Playing a 5 string

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dougazbass, Oct 10, 2012.

  1. dougazbass

    dougazbass Supporting Member

    May 6, 2011
    Mesa, AZ
    I'm thinking about going 5 string. I have read a number of posts concerning the differences but thought I'd start another.
    I have been playing a 4 string for a while and I've tried a few 5s. It is a little awkward at first but it makes sense to me that it would actually end up being "easier" to play.
    By that I mean alot of the time you would not have to play the lower notes at the head end of the neck. This is where it is hardest for me to strech my middle and ring fingers apart. Not that I want to completely avoid that, but it would just generally be easier to play the lower notes on the B string further from the neck.
    Do others find this to be true?
  2. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Pretty unusual reason to switch...

    Yes, it gives you a shorter reach, but the sound changes.

    Just as on a 4-string, when you move any note up 5 frets and down a string, the tone gets mellower and less defined. It's great if you want a rounder sound, but when you're going for maximum attack, you're still going to want to drop back to the first position.
  3. I am true believer in 5 string basses, I love having a low B![​IMG]
  4. I love the versatility my Low B allows.
    I also love being able to play further up the board, if I want. It does lose some treble tone, but for some songs that were played on a fretless, or upright, it works well for muting out the fret tone.
  5. I used the same reasoning when I started. Then after getting my first five, that reasoning went right out the window.

    I think the string spacing (on the board, not the bridge) had more to do with my preference for a five. Then I went with 32" scale to assist with the negligible stretch issue.
  6. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    My fingers are on the short side and this definitely makes playing easier for some things. Other lines still fit best when played using the open strings. The thing I like best about the 5 string is being able to play across the fretboard and that instead of up and down and makes left hand muting easier in some keys since open notes don't have to be played.

  7. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I'm playing in church this weekend, and they've jacked the keys all up...... I'm pulling out my old fretless fiver and giving her a go. I'm sort of excited!!
  8. miketallica315


    Aug 16, 2009
    Toledo, OH
    I learned how to play bass on a four string, but the first bass I ever owned was a 5 string. To this day, I am more comfortable with a 5 string. I love my B string. My bass professor at the University of Toledo doesn't mind 5 or 6 string basses, he just doesn't like B strings. He is always suggesting that I use a C string and I think to myself... "What's the fun in that"? In his opinion, a B string doesn't really belong in jazz. He tunes his 6 string low to high E,A,D,G,C,F. That's cool, I just really like the options that are provided to me with my B string. B strings are fun!
  9. In my mind, it's a bass. It's meant to be LOW. Why would I want to go higher? I'm not a guitar, nor do I noodle/solo.
    Give me that low rumble that a B or even an F# can do, not this squeaky high mouse junk of a C or F
  10. I got a 5er simply because the band I was in - big TOP funk/soul type band, did lots of charts in E flat, F, D, and I didn't want to retune or play up an octave.
    As far as stretching the 1st and 2nd fingers, I went back to a 4 banger to force myself back onto good technique.
  11. What's so much better for technique on a 4? A 5 is the same, just with an extra string. Whatever technique you're applying to that 4 can be applied, and equally maintained on the 5.
  12. MarthaSamira

    MarthaSamira Banned

    Apr 29, 2012
    No, even in high-quality 5 strings, the notes above the 5th fret don't have much clarity. This is due to the large mass of the B string.

    I wouldn't get a 5 string for the reason you mention.
  13. walldaja


    Apr 27, 2011
    One thing that is nice is you can get a two octave span between fifth and seventh position. As was stated earlier, open notes sound different than the same note fretted. I do like having the convenience of two octaves within two frets of each other. You may also notice the angle of your fingers changes as you move up the neck and it may be easier to stay behind the fret, when I'm at the end of the neck I have trouble bending my wrist enough to keep my fingers perpendicular to the neck. Best wishes!
  14. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    I've read a thread recently about how the OP switched to a lighter gauge set of strings and found that the B string became a lot more useful. I haven't tried it myself, though I should because I also find the higher notes on a B string to be mostly inarticulate, but many of the responders seemed to agree the a lighter set can help.

    That said, I put a set of medium gauge (.035-.130) Fodera nickles on my Corvette 6 recently, and the B string is a lot better - 9th fret and above is probably still a bit muddy, but it was an improvement.
  15. The resonance is all about tension. My Spector's got a .125 on the B over a 35" scale. The change in tone matches every other string.
    My Fender Jazz on a 34" scale uses a .130 and I notice a little bit of a tone difference, but it's definitely not muddy or undefined.
  16. MarthaSamira

    MarthaSamira Banned

    Apr 29, 2012
    Sorry, but I find that hard to believe...
  17. I have a 5er I love, but rarely use. I'm so used to the E being the outside string - I get mixed up on my 5er - same with fingering. I wish I could have learned on a 5er ... it would have been a lot easier.
  18. Maybe you haven't dabbled enough with different gauges/string types, then?

    I struggled with this a little bit, but you get over it after hours of just playing & becoming comfortable with the instrument. The changes that mess me up are locating the D string.
  19. MarthaSamira

    MarthaSamira Banned

    Apr 29, 2012
    Actually, I have... Probably more than I'd have the desire to write about. That's probably why I find hard to believe that a B string fretted on the 9th fret will have a similar character of the other strings, unless it's a Dingwall...
  20. I have a MIA jazz 4 string and a Squier Vintage Modified fiver.... lately the five string has been getting more and more stage time.

    In my experience playing the otherwise available notes from the E string on the B string it completely changes the voicing of the notes. Much more boomy and fatter, so much so it can actually get overly muddy through the amp. But, if this is an effect your going all means.