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Should I start on a 4 string or a 5 string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by neutrino, Sep 29, 2005.

  1. neutrino


    Sep 18, 2005
    I'm going to buy my Bongo - (Today I think). And I can't decide whether I should start to learn on a 4 string or a 5 string. Any reccomendations?

    I'm primarily going to be playing Rock Stuff: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews Band, Live, A perfect Circle, Tool, Metallica, etc...

    (the newbie FAQ didn't cover this topic)
  2. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    Either would be equally as good for a beginner. It should depend upon how the bass feels in your hands.

    Most choose to learn on a 4.

  3. Your choice really. Keep in mind that a 5 is a little more expensive in purchase and in strings. But quite a few rock songs are played in drop D. If you have a 5 string, you won't have to retune inbetween songs.
  4. neutrino


    Sep 18, 2005
    I just want to get what will be best for me. I'm not playing with any bands at the moment - I'm just learning this on my own.
  5. 5 String

    5 String

    Aug 25, 2005
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I started out on a Fender American Jazz V & wish I had a 4 instead. The extra string is just another one to worry about muting when it's not being played. The 5 string Bass is like the 7 string guitar, it has it's place, but neither will replace the 4 bass or 6 guitar.
  6. tkarter


    Jan 1, 2003
    You will find the Bongo 5 very playable as will you the four string Bongo. If you can try both simply play them or rather play with them. Which one feels best to you?

    So many times things change when one learns a bit. If you get a Bongo 5 and get tired of it remember me I will see what I can do to buy it from you.

  7. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    If you want to play 5 start with a 5. You won't find many other instruments were people recommend learning just part of it first and then relearning your technique to add the rest later.
  8. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT

    I've been following the thread where you ask this question over on the EBMM forum, and you're getting the "right" answer both here and there...that you really have to decide for yourself, and that either would be okay.

    If you want a simple, straight, pat answer:

    Get a 5.

    I gave my reasons in the other thread.

    Even if you don't think you need the 5th string now, you'll come to appreciate it in time. It lets you do certain things that you cannot do on a 4.

    This is not necessarily the best choice for you. But I and everyone else who has weighed in have told you that already.
  9. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    It's up to you. Two years ago I woulda said start with a four, work your way to the five. I did and I'm back to four. Why? It's what I do. It's all about feel, you won't get the same feel out of a five string bass as a four string.
  10. neutrino


    Sep 18, 2005
    i know... you all have been MOST helpful. I guess it's just newb nervousness. It's a lot of money for me, and I'm not trying to make a rush decision, but a well informed one.
  11. neutrino


    Sep 18, 2005
    any other opinions or suggestions?
  12. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

  13. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    I started on a five, stayed on it for a year and a half, then moved up to six, and am now on four and six. I may get a five for, well, having a five, but that'll be quite far ahead in the future. Do what you want and feel is right.
  14. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I personally think starting on a 5 can be a benefit. You can get used to that muting early, and its likely going to be easier than getting a 4 and switching later. I had a hard time moving to a 5 after a year and a half on a 4. Thats not a long time to have it hang me up, but it did.

    Id get a 5, especially in the range of the Bongo, you likely wont have to worry about a low quality 5 with a near unplayable B.
  15. neutrino


    Sep 18, 2005
    well like i said, i just want to make a 'good' decision. I like all types of music and reallly just want to learn how to play well and hit the ground running on a positive note.

    With that said I want to buy an instrument that will lend itself to help me learn how to play quickly and effectively - ie. i don't want to have to fight it.
  16. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT
    Look, IMHO you're overthinking this.

    Relax. You won't make a wrong decision either way. You've gotten past the hard part...getting a bass that's good enough to stick with. Consider yourself lucky to have the money to afford a darned good bass.

    Most newbies are more concerned about whether the $199 POS they can afford is good enough.

    You've heard all the arguments there are on both sides. Nothing more can be added.

    Sally forth, young subatomic particle, and obtain the weapon of thy choice.

    PS: I'd still get a 5 if I were you. Desert Gold. Tort guard. That's an order, Private.
  17. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    One of the great things about musical instruments is "feel." And I mean phsyicality. I played clarinet when I was a kid, went through several years of lessons and even made the wind ensemble as a non music major at my college. One could say I was pretty good at it, but here's the kicker: I never liked playing the damned thing. It didn't "feel" right to me. In short, I was sick of putting the stupid thing in my mouth and sitting there and keeping the emboucher correct and all that crap. The FIRST TIME I strapped on an electric bass I KNEW it was where I needed to be. I dropped the clarinet when I was 19. Quit cold turkey, and never looked back.

    That being said, a 5 string bass has a different feel to me than a 4 string. I have played both, and while I enjoy going LOW on the 5 string, I found I didn't have the applications for it. I also found that it didn't "feel" right to me. I could really lay into the four string, but the five was not as comfortable to play to me. Yes, I could play it fine, just didn't like it as much as playing 4. Also, 90% of my bass heros are 4 bangers. To me, 5 is overkill.

    My suggestion is to try both at music stores and see which one you like better. Then spend a lot of playing playing and get good. Take some lessons. Learn your theory. Play with a metronome. Listen to everything. Pay attention to how the bass works with the drums and then the other instruments. Find the pocket. Learn how to groove.
  18. Bryan R. Tyler

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

    May 3, 2002
    I started on a four and I wish I had started on a five. Muting the B string is quite easy- heck, if you anchor your thumb like most bassists do, you can just anchor it on the B when it's not in use and it won't make any noise at all. Slapping is the only time where muting it becomes at all tricky, and then it's just a matter of fretting hand muting.

    I think the five-string will easily overtake the four-string as the dominant bass in the upcoming decades. It's already a much better seller for high-end dealers and luthiers, and considering what a short time period the four-string has been around and how the five has becoming increasing popular in a percentage of that time, there's no doubt in my mind that fives will be considered what a bass "is" in 30-50 years.

    I wouldn't worry about if a five-string would suit your style less than a four would- a five can do everything a four can do plus more. The added low notes aren't even the greatest benefit of it- it's the ability to play all the low notes on the E string at higher positions, and the ability to play in three octaves with only one position change...basically, with a five you get a lot more fingering options, most of which are easier to play than on a four because you can play vertically up the neck or horizontally rather than always having to play horizontally.
  19. adouglas


    Jun 23, 2003
    Bridgeport, CT

    You've gotten well-reasoned, clearly explained, intelligent points of view that support both choices.

    Therefore, the original advice holds:

    Decide for yourself.

    Welcome to the real world, where NOTHING is clear-cut.

    So: What's your choice?

    Pics, please.
  20. neutrino


    Sep 18, 2005
    in terms of 5 string basses - is the bongo okay? I've read some posts on here that talk about they will only buy a 35" scale 5 string bass because 34" scale B strings sound like crap and what not. I really don't know what to make of it all. Is it just different strokes for different folks - or are there just little factions of people that will only buy certain things and thinks everyone else should as well?