Small hands and the 5 string bass.

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by MJB, Sep 10, 2001.

  1. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    As a small handed player I had avoided 5 string basses. Not able to pass up a great deal (DeArmond Pilot Plus V @ $159) I thought I'd give the 5 a try. The biggest challenge for my small hands was trying to cover 4 frets in the lower registers, like a I, IV,V in the key of G. Well I've found that being able to play this starting on the B string 8th fret rather than the E string 3rd fret is a whole lot easier. So now my cheapest bass is becoming my favorite.

    If any of you small handed players have shyed away from fivers, give it a try. You might be surprised.
  2. FWIW, the Pilot has a 35" scale, which may give small-handed people problems. There are 5-string basses out there with incredibly thin 34"-scale necks--the Zon Sonus 5/1 comes to mind.
  3. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    The Pilot Plus V is 34" scale. I think some of the ads during the recent blowout did publish it as 35" so I took my tape measure out and nut to 12th fret is right at 17". I believe the Pilot Pro is 35".

    I like being able to cover all the ground of a 4 string without a need to go lower than the 5th fret. I'm actually considering the idea of a 6 now.

  4. Bass Guitar

    Bass Guitar Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Go for the 6. I have tiny hands, and I play a 7 with no difficulties. It's a matter of getting used to the bass.

  5. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
    Alot of ibanez 5'ers have short string spaceing,,,,any 5'er besides the btb the edb 5 and the soundgears
  6. Tronictq


    Jan 23, 2001
    I beleive the size of your hands draw no limits in what kind of bass you play, style you play or size of it. How about a philisophical(sp?) question here:

    If we link small handers to 4 strings, avg. size handers to 5's, large hands to 6's....... then shouldn't the guys who play upright/double bass have hands 3× the size of their heads?

    No but seriously, I say don't let the size of your hands scare you away from your dreams goals and aspirations. GO FOR IT.

  7. ldiezman


    Jul 11, 2001
    Yeah having small hands really doesn't matter.... I Have huge hands.. but the Guitar prof. here at My college has Small hands but he is one of the best Jazz guitar players around.... hands down. Dr. L.H Dickert. the man is very good. and he plays bass very well also
  8. A person with small hands (most of us) should not try to cover 4 frets in the lower positions. This is asking for hand and wrist problems. I teach my pupils to play in the double bass style, ie; 4 fingers over 3 frets, in the lower positions. 1st finger on 1st fret, 2nd finger on 2nd fret, 3rd and 4th finger on 3rd fret. The 3rd finger acts as a support for the (weak) 4th finger. I use this method up to about the 7th or 8th fret.
  9. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Interesting technique, Marty. I haven't heard this before, and now I'm wondering how many here play this way. I too have small hands so I'm going to see how that feels. Thanks for the comment.

  10. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    Marty, that's the technique I use on long scale basses. Unfortunately, it slows me way down when playing a walking line like R-3-5-6-8. The necessary thumb pivot to get fingers 3+4 over to the 5th and the octave just slow me down. I can fly thru a line like this higher up the neck or on a short scale bass. I've been playing my short scale Starfire lately and am seriously considering relegating myself to short scale basses. This is contrary to the original point of my topic but I'm having trouble denying the facts.

    I know practice helps but it's difficult to imagine a thumb pivot and landing fingers 3+4 down are ever gonna be as fast as just putting down the pinky which is already in position.

    I think I'm a victim of physics. :D
  11. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    MJB, I have small hands also, and my solution for the R-3-5-6-8 walk is to play the 3 on the same string as the root, 5 frets up. It involves a position shift, but when you shift up the 5-6-8 are all within 3 frets of each other. I taught myself to play the walk that way, and only found out a couple of years later that most people play it with the 3 on the next string. Now I can play it both ways, but in the lower positions I usually play it the way I learned.
  12. LWatford


    Jul 28, 2001
    Helena, AL
    I am learning that it helps to use as much "correct" technique as possible. I know correct is subjective, but things like keeping the thumb on the back of the neck and keeping fingers arched really lessen the pain for me. My arm starts to tense up if I try to play with my wrist bent and fingers flat. Is this just me? Keep posting ideas, I enjoy reading about other things I can try.

  13. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    Yeah, I hear ya. I do that now when I have a line like R-b3-5-8. The availability of adjacent string notes is what is driving my interest in investigating 6 strings.
  14. I think it's important to have a neck that fits your hands; a neck that's too thick or too thin for the size of your palm can cause a lot of pain. I have huge palms and short fingers--my palm is almost an inch longer from the heel to the middle finger than the middle finger itself--so my Dean 5-string's thin, narrow neck isn't doing the job. My next bass will have a somewhat thicker neck with a fairly round back profile.
  15. mine IS over an inch bigger :mad:

    my neck, at its thinnest point is about 1 inch, and the thickest, nerly 2 inches.

    :confused: scary :confused:
  16. I too have small hands.

    BUT I HAVE HUGE FEET !!!!!!!!
  17. I don't think going from a 4 to a 5 requires that much adjusting. THe B string is on top of the E string. Therefore the left hand should be able to play the E, A, D, and G, strings in the same manner as on a 4 string. The only adjustment you would have to make is when playing the B string. You would have to reach higher for the B string.

    If you were to get a 6 string, or add a high C on a 5 string, I think you would have to make a much more significant adjustment because the C string would always "get in the way." You would always have to play around it. Playing the E string on a 6 would be like playing the B string on a 5.

    Do you guys follow my explanation? On a 5, the B string just sits up there and if you so desire, you could choose to ignore it and use it as a thumbrest.

    I've played both 4s and 5s and I found them both equally easy to play.