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New to 5 string basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassmanWhiteman, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. BassmanWhiteman


    Aug 13, 2011
    I'm thinking of buying my first 5 string bass. I have a Fender Precision bass "which I intend to keep" currently and I've played 4 strings since I started playing. Any tips, facts, recommendations or just anything someone new to the basses should know would be greatly appreciated
  2. Sid Fang

    Sid Fang Reformed Fusion Player Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2008
    Try out as many different models as you can. While almost all 4-strings have the same string spacing at the bridge (19mm), 5-string designs range from 16mm to 19mm. Similarly, while the vast majority if 4-strings have a 34" scale for string length, 5-ers are sometimes 34", sometimes 35", sometimes longer (somebody has doubtless made a short scale 5er, but I've never seen one). Find your 5-string comfort zone before you buy.
  3. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    ^ this. And don't buy purely on the numbers. If you find you like one 35" bass, doesn't mean you'll like them all. Ditto for string spacing. Try as much as possible for as long as possible.

    I tried some 5-string basses in store that put me off the idea. At a better store the owner got a sense of what I did and didn't like and I ended up with a 35", 19mm 5-string. After a year I decided it wasn't my sound and got a new bass built for me - I chose 34", and 18mm was the standard spacing offered. I find one as comfortable as the other (maybe down to them both having asymmetric necks).
  4. You might want to complement your P bass with a Fender American Standard Jazz V.
  5. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    As someone who plays Fender Ps, Js, and 5ers - *I* would recommend getting a used sr505, to see if you'll stick with playing a 5er... It's a good enough instrument to give you a feel for it, yet won't hurt money-wise if things don't work out... Other decent economical choices would be the import 'Ray 5, or Spector's Legend 5 or Schecter's Stilletto 5s for 35" 5 strings...

    Switching back and forth between Fender 4 strings and 5ers, *for me* EBMMs work extremely well for 5ers - they're also 34" like my Fenders, have a moderate 17.5mm spacing at the bridge, and a neck that's not too wide... I've never cared for Fender 5 strings, since their necks are too chunky for my tastes, and their B strings have been underwhelming to me...

    Lastly - make sure you stick with it atleast a couple of months, otherwise you're probably wasting your time... It took me that long to quit screwing up and getting the B string by mistake - and close to a year before I was really comfortable on a 5er... BUT, the payoff has been well worth it, and I wish I had done it sooner...

    - georgestrings
  6. I started on a four string (Peavey T40 boat anchor) back in the early 80's...within three years I went to a five string after playing a friend's five string. For me, it was like a duck to water. Ever ride a 5 speed motorcycle and you keep going for the 6th gear that's not there? That's the way it was for me on a 4 stringer...the B string just came naturally.

    I tried about a half dozen fivers before I settled on a new Carvin LB75 back in 92. Last week I just bought a 97 G&L L2500 which I love! If I have to play a four stringer now, it takes me a song or two to get used to four strings again...I still occasionally break out one of my four stringers just so I don't forget too much how to play them.

    YMMV but when I went to a five string, I never really ever looked back.
  7. String spacing is something to have a serious look at. Try them all, but you can adapt your hands easily enough

    Make sure the low B is tight

    Try different amps & rigs

    Once you buy it, play it as much as possible, don't feel put off if you keep hitting the wrong strings

    Muting is going to take practice
  8. JustForSport


    Nov 17, 2011
    ^^ Not all B's are 'floppy'.
    Some strings are made to be more flexible than others.
    If the B feels floppy, make sure it's a hex core for starters (some of those are also flexible, tho), and gets good reviews for not being floppy.
    Some are turned off on 34" 5'ers 'cause they tried a couple (or just one) that had a B that was not made to be stiff.
    Notice that 'tension' has nothing to do with it- the tension for a particular gauge is required to get the frequency, whether it feels floppy or not.
  9. radioface


    May 2, 2013
    Best 5s I ever played in a store were made by Modulus. I purchased a made in Mexico Fender J5 p.o.s.. Needless to say that bass didn't stick around very long. I now have an EBMM single H 5 and an American Standard P5. Both basses are ok but, nowhere near what I heard, when playing Modulus basses.
  10. FromTheBassMent

    FromTheBassMent Those who can, play bass. Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2010
    Providence, RI
    I've been playing fivers exclusively since the 80's. For me the deal was done when I started playing EBMMs. Love the string spacing (too tight for many players), love the aggressive sound (even though I play Americana/alt-country, not hard rock or metal), and with my gigging bass, a Sterling 5 HH, I love the size and can deal with the weight (Stingray 5s can be boat anchors). The scale is 34" but the B string is thunderous. Found it used here in the classifieds, and it's been my trusty companion for about seven years... couldn't live without it. With a set of Fat Beams, it's an absolute tone monster. Great basses, but pricey. Look at the Lakland Skyline models as well... huge bang for your buck there.

