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my first TB thread - about a custom bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mlwarriner, Nov 14, 2004.

  1. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA
    hey all. ive lurked here for a while, and finally decided to post some stuff. so here's my question:

    a few months down the road from now, i'm planning to order/have built a custom bass. i've played 4-stringers almost exclusively for the past 12 or 15 years (except for a very dark period where i experimented with a roghe 5'er). i can see the value of the 5th string, but i don't know if i would use it if i had one. so i guess what i'm wondering is this: would it be worth it to get a 5-string custom instead of a 4? in case it happens that i do want/need the extra range of a low b? i will probably only own one bass this nice ever, as Wifey doesn't cope too well with spending that much on a "toy". is it better to have one built to accomodate my current likes/needs or plan for the future?

    does any of this make any sense at all?

    please and thanks in advance to any and all who help...
  2. Nuk3m


    Sep 18, 2004
    Down Under
    Might aswell get it, isnt like it will harm your playing with the b there or will it??
  3. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA
    probably not...i just didnt know if the future potential would justify the extra cost...
  4. Hi! I am a recently converted 5-stringer, after playing fours exclusively for ~20 years. I do recommend that you try out different fivers to find out what kind of specifications you like. IMO most important things to look for are neck width, profile and string spacing at the bridge.
  5. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    I suggest buying a cheap 5 stringer, 2nd hand, or from Rondo.
    Play it for a while and decide if you like the feeling or not.
    String spacing is an important factor for 5 stringers. Some like it very wide, some want strings right next to each other.
  6. Papersen

    Papersen Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2002
    I`m living a similar situation.
    I`ve been playing for almost seven years now and I just
    played a fiver this year for the first time.
    I`d suggest you to try several fivers before (34", 35", 16mm to 19mm string distance) to check if you feel comfortable.
    If you`re planning to do an important investment, you gotta be sure that you`ll feel comfortable playing your bass.

    Just my .02
  7. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    My $.005:

    In today's used market you will have a much easier time selling a high end 5 string than a 4. It just seems that the majority of the people looking in that price range want at least 5. So if you ever decide that the bass isn't right for you you will get more of your $$$ back from a 5 while you may take more of a loss with a 4. The wife might be more willing to let you try again if you only loose $200-300 in resale value rather than $700-1500 or something.
  8. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA

    i didnt mind the size and feel of the 5er i had (the rogue). it was my "cheap" 5er experiment. i just didnt feel like i needed the 5 at the time. but i was playing a lot of 80's hair metal, so...

    tastes have changed since, and now i wonder about trying a 5 again. im only getting one new bass though. its a welcome home from iraq gift from wifey and myself to me. if i go with a decent 5, i can kiss the custom goodbye...so im wondering if it might not be a better idea to go 5 in case i do want it and just dont know it yet...
  9. Joe Turski

    Joe Turski

    Jul 29, 2003
    If you decide to go for the 5ver, you can always change the way you tune it. If you don't like having the B string, you can always tune it EADGC instead of BEADG.

    I never really used the B string. I have two 5vers tuned tenor now. I like it much better this way.

    If you're comfortable with a four strings spacing, you can always go with a 5ver with a wider neck for more string spacing.

    Carvin makes the BB75 with a wider neck. Ckick here for info.

    Or you could have something custom built to your specs.
  10. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA
    my main bass right now is an ibanez srx700 4-string. its pretty narrow spaced. so i can deal with closer strings to get a narrower neck. ive got fairly short fingers, so a wider neck isnt exactly a great idea. but i think i could accomodate some more width...

    i just dont know...i like the feel of a 4, but if im getting one and only one custom, im thinking a 5 would be a better idea...just in case...

    crap, i never figured it would be this hard to figure out what i wanted in a bass :(
  11. some 5's look too stubby on the necks when attempted in a 34" scale. Many have low Bs that are floppy.

    35" and even 36" (my custom 5) look better and sound better, but may be harder to play for small dudes. I wanted passive electronics, which is taboo these days. What's really cool about custom is you get to remedy the problems of a bass made to fit everyones' taste.

    Mine worked for me. The extra length gave the bass the power and authority and good looks to boot. The B holds tune, and thanks to the hipshot key, drops down to low A (27hz!) and holds.

    I even had the bass routed for a P pup if I every wanted to change it to a P/J. Of course, I would need a new pickguard, but better to have all cavities routed while the bass is being made.
  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Generally speaking a good four string is easier to build than a good five. On the same note, it's not as hard to find an excellent affordable four as a five, six, etc. That's why high end fours are harder to resell.

    The string spacing thing is more a matter of technique than physicality IME. I could list a bunch of guys with very small hands who use fives and up regularly. If this weren't true, imagine what size hands you'd need to play a nine string;)

    That's not to say a baseball bat profile neck might not be an issue:D

    The deciding factor as far as how many strings to get is...what are YOU willing to do to make it work? If you really want to play a five it won't be a problem. Any issues that arise can be posted here and I'm sure you'll get some advice that'll help you make it work. Here's one example of what "not" to do:

    I bought my first six string and in my excitement took it out that night on a gig. Made a complete fool of myself. Wore the bass at the wrong height (realized that later) and hit the wrong strings for the entire first set. One of those rare instances when I didn't take two basses on a gig. Lessons learned.

    It took me a week to really get comfortable on it and now I'm as comfortable on a six as a four or five. Might take more or less time for someone else. The point is don't expect it to be immediate... but if it is, :hyper:
  13. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA
    4 or 5, im going to go with 35" scale. ive decided that much at least. the music i make tends to lean toward downtuning (drop c# in the last band), so the extra inch of scale will help there.

    is the adjustment from 4 to 5 that hard? i know that the flexability (sp?) would be nice, but how much does it take to adjust to the extra string?
  14. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile

    Simply NOT true (well the stubby thing is your opinion, I like the look of short scale basses).
    I've owned 5 basses since 91 with a low "B"... all 34" scale on purpose, all tight, clear and focused "B" strings. (ranging from $300 Korean thru $3000 Custom & 2 neck thru / 3 bolt on).

    Construction, Electronics, Strings, etc all have more to do with floppiness IMO/E
  15. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA
    i do have to admit ive always liked the idea of a 5er. just didnt fit with the band i was in when i tried it, nor with where i was musically in general. plus it didnt help that the 5 i bought was a crutch of a bass...

    hmmm...im liking this idea (getting 5 instead of 4) more and more...
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    35" isn't anywhere near as important as quality design and construction. If built correctly, you can get a great B with a 30" scale. Just something to keep in mind.

    Are you planning on dropping the B along with your other strings?

    As long as it takes. Everyone is different:D. Desire is the key... if you really want to do it, it'll probably take no time.
  17. Adjusting to a five to where you are comfortable live should be short-maybe a week or two at the MOST. I don't use it a lot, but it is useful to have two octaves. It is fun to hit a low note every now and then just to see if everyone's paying attention.

    the extra scale length conversion is no big deal. it will slow you down a little in the 1st and 2nd positions at first. But you get used to it quickly. The difference per fret is di minimus.

    James, I converted around '91 myself. I said many 5s have crappy Bs in 34" scale. Not all. But physics seem to prefer longer scales, even if some bass players don't. don't get mad at me for that. :bag:
  18. mlwarriner


    Nov 8, 2003
    KC, MO, USA

    i was thinking if i went with a low b, i would probably not drop anything, unless maybe 1/2 step to make the opens easier...guess it will depend on the next band. the last one dissolved while i was over here

  20. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts