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Questions to 6+ string players

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Dave Metts, Dec 26, 2001.

  1. I'm curious as to why some of you guys play 6+ string basses. I'm not trying to start an argument (I'm actually thinking about going extended range myself). I'm just trying to gather some information for curiosity's sake.

    So, how do you incorporate the higher strings especially? Do you find them mainly useful for chords and soloing, or do they really have a use when you're just grooving? I can see how it would be advantageous in the sense that you wouldn't have to shift position much, but I could imagine that those higher notes may just get lost in the mix when you're not soloing.

    I'm probably going to be spending b/w $3-4k on my next bass (either a Zon Sonus Special 6 fretless or a Sadowsky 5 are leading the charge, and I've never owned a fretless) after which I plan on woodshedding for an untold amount of time to really drill my technique, notation reading, and theory studies.

    Thanks ahead of time for the help guys!
  2. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    Becoming a multi-stringer really shoudn't change your approach to playing the bass at all. The most practical benefit, as you have alluded to, is the ability to play through two full octaves with minimal position shifts (five frets across five strings :cool: ). I moved from 4 to 5 to 6 strings as these instruments became available, but my concept of bass playing hasn't changed much at all. The extended range added with a low B string is only four half-tones, and the extended upper register with a high C string is only five half-tones above the range of a 24 fret 4 or 5 string. That's really not a lot, altogether less than a full octave of added range. But when you factor in the economy of left hand movement up and down the neck to achieve what used to require significant stretches, small-handed guys like me can really reap the benefits.

    However, IMHO it's a bad idea to fall into the "I've got all these strings so I'd better use 'em" philosophy. As bass players, we still need to fulfill the role. It's just a great thing to have the extended range when you need it. And for that matter, I think a lot of 6-stringers mistakenly feel that they need to solo in the upper registers only. Don't forget the low notes, it's still a bass!
  3. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I still use the inner 4 strings the most. But the B and C are becoming almost indispensable.

    Mostly I just look at the C string as more of the same. It's there when I need it, whatever it is that I'm doing. Occasional chords, I use it a lot when tapping. I have small hands, and it does make it harder to play. I haven't played any 7-strings, but I have the feeling that the 6 is at the peak of the curve for me, where the benefits outweigh the downsides most.

    As for getting lost in the mix, depends on what the mix is. :) I haven't been gigging lately so I can't comment on that much.

    Also, I use the C on the fretless less than I do on the fretted. But, in the aim of consistency, I'm sticking with 6 for my next fretless. Especially now that I'm playing gu*tar (ow! stop it! :) ).
  4. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    When I had a six, I used the C string mostly to avoid long shifts. When I sold it, I missed it only a little. Now, I am having a six made just to use on certain songs where, again, I have long shifts. Plus, I am playing more tunes where I could use the evtra string... and I needed a good excuse to use the piece of buckeye burl I found! ;)

    A decision between a Sonus 6 and a Sadowsky? Tough choice! I had a Sonus Custom and it was a great bass. I have a Sonus Lightwave, which I think is more distinctive than the Custom and will have a Sadowsky fretless by the end of January. I do enjoy playing my Sadowsky fretted better than the Zon. I'm thinking the same will be true for the fretless.

    Good luck!
  5. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    As you guessed, you can't really use the high strings for BASS -- that is, grooving. Keeping the higher strings heard in the mix can be accomplished through compression (which I and many other bassisits hate) or by simply raising the pickup(s) at the high string end (which is what I do). The high strings' primary use is for color accents, for chording, and for solos -- the latter being why I bought my 7's. A 7 tuned BEADGCF affords an octave and a half above middle C, and I LOVE soaring around up there, especially on fretless.

    Another benefit is that some low groove things can be easier 5 frets up where the frets are closer together; although I have discovered that it can be rather taxing to play stuff like this with 5 or 6 strings between your palm and your fingertips.

    I say we go with the fretless!
  6. I'm moving away from six-shooters - I like them well enough and my Cirrus 6 is an amazing instrument but I've found that the expanded tonal range of a six just isn't what I need in an everyday instrument. In any position you have exactly five more notes than you have on a five-string and all of them are in the g*itarist's register.

    I still noodle around on the 6 from time to time but it appears the main bass in my arsenal is quickly becoming my new (to me) 55-94. It'll do almost everything the Cirrus will and isn't as difficult to mute effectively.

    Yeah, I'm still pretty sloppy, but a five seems to meet my needs a little better.

