Learning the 5-string

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mjw, Jun 14, 2001.

  1. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Hi All,

    As a newbie who's awaiting the arrival of his 5-string, I'm curious as to your opinions regarding the availability of learning material as well as music for basses. I've spoken to a few bass instructors in my area who have somwhat frowned on the concept of me beginning on a 5-string. They claim that more music is written for 4 strings, and I just can't imagine why they're saying that. I always thought that chords were chords and who cares what frets or strings you were on to play them. Anyway, these discussions have led me to wonder if it's truly unwise to begin on a fiver or not. That's certainly contrary to what most folks here have told me, especially since I'm starting from scratch. I guess I'm hoping to justify my position with something that truly makes sense as I continue to pursue the right instructor for me.

    Can anyone offer some sound advice that I might quote when talking to them, or does this sound disrespectful? I certainly don't want to play "Mr. Know-It-All", particularly when I have no real experience in this area. It's just that I'm feeling a bit like people are telling me to start on a tricycle before advancing to a bicycle, and that's really not what I desire. But please don't get me wrong. I've no expectations of an accelerated learning curve or any shortcuts by starting with a 5-string; It's just that they truly appeal to me. I love the "4-strings" too, but since my passion seems to be deep-rooted towards the "5", I feel that I'd be more motivated to practice and learn something that's more closely in tune with my desires. But that's just me. I could be wrong. What do you folks think? Thanks in advance! :)

  2. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Hey Mike, and welcome to TB!

    If it makes you feel any better, I actually started on a 6 string bass! ;)

    Truth is, what you said about it all just being notes is dead on the money. If you hear those low notes from a B string in your head and heart, then go play them, and don't let anyone tell you you're wrong for doing it. A good teacher is going to work with the instrument you bring with you to teach you music, not be intimidated because it has more strings than his/her bass (or make fun of you because it has fewer).

    I studied for several years with Dave LaRue, a confirmed 4 banger at the time, and he never put down my choice of instrument, even though he could play circles around me with 2 fewer strings (and still can! :D). He just made sure I was as good as I could be with my instrument. That is the teacher you are looking for, the one that will not count the strings, but will only count the musician using those strings. You'll find that teacher, trust me. It may take a while, but it will be more than worth the wait.

    As for material specifically for 5 string bass, well, I don't know of any off-hand, but what I always did was transpose any material i was working on both up a 4th and down a 5th. Basically that means that I'd take any exercise or piece of music that I was working on and move it over a string, play it so that I worked on all the strings. That seems to have worked well for me.

    Hope that helps some, and if you have any questions, ask away, I think you'll find you've got plenty of support here.
  3. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Thanks Dave! How truly bizarre..... I was just reading another thread here ("Why do they teach scales this way?")and was actually bookmarking your URL right about the time you were posting the above message. Your material is truly superb and cleared up another question I was just about to ask. Sure appreciate your help.


  4. I agree great site!, I spent a very long time there, and will continue to do so, :p

    I started on a 4 then quickly went to a 5. That comment "well most songs are written on the 4" well yeah? so? you still have those four strings! Just an extra one for diversity. Some days i don't use the B string, and it acts like i play a 4, others i use it extensively.

    I could never part with my 5er now, i have only been playing for 4 years, 2 of which were with my 5.

    As for material it depends on what you're into. hehee I started with songs that just used the B and E strings, aka Straight Hate by Sepultura is just pedalling on the B etc.