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Should I learn on a 4 or 5 string bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by glundblade, Dec 13, 2017.

  1. glundblade


    Dec 13, 2017
    I am an advanced beginning bass player. I have an old Washburn Bantam XB102 PJ bass with a p bass type neck that feels very wide. I'm getting ready to begin lessons with a pro who is a 5 and 6 string aficionado. A local shop with a great reputation is selling a MIM Fender jazz bass and an Indonesian made G&L 5 string with active electronics. Which bass would be best to learn on? I want to play classic rock, blues, and one day jazz. I like the feeling of the jazz bass neck. Would I be better off getting accustomed to a 5 string neck? Both of the basses in the store are used but in excellent shape. My Washburn has developed a crack in the fretboard but has had a set-up. I appreciate your advice.
  2. Flaked Beans

    Flaked Beans

    Sep 9, 2005
    I don't know. Back in the day we didn't have 5 or six string basses.
    ajkula66, Oleg BassPlayer and Sixgunn like this.
  3. Drgonzonm


    Sep 4, 2017
    American SW
    I look at your question, and I believe you answered the question yourself. "Lessons with a pro who is a 5 and 6 string aficionado". Go with the 5 string.
    with a five string, and a capo, you have an extended 4 string in front of you.
    My question for you, what is your amp? The wrong amp, and you won't be able to take advantage of the B0 string.
    good luck
    Dougie44 likes this.
  4. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Welcome to TalkBass.
    I have never played a 4-string bass.
    Even my electric upright is a 5.
    There is no disadvantage to instruments with more strings unless maybe you need the extra space for slapping.
    You'll have more strings to mute, and buy, and the instruments will typically be heavier, but these are minor annoyances at best.
    Get a _good_ instrument and learn it well.
    IMO, get an instrument you will never outgrow - or at least, not any time soon.
    There is a perfectly normal 4-string bass in the middle of a 6-string bass.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2017
  5. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    It all depends upon what you expect you will play as your main instrument down the road. I've never felt the need to play (or therefore, own) a 5er. I know people who play 5s and 6s exclusively.
    El-Bob, FugaziBomb and mrcbass like this.
  6. Dougie44


    Jul 1, 2012
    Go with the neck that feels best, and as long as it’s early in the learning process definitely go with the 5 string
    El-Bob likes this.
  7. glundblade


    Dec 13, 2017
    I have a 100 watt Traynor that weighs a ton, and a 40 watt (half ton) Hartke. Both are in good working order.
  8. glundblade


    Dec 13, 2017
    I bought the Traynor about four years ago. The 40 watt Hartke is used, and at least 10 years old. Both have passive and active input jacks.
  9. EpicSoundtracks


    Mar 10, 2006
    Oakland, CA
    Lollar Pickups, Dunlop Strings
    Sixgunn and Joedog like this.
  10. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    You answered your question before asking it.
    Talk to your instructor about it at lesson #1.
    If they know what they're doing they'll be able to help you make the right decision.
    TrevorG, +6dB Dan and AltGrendel like this.
  11. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Wikipedia often mistakes my opinions for fact Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    Most 5 string players view moving from 4 to 5 as a natural progression and inevitable. Most 4 string players view 5 string as something they are fine without.

    I think the extra weight, extra string to mute, and cost of strings are a pretty big deal if you don’t have a need/want for them.

    There isn’t a wrong choice, but there is a wrong way to make the choice. Pick whatever you want, but don’t buy into one or the other path as being more correct.
  12. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    Get the G&L 5.
    (I've had a few and currently have a JB-2 Tribute as a passive 4 string jazz with flats for pit and jazz gigs where I don't need/want a B string...I tend to play more old school for these gigs.)
    G&L is a solid bass, there's a built in 4 string (I know 4 string people hate that but it's true) and I think 5's sound better. There's more mass. The B string is a great "moveable" thumb rest for when you don't need/use it. I have tried to go back to a 4 and I just find I really want/need that B string. I don't always use it, but it's nice to have when you want to use it.
  13. glundblade


    Dec 13, 2017
    Is an Indonesian made G&L 5 string a well made instrument that I can play for years, or is the MIM Fender jazz bass a better quality bass for the next 10+ years?
  14. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I'd take the G&L over the Fender. I own an Indonesian G&L and it's a great bass. If it were a pound or two lighter it would be an really great bass. I've had plenty of MIM jazz basses but that was years ago.
    Band Mom, osonu and ahadl2500 like this.
  15. MoeTown1986

    MoeTown1986 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2010
    SoMD (Mechanicsville)
    Learn on which ever one you want to play in the long run. I started out on a 5 string. Played a few years on it then switched to 4 string basses for a while. I was always looking for something while on 4 strings. Came back to 5 strings in my current cover band (10 years this year) and have been happy.
  16. ldryder


    Sep 8, 2014
    A 5 string will provide you with more options and some additional flexibility in the ways that you'll be able to play different lines.

    It's not very difficult to get comfortable with different shapes and widths of necks.
    el_Bajo_Verde, Sixgunn and Afc70 like this.
  17. Solude


    Sep 16, 2017
    Do any of the bands you listen to regularly use 5 strings? If not and you find the 4 wide, 5 is counter productive.
    dmt likes this.
  18. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I don't think it really matters, but I'm in camp with those suggesting the 5 string. If you're even thinking about now, you'll wind with one eventually. Might as well just dive right in. Since you may move to jazz one day. a 6 string could very well be in your future; knowing a five string will ease that transition.
    el_Bajo_Verde and Afc70 like this.
  19. If the neck on your 4 string already feels wide, you may not want a 5 or 6 string.
    Most , if not all, will generally be even wider.
    Band Mom and Fender_Bender like this.
  20. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I think a 5 is a great "compromise" bass. I have had a 6 string a few times in the past, and I was never fully able to put the C string to good use - at least enough to justify having it. It was great for contemporary jazz and stuff, but I think there's a huge difference in not using/muting the C string and bot using/muting the B string. I had difficulty with that and in the end, the added 5 notes weren't enough for me to justify it. The B string, if nothing else, can be a thumb rest. I don't find muting it an issue. I do find I use it enough to justify having it. I have tried to go 4 string in the past, and did for about a year (with a Geddy Lee jazz which was awesome) but I always seem to come back to a 5 string, tow pickup, active bass.

    As far as neck width (side to side) I find my Roscoe 5 (best 5 string neck ever) to be more comfortable to play than my 4 string G&L jazz neck. I also like the thickness (front to back) of my Roscoe better. Really flat, thin profile which I prefer over a beefier jazz neck.

    El-Bob and phillipkregg like this.

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