget to intermediate, longer scale length can help, all other things being equal (things are rarely equal). Without going custom, I found the Peavey Cirrus and Millennium to have a pretty good leg up on other stock basses in the low b dept.

    I have boutique basses in 32", 34", and 35". My 33" scale Stambaugh doesn't have B string, so no comment there. Regardless, the Rob Allens and Conklin have a great B in 35" scale. The 34" scale CB has a great B. The 32" scale CB has a great B. I admit that with longer scale, it's easier to use a thinner string, which still sounds solid in the low register and not as muddy in the upper register.
  19. TinIndian


    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    Yep. Ibanez makes a number of 5 strings in 34" scale. I have one, SRT805DX. The B string is OK on it, better than most all of the other Ibby 34's. They have a 2-3 tuner setup on it; 2 tuning pegs on the B and E side and 3 on the A,D,G side. It effectively tightens up the B by it being a half inch or so longer to the peg than their typical 3-2 arrangement.

    A good B string for a 34, not a great one. Certainly not a 35" quality one either.
  20. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    Northern California
    B strings will ALWAYS sound different than the other strings. Which isn't surprising because all of the strings sound different from one another.

    You can mitigate that difference with good construction and/or multiscale (fan fret) instruments but the notes will always sound a bit different on the different strings.

    Tightening up the B string by increasing the instrument scale to 35" does work. I will say that I've played 34" basses with a better low B than many 35" instruments, but that all things being equal adding an extra inch DOES make a significant difference. That said, my issue is that I'm not fond of what that extra inch of scale length does to the sound of the D and G strings, but of course that's a matter of personal opinion.

    In any event, something that has worked for me in the past when in a similar circumstance was to restring the bass with EADG & C strings of a slightly higher guage than I normally use and then detune them each a whole step to DGCF and Bb

    It won't be the case for everyone obviously, but I like that setup on a fiver much more than BEADG and more than EADGC as well. And it's one thing to try that doesn't involve having to buy a new bass.

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