  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    If I had to describe myself it wouldn't be a six-stringer (or more). I keep finding weird deals on them and periodically give them a shot. My current six is an MTD 635 and it's without a doubt the nicest one I've come across so far. The C does make chording and solos much easier, instead of moving up the neck I merely move across. The combination of very good punch and clarity is pretty amazing. I'd like to think I'll keep it;)

    There are some things that some basses are better at (for some people;)) than others. I've come to the realization that, if I had to use only one bass of the ones I own, bearing in mind what "I" do, it wouldn't be the 6. It would probably be one of my MIA JD5's. Seriously. They're the only basses I have that sound like they do. And I'd definitely miss the low B with a 4 but I wouldn't really miss anything above a G string.
  8. Joshua Pickenpaugh

    Joshua Pickenpaugh Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2001
    I say, if you've never owned a fretless and have the $$$ for a Sadowsky, dude, go for a fretless Sadowsky. If you care for a "hightech" sounding ax, a Modulus Quantum is my vote (I've got a fretless 6). Either way, ya can't go wrong. :D
  9. Thanks for the replies everyone! This is exactly the kind of discussion I was hoping would get started (and nobody has come in yet talking about how "Jaco only needed 4 strings".......very nice).

    I'm definitely interested in going fretless, but my main reservation on this point is that I play a lot of heavier music in addition to some more funky stuff. I've heard from a lot of fretless Zon owners that a fretless Zon (in particular the "Special" models) can still cut through the mix (we're talking loud guitars here) extremely well. More precisely, they can be some of the more aggressive fretless basses. Now I don't know that the same can be said of a Sadowsky fretless, so I'm somewhat reserved. Fretless jazz style basses tend to be pretty reserved in their sound, and 'aggressive' isn't exactly a label I would put on them. Given that the Sadowsky is a sort of super-jazz, I wonder if the same would apply there.

    Thanks for bearing with me in this matter as I'm just sort of thinking out loud and seeking the experiences of my fellow TBers. Keep those responses coming!
  10. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    Roger's preferred fretless design is the 24 fret Modern model. It has EMG soapbars as opposed to the their traditional jazz pickups. When I ordered mine I was interested in single coil jazz pups but Roger convinced me that he is very pleased with sound of the EMGs on the fretless. You might give him a call and discuss your particular needs.

  11. Hey Jeff, any idea on how much longer it'll be before you get the fretless? If I end up going Sadowsky, I'm going to see if he can manage to get his hands on some more spalted maple (since those other two bodies he did are so beautiful). What kind of wood did you go for on the body and fingerboard? lined or unlined? Just curious....can't wait to see pictures of that bass when it's done!

    Edit/Addition: I've already fired an email off to Roger to get some preliminary information, so I'll be sure to ask him lots of questions in the dialog that ensues.
  12. my main guitar is a sixer so i use it for everything no matter what (until i get my kinal dk 5 that is). i went from a 4 stringer directly to the 6 and what was really strange was that i felt more comfortable and use the high c more often than the low b, at first. it actually took me a while to figure out what to do with the low b but lately i've been using it more often.
  13. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    jaco only needed 4 strings.
  14. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    True... However, what would have happened if he had had a 5 or 6 string fretless????
  15. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    doesn't matter. he only needed 4 strings.

    (have i been gone that long? :D)
  16. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    True... he only needed 4... We ALL only need 4... My post said "Imagine" the possibilities if he'd had a 5 or 6... Cmon man.... don't be a "Pinhead" about this!!!

  17. are you being serious? do you know who you are talking to?
  18. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Just to echo much of what has been said before. I don't play 6 to play loadsa notes that aren't possible on a 4 string (my only fretted bass has four strings, and I don't ever really feel deficient...) - it just offers different options for fingering, tone (take the open C on a 6 string, and then play as many other Cs in that very same register as you can reach across the neck - they all sound very different), and for chording, there are some stretches that sound lovely, but without the 6, I'd have to tap them (never like tapping if it's not absolutely neccesary to play a line...)

    The important thing to look for in a 6 is one where the B and C are both fairly well tonally integrated with the rest of the bass - Graphite does help here (hence the number of people who play 6 string Zons, Statuses and Moduli, or uses Graphite reinforcement in their wooden necks), but some builders just have it, and a lot of the lower end basses don't...

    You can groove using the high C string (if you got groove, you can groove on a mandolin, or a pair of tea spoons), and it's great for walking lines - having to leap right up to the top of the neck on a four can sometimes draw undue attention to a section of a walking line that sounds effortless on a 6 string...

    ...and If could only keep one bass... I'd cry a lot...

  19. A word to the wise: your chain is being yanked, in a friendly way.

    JT plays a 7. he is about the last person to be a 4-string purist.;)
  20. mark beem

    mark beem Wait, how does this song start again?? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    Sure I do. This guy is Bill Conklin's "wet dream" in the flesh!! :D
    Like I said though.. there'll be some serious traction time in your future from playing that double-necked behemoth!!!!

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