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Should I learn on a 4- or 5-String Bass AND Pawn Shop Squier (VM?) 4-string Jazz Bass questions

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Micah D, Mar 16, 2018.

  1. Micah D

    Micah D

    Mar 1, 2018
    Hello Everyone,

    I hope you’re all having a terrific day. Also, I hope it’s okay to mix two topics in a thread. I’m new to this cool site.

    I’ve played drums since I was eight — more than forty years ago — and wanted to play bass, even then!

    Things have changed a lot since the Seventies, what with the addition of a fifth and - gasp- sixth string to the electric bass guitar. I’m just as happy to learn how to play on a 4-stringed instrument. Honestly, it’s going to be a while before I’m confronted with the need to reach the lower registers of more contemporary compositions. Four strings were plenty adequate for my heroes, Jaco, Stanley, Verdine, and the various Motown greats who inspired my desire to play bass guitar.

    So, Question One:
    Should I learn how to play bass on a 4- or 5-string?

    Question Two:
    In a local pawn shop, I’ve handled a Squier Jazz Bass that appears to be a 2008 Indonesian-made Vintage Modified. It is natural wood color, has two Duncan-Designed Jazz pickups that have oxidized/rusty magnets and screws for the pick guard. It has black block inlays in the frets that cause me to think it is a VM. Might it even be a ‘70’s or ‘77?

    Anyway, if you folks think it’s wise to start out on a 4-string, what are your thoughts on the pawn shop find with the $150.00 asking price? I’m toying with the idea of offering $80 to a max of $100, in light of its non-pristine condition.

    It doesn’t have any scratches that I saw, but I haven’t heard it plugged into an amp. I don’t know about the electronics.

    What do you think?

    zon6c-f likes this.
  2. wizard65


    Sep 1, 2014
    Most learning resources and tabs are geared towards 4 strings so it makes the process a bit simpler.
    I learned on a 4 for a couple of years before buying a fiver, it’s not a huge change, it’s still a bass.
  3. saabfender

    saabfender SUSPENDED

    Jan 10, 2018
    4 or 5 string doesn't matter. Pick them up, plug them in and play them. Since you're starting somewhat fresh, you'll acclimate to whichever (4 or 5) you chose. Buy the one that you most enjoy playing.
  4. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    To me it makes absolutely most sense to learn how to play bass on whatever bass you plan on continuing to play on in the future.

    If you find you will have use of the extra low notes of a 5 string, go with a 5 string, if not, no reason really to have the trouble.

    Personally I prefer a 4 string bass, and it's not like the concept of more strings is strange to me, originally coming from guitar, just feel more comfortable on a 4 string and don't really have much use for the extra low notes.

    If I were at some point to get a bass with more strings, I would likely rather get a 6 string bass than a 5 string though.
    G On Bass and Micah D like this.
  5. saabfender

    saabfender SUSPENDED

    Jan 10, 2018
    I have both. There's no "trouble" associated with a 5-string. My 5-string plays easier than my P-Bass.
    Micah D likes this.
  6. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    What I meant by trouble was not so much in the sense of music theory related difficulties of having an extra string and set of tones to deal with and adapting your technique to use a bass with 5 strings, it was more meant to be seen in relation to the playing comfort of the narrower neck and the wider string spacing of a 4 string.

    In the end though, weather you see a 5 string as more troublesome or not to play, I guess would really mostly come down to a matter of individual taste and how big your hands happens to be.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2018
    LoveThatBass and Micah D like this.
  7. I say start with the 4-string for two reasons: 1) The reason stated above about most literature and tab being written for a 4-string. and B) If the opportunity for you to sit in with another band should ever arise om the spur of the moment, it's more likely the bass on stage will be a 4-string. If it happens to be a 5-string, you can always play the "I've never played a fiver before" card. The reverse might sound a little cocky.

    As far as the pawn shop bass goes, if it feels comfortable, go for it. Try to dicker them down, but even at $150, if the neck is straight and you can live with the dings, replacement parts should be relatively cheap. The big question is, since you said you were a drummer, does your girlfriend have room for your new bass in her van?
    jchrisk1 and Micah D like this.
  8. Micah D

    Micah D

    Mar 1, 2018
    Thank you, so much, for your informed responses, everyone. I appreciate your input. Honestly, I like the idea of beginning on a 4-string. What musical genres seem to prefer the 5- and 6-string instruments? I look forward to playing R&B, Motown, Contemporary Christian Praise and Worship, and Jazz.

    Strictly responding to a prior post, I don’t have huge hands, but not small, either. I wear size Large motorcycle gloves, if that provides relevant information as to whether a +string bass will be playable for me.

    Now, what are thoughts on the pawn shop Squier Jazz Bass that I found? Should I be concerned about the oxidation on the pups and pick guard screws? Does that suggest rusty (compromised) electronics under the hood?

    Do you think it may be a Vintage Modified? ‘70s or ‘77 VM, maybe?
  9. TuneSalad666

    TuneSalad666 Banned

    Mar 1, 2018
    I didn't really mean that a 5 string bass would be impossible to play unless you have big hands, just that a 4 string would be more comfortable.