    I agree with other's recommendations that you try as many as you can. But do not be put off by your initial confusion with the extra string... you'll get that all wired in a matter of weeks if not days. I can't play a four-string now... gotta be able to do that walk-up from low D to G!

    I personally think that learning to play floating thumb fingerstyle with my right hand was essential to my love affair with fivers. A habit you do NOT want to develop is anchoring your thumb on the B string. That will prevent you from ever becoming proficient on a five string.
  11. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    +1 to try as many different brands and models you can get your hands on. Once you've purchased the one you like, take your time getting used to playing it. I personally had a hard time getting used to the fact my lowest string was B, not E. It took me quite a while to get acclimated to it, but with a lot of practice, I finally got it. You will too. I now play a 6, but my 5 is my backup.

    I didn't see what kind of amp you use, but keep in mind some cabinets aren't tuned as well as others when it comes to reproducing notes below E. Try detuning your E string down to C and listen to your amp. This should tell you if your cabinet will be up to the task.

    IMO having that B-string is fun, I try to use my notes below D sparingly, as I find they have more impact for some unknown reason to me.
  12. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    +1 to learning the floating thumb technique if you're a fingerstyle player.
  13. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    What's your style of playing? What type of music? For slap, many prefer wider spacing. For fingerstyle, closer spacing. Budget is a major consideration as well. In the $800-$1000 range, I would recommend a used Musicman Stingray 5 or Fender Jazz V. Find a well stocked music store or two and try out as many as you can. Most online stores have at least a 7 day return policy but you will have to fork out shipping to return.
  14. Try as many as you can, with wide string spacing and with narrow string spacing... you may be aiming for narrow spacing thinking it'll be comfy, and then find out wide feels better for you. That's what happened to me: I owned several 5-string basses but none did it for me... until I found the Lakland with the wide string spacing (when I say wide, I mean 19mm, like most 4 string basses), and it felt I was at home.

    So, try as many as you can, not just for spacing, but everything. Wait until one "talks" to you.
  15. gustobassman

    gustobassman I'm only here for the after party.. Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Sandy Eggo
    Something that hasn't been brought up... strings. Personally i've had bought some "stock" 5's that felt awful, but a change of strings made a HUGE difference. It's probably not your biggest concern when buying your first fiver, but it is something to keep in mind. If the bass "feels" right... start there. It may just need a string swap to get it where you want.
  16. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    If your current bass is a Fender Precision I'd just try the 5 string version.
  17. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Best advice is to play everything. Get a feel for wide spacing similar to the P you have and pick up basses of all types. Pay no attention to price or brand. Play them all... Personally I can't play 19mm spacing. Way to wide. I prefer 17mm myself. I just like the super close tight spacing. It works better for my playing style.
  18. Hues


    Nov 27, 2012
    see Burn Notice
    I'm in the market for a fiver, as well....My first.

    Looking all around,but dealing with tunnel-vision for an Ibanez SR305 in the Root Beer.

    But I'm also fighting my tendency to go cheaper.
    That being said,...Is this $200 Ibby GSR105EX showing any of the dreaded B string 'floppiness' I keep hearing about?

  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Lots of great advice here. To add mine:

    +1 to string spacing. I prefer "wide" spaced fivers because they have the same spacing at the bridge as four stringers. My right hand (plucking hand) can't get comfy on narrow spacing.

    Once you get the bass: I don't know how long you've been playing four, but if you want to adjust the fastest, put your four aside and immerse yourself in five. Once you get comfy on five you can then go back and forth between four and five. That's what worked best for me, anyway.

    It also helped for me to learn new songs on five, rather than relearning songs I'd played for years on four. With old tunes, "muscle memory" (so to speak) kept me on the EADG strings. OTOH, I could more easily adapt new songs to all five strings.

    Don't think of a fiver as "four strings plus one". It's a five string bass!

    Last but definitely not least: do NOT think of the B string as something to be used for the low notes only. When the B string is properly set up and intonated you can play it up to the 12th fret, and with a quality bass (and setup) you can play it well above the 12th fret (though it gets difficult to reach up there).
  20. BassmanWhiteman


    Aug 13, 2011
    I apologize for not coming back to this but thank you all for your input, I've taken it all into consideration in my choice & I've decided to buy a Warwick Corvette pro "the Korean made ones".