New at bass, 5 string dilemma, which way to go?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tombolino, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. Tombolino


    Dec 28, 2012
    Hello friends

    I am a guitarist learning bass trying to fig out if to stay a 4 string or go 5 string.

    Right now I have a 4 string. Regarding a 5 string, I am not interested in the low B (I know its the professional thing to do). I am simply not interested in relearning the fretboard off the B. I am considering a 5 string like this: EADGC or EADGCBb.

    1. If I do high Bb, I can use my guitar chords I already know BUT the scales are not symmetric. I always hated the Bb string on the guitar; makes learning scales triple the work.

    2. If I do C, the scales would be symmetric and I could free myself from that Bb half step which is annoying and confusing even on guitar BUT I would not have the chords I already know...BUT I suppose I could revoice the chords based on C?

    3. Will I need the high string much? I do feel silly that the bass is to sound like a bass but on the other hand, the high string and available chords + my guitar playing can benefit on giving me a unique style?

    What do you think?


  2. baba

    baba Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2002
    3rd stone from the sun
    I would reconsider the low B. You aren't relearning the fretboard as stated. Same EADG config with a B tossed on top. At first just use it as a thumb rest if you want, and then work it in as you get used to it.
  3. autodidact


    Mar 13, 2011
    Lancaster, PA
    Just about every 5 string I ever owned ended up being tuned EADGC. The low B is nice...if you're going to use it. I found that I used the high C a lot more for chording and soloing. It throws people off when you're doing a run and you end up on the 12th fret of the high C but in a good way. I just personally find the high string more useable in most cases. That being said if you did go the Bb route, it's really not THAT much of an adjustment and it could open up some possibilities for you if you're already into a little guitar playing.

    Just my2 cents.
  4. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Bb string? Do you mean B string?

    Anyway, one benefit of a low B string is the ability to cover more ground with less shifting. The same advantage as a high C string would give you, only you could move further up the neck to utilize the low B string, but in 4 string range. A lot of guitar players would find it more comfortable up there because there's less reach(closer to your body) and the notes are closer together. (It's sort of like imagining a capo on the 5th fret of a 5 string bass if that makes it easier)

    I guess a lot of it would depend on what kind of music you play and what makes you comfortable. There's nothing wrong with a 4 string bass.
  5. +1

    Get a sixer and have the low b and high c.
  6. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I don't understand the relearning the fretboard comment. Wouldn't you still need to learn the new notes whether you had a low B or a high C?

    As for which way yo want to go (low or high) is totally up to you, neither is more professional than the other. For me, I use the lower notes more, so my 5ers have a low B.
  7. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Not necessarily. There are many five-string bassists who prefer the high "C". It's not a matter of professionalism.

    EADGCBb would be six strings - not five. Besides, there is no such thing as a "Bb" string. At least not in standard tuning.

    If you want to play the five-string bass, and play it well, then you have to be prepared to approach it as a totally separate instrument from the guitar. Don't expect to use shortcuts - do the work to do it right. :eyebrow:

    Guitar chords generally won't translate well in any event. For one thing, the bass guitar isn't constructed to allow for playing five or six strings in a chord all at once, as with guitar, as doing so tends to sound muddy. Consequently, most bassists use three strings, or four strings at most, when chording.

    You, and only you, can decide if you prefer the high "C" or low "B" for the type of playing you intend to do, as this is a very personal and individual type of decision. Each has its advantages. The only way to enjoy the advantages of each is to get a six-string bass guitar - or two five-string bass guitars, with one of each tuning. :meh:

  8. BassNGuns


    Aug 20, 2010
    IMHO, if you don't want that low B, stick with your 4.
    Don't waste your time with that higher string, you'll probably never use it.
    I love the low B because I can play alot of my parts closer to the body which is easier for my wrist
    instead of always playing like an F or a G near the headstock.
  9. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    The Mystic One covered it all :)

  10. Why is that?:eyebrow:
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Typo. He meant to write EADGBb, which would mimic standard tuning for guitar.