    Also I wouldn't worry too much about oxidation if it sounds good and the pots doesn't produce scratching sounds when you turn them.

    Some even make their hardware rust on purpose to get their bass to look old, used and rougher, the so called reliced or road worn look.
    Micah D likes this.
  10. Micah D

    Micah D

    Mar 1, 2018
    Here’s a laugh for you, folks: I don’t know how to tell if a neck is straight or if I like playing a particular bass. I, literally, have never played a bass. So, I guess it doesn’t really matter if the electronics are great. If it’s a Vintage Modified, it’s a great find.

    Oh, no girlfriend and no van, although that’s pretty funny. I’m taking care of my elderly Dad, following a few strokes.

    Thankfully, he is on the mend.

  11. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    I’ve given this advice here many times. There’s no reason to start on an instrument different than the one you want to end up on, and the transition between the two will likely be at least a little difficult. You could spend that time getting better at the instrument you wanted to play instead.

    The greatest benefit from using 5+ string basses is not the additional notes but the ability to play vertically across the neck and the different note tonalities you get from playing the same notes on different strings. This is why what genres you play should not matter- they only matter if they require an additional string, not if you want to opt to use one.

    Also, unless you plan on an extended use of tablature, it shouldn’t be a consideration when picking your instrument. Standard notation does not dictate or care about how many or few strings you have.
  12. Micah D

    Micah D

    Mar 1, 2018
    Great! I’ll take a strap and cable, next time, and plug in to evaluate the condition of the pots.

    Here’s to relics — Jaco slayed with his, may he Rest In Peace.
    jd56hawk and TuneSalad666 like this.
  13. wizard65


    Sep 1, 2014
    The bass you are describing appears to be a Vintage Modified 70s jazz bass.
    $150 is what they hope you will pay, I’m sure you could get it down a bit.​
    Micah D likes this.
  14. Micah D

    Micah D

    Mar 1, 2018
  15. I can't comment on the specific Fender models. As for the oxidation/rust on the exterior, I wouldn't worry about it too much. You can cleaned the oxidation off the pup pole-pieces easily enough. Just be careful not to strip any rusty screw-heads if you go to start fiddling. Unless the bass got soaked in a bucket, the pots under the hood are probably okay. Even if they're shot, replacements aren't expensive.

    As for your question about styles preferring a 5-string, of those you listed, none require a low B string. I've played all genres with a 4-string, and I've done the same with a 5. No one has ever complained about a lack of bottom when I play a 4-string.
    Micah D likes this.
  16. Micah D

    Micah D

    Mar 1, 2018
    Thank you x3. I think you have satisfied all my concerns by sharing your experience. I appreciate everyone’s contributions. Blessings
    gitfiddl likes this.
  17. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    One last thing to add to the already-good advice. If you have a friend or acquaintance who plays bass, see if you get them to come along with you. They'll notice things (good or bad) that you wont be aware of. The analogy is that it would be like sending me on my own to shop for a drum set - no frame of reference.
    DrummerwStrings and Micah D like this.
  18. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    You've been given good advice so far. I see you are also interested in contemporary Christian music also. Lots of contemporary gospel bassists usually go for the five as it gives them versatility when playing with keyboardists with a heavy left hand.:cool:
  19. tpaul

    tpaul Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2011
    A little rust on the screws and magnets won't hurt anything. The key questions you need to answer are: Does the pawnshop bass play well? Does it sound good (to you)? Is the neck straight, does the truss rod work, and do the frets have plenty of life left in them? Despite the rust, are all the saddle adjustment screws able to be turned? Can it be tuned properly, can the intonation be set right, and does it hold tune?

    If you aren't a player it would be very helpful to bring a friend with you who plays bass, or at least guitar, and who can help to answer the above questions.

    If the bass is in decent condition, plays well and sounds good, then $150 is not a bad price. Of course you should offer less, but you won't be getting a bad deal at $150. If they won't come down on the price, ask them to throw in a case or a nice gig bag, they're bound to have some lying around and you'll need one.
  20. Malak the Mad

    Malak the Mad Over the River and through the Looking Glass Supporting Member

    Yep! What he's describing sounds exactly like a VM '70s Jazz. The '77 has white pearloid blocks, not black.

    $150 is a pretty fair price for a functioning Squier VM, but you might be able to get them down to $125 or $130. In my, albeit limited, experience with pawn shops, they seem quick to discount things with cosmetic issues, despite them being in excellent working condition. Just be sure to verify the finer points of their return policy.

    @Micah D; I don't know if there are any near you, but a local Guitar Center could be another option. They'll ship a bass either to your door or to any store of theirs for pickup for a small fee, usually about $20. Also, they have a decent return policy, something to the tune of 45 days.

    Here's a similar instrument that appears to be around the age of the one you're scoping out…


    However, any time I'm thinking of buying a used item from them, I always call the store and ask someone there to see if it's still available and is there any damage/use/wear that could become a problem.
    DrummerwStrings and Micah D like this.

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