Praise and worship bassists: why are 5 strings so popular in our genre??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MovingPitchers, Dec 16, 2013.

  1. I've seen a lot of well-known bands like Hillsong and Chris Tomlin whose bassists often use five stringers...why...?
  2. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    For low notes? :D

    As with most genres, you could use a 4, but there are occasions when the lower notes are handy (be that on a 5 or a detuned 4). I've played both 4 and 5 in church and enjoy both, but I personally like the extended range of a 5er. There's nothing particularly special about the musical style that demands you do or don't use a 5-string, unless you want to copy exact parts.

    Of the two examples you've mentioned, I can think of only a couple of Hillsong songs that I play where the recorded part goes below E. And I'm sure Chris Tomlin's main bassist, Jesse Reeves, is usually a bass traditionalist - a 4-string Fender P and Ampeg SVT sort of guy.
  3. Mogalen


    Mar 5, 2013

    Well, try to downtune an E string to Bb and see for yourself.
  4. +1. Basses I've seen Hillsong people use include- MusicMan StingRay 5, Lakland Joe Osborn 5, Fender AmStd Precision, and plenty of 4-string Jazz basses.

    Jesse Reeves uses 4-string Fender Jazz and P types into a pedal tuner, then into an Ampeg rig. See video below:

    Jesse Reeves' Bass Gear

    I like to have a 5 at church because those low notes really add something, but they're certainly not a must-have.
  5. jfh2112


    Jun 18, 2013
    This. Those low notes can add quite a bit, IMO, especially in my situation, where I play in the church orchestra, and we currently have no organist.
  6. inthebassclef

    inthebassclef Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2012
    for myself it was because the band leader was a piano player and most of our song were in Eb and Bb
  7. Mike M.

    Mike M.

    Feb 14, 2010
    The reason I got a 5 string was because of playing at church. Started playing there in summer of 2009 armed with a 4 string and nobody had any complaints. Couldn't help but notice how many of the songs used a 5 string and I felt like I was missing out on something. So by late December of 2009 I got a 5 string and man, you hit those low notes at the right time and it adds so much to the moment. But I found out this is true with any song regardless of the style. So I try to use the low B as an effect, so to say. I don't over use it at all, I just try to use it where it really adds something.

    Great thing, that low B!
  8. Thumpinshelton


    Apr 10, 2010
    I do not play much of the CCM style, but I know for the urban gospel that we do the 5 is essential. I know that Norm Stockton (bassist for Lincoln Brewster) plays MTD's and every time I have seen him live he has a 5'er. I know that back when the Hillsong/CCM P&W was really taking off a lot of players ditched their 5'ers and were going with what they called "organic" sounds. Old J's and P's were hot for several years, but here recently they have been more open to newer tones to add some thump back in the mix.
  9. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    I don't play a 5 string in church. I play a 6 string. ;)

    The low B string gives you only 5 extra notes but they are very handy. The high C string allows me to play more notes without changing position on my left hand. It's very convenient but be careful it doesn't make you lazy. :p

    Thank you for your indulgence,

    Rickter likes this.
  10. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    I play either my five or seven string at church whenever:

    1) The singer changes keys.

    2) I need to cover more range than drop D will give me, or play in the key of C without the bottom seeming to drop out of the band.

    3) I need to pretend to be a synth bass

    4) our pastor has discovered another gospel artist and wants to incorporate their songs into our worship music rotation.

    5) I want to be able to tell the other bassists, "Just get a five string, and stop worrying when someone changes key or uses the word 'downtuned'."
  11. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    In 1983 when I started playing bass at church, I added a Hipshot D tuner to my main bass because so many songs were in D and I was craving that lower D. Over the next few years, I found myself just leaving it in D. In 1988, Rich Mullins played at our church, and his bass player used the first 5 string I saw in person, a Yamaha. It made sense, and in a few weeks, I had my first 5 string and have played 5's since. Although I have a couple 4's for giving lessons, I can't imagine going back to a 4. The 5 enhances the range of expression possible. I'd give up my G string before the low B.
  12. therhodeo


    Feb 28, 2011
    Owasso OK
    1. Eb, D, Db, C, B
    2. I was playing in a situation where we used the originals as a starting point and were allowed to be musicians and not jukeboxes.
    3. Why not? Even if I play an entire set without using it I never think "man that low B string got in my way today"
  13. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Very good point. From my experience, it's not treated like a covers gig. If there's a key riff or line then I might be requested (or migth be requesting others) to follow it, but there's a lot of room for interpretation. There may be multiple recorded versions of a song to base our version on. Unlike covers, where the audience usually knows the song best from whatever version got played on the radio, our congregation probably know the song best from how we play it on a Sunday. That gives more flexibility to play whatever works best, in terms of strings and notes.
  14. modbass

    modbass Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2008
    Baltimore Maryland
    The church's I play at seem to exclusively play in Eb and Bb, and I currently don't have a 5er. I downtuned my 4 a half step, and that gets me part of the way there, but I probably make more errors now because if I read an F on the chart, I play an E. Same when theyre calling out letter names. The rest of my gigs are all in standard tuning, so Its become too confusing to switch and easier to get a 5. Yay Christmas!
  15. stanley00


    Mar 15, 2010
    Albuquerque, NM
    A low Eb, and a "home" position at the fifth fret of the B makes playing in church easier for me. I've played a four in church and there was a lot of jumping around the fretboard and playing notes higher than intended. We don't have drums, but often woodwinds, strings, piano and acoustic guitar. The lower notes help fill in the overall sound a little better.
  16. I don't play 5ers (I've tried a couple of times, couldn't get used to it) but I'd like to have that extended range. It's not such a big deal for me because the music at my church tends to be more folk-rocky than urban gospel. Think Gungor and Sufjan Stevens, not Hillsong and Israel Houghton.

    We have fewer instruments and a fairly small space, so I'm fine with a 4-string, but it sure would be nice to have the option of going lower... or just being able to play the same notes in a higher position.
  17. Been in worship bands for 20+ years.

    No-one has ever said "where's your fiver?"

    So I don't agree.

    Rneckties31 likes this.
  18. bjabass


    Jan 10, 2011
    Mountain South
    I think it is because most contemporary worship leaders who write do it on a keyboard, and don't consider the range of the other instruments.
  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I don't play in church, but my friends who do use 5 or 6 string basses because:

    1) Greater range of notes in each fingering position, which means less position shifting is required, and this can be especially valuable when reading music/charts

    2) Extended range down low without having to detune/retune
  20. therhodeo


    Feb 28, 2011
    Owasso OK
    I half take this reason back. I do use the extended range but I also make use of the ability to have more notes available in any one position because I sing lead or BGV's alot.