    As noted, nothing wrong with using a high string (Bb or C) instead of low B if that's what the OP would prefer.
  12. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Well, it depends how you play. For me, the majority of my playing is around the lower frets of the lower strings. On occasions I'll venture all the way up to the 24th fret. But for me, having the lower notes is a lot more useful then anything higher.

    And that's very much just my opinion. If you do a lot of chordal playing a sixer or high-strung fiver would be useful. I'm usually playing with keys and two guitars, so I'm mostly about the low stuff and rarely have a need/opportunity to play even two notes together, let alone chords.
  13. edpal

    edpal Banned

    Oct 3, 2007
    I'll start at a different part in your post: chords you already know on the guitar? The guitar chords you know aren't going to be very useful on bass other than for theory/harmony purposes - muddy unless played fairly high up fingerboard and generally unappreciated. Maybe you are talking about double/triple/quad stopping, which is playing 2/3/4 notes at same time (those cool jazzy pwing-pwings). And for many(most?) genres of music the bass player's job is much different than a guitarist's.
    THe bass player may be playing on the off-beats, they may be filling dead spots or they may just be keeping the groove tight. Few things are more irritating than someone who plays bass like *wait for it*:D a guitarist. Keyboardists also fall into the trap of of playing bass like they are playing keys. SOmetimes it works,but the percentage of times ain't good. Ok, got that out of my system.

    Pros of low B:
    E and lower fretted on the low B have a tighter sound.YMMV
    Less shifting about for many genres. Easy-peesy octaves.
    Good thunb rest until you get more comfortable with it or need it.
    Cons of low B:
    Need speakers that can take it.
    Some people (women mainly) claim the low notes make them queesy.

    Pros of High C:
    Great for soloing, nice high double/triple stops and arpegiatting without getting muddy.
    Con of high C: no notes below low E unless you down-tune.

    I'd agree with those that suggest forgetting the B or Bb - you're not in guitar land when playing bass.:bassist:

    I switched to 5 string after a right hand injury side-lined me for about a year: started off with a cheap 5 and played lots of octaves just to burn it into my brain that there were these new, low choices. Then I got a 6 - got crazy into stops and arpeggiating. I'll never own a 4 again - sold them ALL: 86 American P amongst other sweet items. Got no use for them, I feel cheated everytime I have to play one.
  14. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I'm guessing you're not a guitarist then? :eyebrow:

    (EADGBE is standard)
  15. ACNick

    ACNick Guest

    Oct 23, 2012
    South Florida
    You need some monstrous paws if you wish to fret many of the guitar chords you are familiar with on the bass. The scale length and neck width of a standard 5 string bass will be the biggest hurdle for you to overcome, I think. No one can tell you how to tune or play your instrument, and there is no right or wrong way to do it either.
  16. BassNGuns


    Aug 20, 2010
    Most people I know who have a 6 string for example hardly ever use that high C. They're usually just covering the lower end.
  17. I've got all fivers, all strung BEADG. I use the B all the time, especially for low C's and D's, though rarely above the 5th fret and never above the 7th. For me it's all about the hand placement flexibility more than the low frequencies.

    With 2 guitarists and keyboards in the band, the last thing we need is someone else playing in those frequencies, so I never even consider tuning EADGC. If I'm up there fighting for room with everyone else, the basement is empty and the whole thing becomes thin.

    But we don't do anything that requires bass soloing or anything like that. Maybe in a Power Trio I'd consider a 6 string with a High C, but I'm never letting go of that B....
  18. jlepre

    jlepre Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2007
    Parsippany, NJ
  19. That's why I asked. There are many different playing styles. The guy stated that it would never get used. Which means he would not use it. Many others would. It's just a preference thing. I play a 5'er but have it strung with a low b. I'm all over the neck, though. I play 2, 3, 4, and 5 string chords. That's me, though.
  20. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    For the record I'm also a guitarist of many years, currently playing a 4-string and desperately waiting for my new 5er. I really miss the B-string - I sold my old 5er to pay for the new one. There are some songs where I really want that low E Flat or D# and resent having to jump up nearly an octave to get it.