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Rediscovering 4 String

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Michael Gregory, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. Michael Gregory

    Michael Gregory

    Aug 10, 2012
    I just starting working with a producer who works with name pop artists, and the songs are much more produced than what I'm used to - it's much more about timbres...

    So I recently overhauled my 5-string Jazz when I became dissatisfied with its recorded sound. I also have a Dean Edge 5 that I thought was great - always mixes well for shows and it's the best playing bass I've ever touched - I mean by far - some kind of magic; the string heights at the twelfth fret are the same as on my best 6 string guitars. Also this is the only bass I have a ramp on, which makes things so much easier and more precise...

    But working with this pop guy, I haven't used anything but my old 4-string Cirrus and a cheap Epiphone Beatle bass I got from Guitar Center for $225 LOL. They just sit perfectly in the mix and don't need much tweaking to mix. Also I have learned to imitate the Beatle bass with my Cirrus.

    It strikes me as I listen back to my attempts to record with 5 string basses that it's the fifth string that doesn't fit in. It really sounds like a clam or another instrument. I tried Cirlce K strings, which helped a great deal but it is still very obvious when I move to the 5th string, even adjusting technique and all (btw been playing for 30 years and have a bachelor's for [classical] guitar performance).

    I just can't deal with it. I kinda decided to part out my 5 string basses but I'm dragging my feet on that because I'm attached to them. Also I don't really like retuning my Cirrus for every tune for recording - or going with the ridiculous mudfest EQ for live R&B so all the Eb's don't sound like the bottom dropped out...

    But for now I'm a four string guy. Grudgingly. Also I have started to gather parts and raw materials for a 7-string multiscale build, using the same maple/purpleheart combo as my Cirrus and the same scale at the A string, so hopefully that will cure my problems. All I have done so far is glue up the main plank - the neck/core. And buy some hardware and electronics...

    I'm doing 7 strings because I double on guitar, but I tune my guitar like the top 6 of a 7 string (EADGCF), so I figure it will be an easy transition. Plus I don't really enjoy building anywhere near as much as I enjoy having instruments that work correctly - I don't want to have to do this again a few years LOL.

    Anyone else kinda get forced back into 4-string? Anyone else think that a single scale 5 string is just an unworkable, unusable design?
  2. bassfuser


    Jul 16, 2008
    I started getting into my 4 strings about a year ago. About 2-3 years ago I started playing on my 5 string like it was a 4, except for the occasional lower notes. At some point I decided that having to mute the 5th string wasn't worth the effort for me. I also like that there are fewer note choices making the fret board much easier to deal with.

    I still plan on using the 5'ers, but for now I've been pretty exclusive on the 4s.

    Why don't you string one of your 5 strings to EADGC? I did that with one of mine and it's pretty cool. I'll use it when I want to record some chords.
  3. What other 5 strings have you been using? Same problems with all?

    I've demo'd basses that sound louder, softer or different on the B string and I agree - not workable. But I get very even response across all strings with light attack technique, more or less flat eq, 35" scale (Lakland 55-02, DJ5, MTD Z-6), and 10s and 12s in my live rig.

    Are you boosting lows to make your high Eb sound fuller on a 4 string? That doesn't seem like a good solution. If Eb is as low as you need, maybe try an octave pedal, or a D-tuner instead.
  4. AndrewFord


    Aug 11, 2012
    Los Angeles area
    Endorsing Artist: Line 6, TC Electronics, Yamaha, Elixir Strings
    4's just have a different thing, most artists I have worked with that love "bass" want 4 string. I like elements of the 5, certain ballads or other styles benefit from the low notes, but my old theory is that if 4 was enough for jaco, mccartney and jamerson then it is enough for me.
  5. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    I don't like notes lower than a low D. Just seems like an uncomfortable noise to me.

    I don't like strings that close together and a neck that wide.

    I guess it's like the drummer who wails out on a 4 piece kit.

    4 stringer for life.

    -Good luck on your recordings!
  6. playbass0410


    Feb 8, 2008
    Well, I do have no problems with the articulation of the B string on my Marleaux bass. Has the same sound as E just deeper but there are lots of 5 string basses that cannot deliver this.
    What I do like on 5 string is that the right hand technique benefits from playing fast and even on the E string due to the fingers braked by the B string.
    Damping is no problem to me as I do not rest the thumb on a pickup but always have it damping the lower strings not in action barré like.

    On double bass I love to have just four strings - gives me enough pain though ;-)
  7. I am strictly a four string payer, and short scale at that. So my experience with five strings is, shall we say, limited? I borrowed one to perform one song at an open mic. Since I was also singing, you can only imagine how I was hitting the wrong strings. The guy I borrowed the bass from told me that the options offered by the five string confused him. He told me that the bass was an old one and that's what everybody was buying when he bought it. I've seen him play on a number of occasions. He rarely uses the B string.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    When I was young I asked a teacher "ever play a 5 string?"
    His response was "I'm not done learning everything about these four yet"
  9. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    You can't master music ... so ... he won't know what he is missing or he is affraid of that big fretboard.
  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I played 5's exclusively for a couple years back in the 90's. My logic was I was playing a handful of songs that could use it, so I'd just use a 5 and avoid switching basses since I've always had problems switching in the middle of a set. But then I'd have a vast majority of songs that didn't require the low notes and I'd try to find ways to crowbar them in.

    Got a couple complaints about it, so one night I decided to be very analytical about it and only play low notes at times where I thought it truly enhanced the songs. Ended up using it once outside of the detuned songs, and quite honestly, I wasn't all that thrilled about it when I used it.

    So back I went to 4's and gradually phased out the 5, and now the only time I use the 5 onstage is when the music specifically requires it, which has happened once in the last 7 years.

    So if there's a moral here, I'd say to anyone using a 5 or more should at least try to be appropriate with it, and not just crowbar in low notes because you have them.
  11. bassfuser


    Jul 16, 2008
    I used to play in a church praise band. The 5 string was great because there are so many songs in Eb and D. Something about the lower notes in a sanctuary that can really be intense. I never used it much lower other than an occasional open B at the end of a song.

    I still like my 5 string basses and would have a hard time parting with them, but for now the 4 is for me.

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