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Playing bass with Less than four strings.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Blazer, Dec 2, 2003.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    You know, as I make my way across this board I see that playing seven and eight string basses is no longer such a wierd thing but I wanted to know what you think of playing with only three or two stings?

    What I find appealing about people who do is their inginuity about doing so.

    Tony Levin for example is a known user of a three string custom Musicman (A bass that was tragically destroyed in a fire)

    Mark Sandman of Morphine (may God bless his soul) played with a glass bottle on a bass with two D strings, tuned D and E. It was this dark slide sound that formed the base of what Morphine sounded like.

    A close friend of Sandman, Chris Ballew of the Presidents of the united states of America had a similar style save for the slide and using normal Gibson guitars which have a 24' scale length (Sandman preferred a full 34' scale Bass) and using the neck pickup only, resulting in a very lo-fi Rubbery sound.

    Stig of the Danish Metal band D-A-D (Which stands for Disneyland After Dark) plays his custom two-string Gibson Thunderbirds in a more traditional way, he tunes them E A and uses a pick. His custom made basses differ from the ones that Sandman and Ballew used in the fact that they have an extrodinary narrow neck, he also has a couple of very flashy custom basses like this HotRod bass.

  2. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    Hey, if two or three is what does it for you then more power to you!! There's nothing at all wrong with it.

    Just don't give me crap because I play 7s and 8s..

  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    I think they must be very inventive players to make such good use out of limited options-Levin is fantastic on any number of strings, and Sandman had a great groove from the Morphine I've heard.

    BTW, that bass looks hilarious!
  4. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    i haven't heard any of these guys play with the exception of the the P. of the U.S.'s big hit "peaches". i can't remember for the life of me what that song sounded like.

    i guess i feel like anyone who's doing something different and interesting is cool with me. i don't really see any point in having a two string bass and playing root notes in 4/4 time, but as long as they're doing something sonically interesting, go for it.

    i actually find any basses over five strings annoying - what's the point? i know that won't win me many friends on this website - i guess also it's a different debate for a different thread.

    but as to the stuff you mentioned in you post, it sounds like it'd be fun to listen to.

    ps. please don't point out to me how silly it is to ramble on about this topic without having actually listened to the bass players mentioned above - i'm aware of it! everyone (even my 6 and 7 string bass playing friends) have a great day!
  5. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    progzilla - sorry i posted my response before i saw yours. while i personally don't see any point in 6 and 7 strings (i don't mind 8 string tuned in octaves) maybe i've just never heard them in the right hands. as you mentioned, strings aren't important if the groove is good.
  6. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
  7. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    No problem... But I'd like for you to explain to me why you feel the way you do about > 5 string basses..

    I can give you many reasons right now about why I like and use them, but when someone expresses their negativity about them it's ususally in the same format..

    "Why not just play a harp?"

    "They're stupid.."

    "What's wrong with you, do you secretly want to be a guitarist?"

    And so on..

    Please understand, I'm not trolling here.. I'd just like (for once) for someone to provide a VALID, INTELLIGENT and SUBSTANTIATED reason why they don't like basses with 6, 7, 8, plus strings..
  8. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    Good idea!! I'll go start one..
  9. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    I guess that I don't see the point in discussing this. Play whatever instrument moves you.
  10. Garey

    Garey Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2003
    Northern California
    Artist Relations/Product Specialist: Mesa Boogie
    Steve Bailey told me a story about this very subject....it started when he'd bring a 6 string bass into the studio and the engineer would tell him that his bass had 2 too many strings!! So, Steve had two, 2-string basses built for him in Japan, and he brought them to every session from that time on. Whenever an engineer would tell him his 6 stringer had 2 too many strings, he'd whip out the 2 stringer!!! His 2 stringers only had an E and D strings....no 3rds!!

    As a side....Steve Bailey also said that his 2 string basses have the best low E sound of any bass that he's heard. Its his theory (as a 6 string player) that the less strings a bass has, the better its low E sounds...

    Aloha, Garey
  11. If I recall correctly, the Presidents of the United States of America (remember them?!) had a bunch of wierd tunings and they used like 3 or 4 strings on guitars and 2 or 3 on bass. They just ripped the rest off because they never used them!
  12. Matthew Bryson

    Matthew Bryson Guest

    Jul 30, 2001
    P.U.S.A. use three string tri-tar, two string bass-i-tar, and no string drums.

    To Blazer - Is D.A.D. still around?!
    This thread is giving me junior high flashbacks (from 15 years ago)
    ...mumbling good morning, and raising my head. A bad-breath kiss to my pillow pet, I take a look at the day and turned and stay in bed...

    ...and isn't it funny how the song Jihad is still so relevant today (if not now more than ever)
  13. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I had a dream the other night that I was playing a bass with 3 strings, tuned B-E-A, and Sting liked the way I was playing and had me join his back-up band. Wacked out dream. It was a really nice custom bass, too. Neck through, pearl white paint job (think Audi), fantastic neck. It belonged to someone else, I was borrowing it, and I dropped it on it's headstock!!! It seemed to only have a slight ding.
  14. [​IMG]

  15. Here's a valid reason why I really don't like even 5 string basses - I can't bloody play them effectively. I think there's such thing as too much choice, and if you want your bass to have a massive range then go for it, but I don't.

    Not that I hate the instruments by any means, I just hate trying to play them. That, and I've never found a 5 string in a store that wasn't pure flubber when I hit the open B string...

    Don't confuse a dislike of using the instrument with a dislike of the instrument in itself.
  16. Who are THOSE crazy crackers, if you don't mind me asking?
  17. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    Looks like the guys from D-A-D to me.

  18. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I was fully thinking about making my own 3 string, tuned BEA. I still could get by on that, and I'd really like messing around in the upper registers on the B and E strings.
  19. I've been to hundreds of rock shows and seen bass players use one or two strings only :)

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