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Small hands = No Fiver?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by vanderbrook, Apr 5, 2002.

  1. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    As some of you may have read... I'm an upright player looking to add an inexpensive (but not cheap) BG to my arsenal. I've let folks steer me toward 5-bangers as the "professional standard," but I'm beginning to wonder whether my smallish hands would make a 4-banger a better choice.

    How smallish? Middle finger runs right about 3". Wrist to tip of middle finger, 7.5".

    So whaddaya think? My upright's a four-string. Should I be looking at Fours or Fives?

    I appreciate your knowledgeable input!
  2. Ívar Þórólfsson

    Ívar Þórólfsson Mmmmmm...

    Apr 9, 2001
    Kopavogur, Iceland
    Not necesseraly.

    My hands are very similar to yours, and I play a fiver.

    By all means go out and try a bunch of fivers. Some have wide necks, other slim etc.

    I used to play a four stringer, for 2-3 years, then I bought a fiver and I had no problem with the conversion.

    In general the string spacing on five and six string basses is tighter than on four string, so having small hands does not mean you can´t play them.
  3. My hands are small as well, and I'll tell you I just feel more comfortable on a 4. I can play 5s, and I'm probably going to buy one later on, but it feels better for me to play on a 4.

    So, I'm going to give you the generic Talkbass answer :) : Go and try it out yourself, see what feels best.
  4. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I'm another guy with small hands, or short fingers at least, and I play 5's and 6's. John Turner has said that his hands are pretty small, and he plays 7's and 8's.

    Try them out. If a 4 feels better to you than a 5, go for the 4. If the 5 feels better, get the five.
  5. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    ...try 'em out, that is. My top picks (Yamaha BBG5S, discontinued DeArmond Pilot Pro 5) apparently can't be found in Denver. I called 10 medium-to-large music stores this morning, and none of 'em have either one. (Both are, of course, available on the Internet.) I guess I could go play some Fivers somewhere, but they won't be those that really interest me.

    What is it with this town, anyway?! When I wanted to buy a carved upright bass last December, I had to drive to Seattle! :mad: Just not a very musical city, I guess...

  6. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    even though i personally have (relatively) large hands, i still had some trouble adjusting to the 5.

    when you start playing a 5 (and you WILL!!:D ), there will be some sort of adjusting no matter what.
    it can be done, and it can be worth it.
  7. eli

    eli Mad showoff 7-stringer and Wish lover

    Dec 12, 1999
    NW suburban Chicago
    For size, try playing an Ibanez 5. They seem to have the narrowest string spacing available. Carvins use the same narrow spacing. Yamahas IME definitely tend to be wider!

    I have somwhat bigger hands, and I'm playing 7's with a 2-1/2" wide nut! So the ratio can't possibly be worse for you playing a 5, 'specially a narrow one.
  8. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    One cool thing about playing a five if you have small hands is that stuff you have to stretch like crazy to play in 1st & second position on E & A strings on a 4 you can now play in 6th and 7th position on the B & E strings. You also get 2 full octaves without having to shift out of position. Try it. You'll appreciate it.


    James Martin
  9. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Unless your hands are really small, I don't think hand size has nearly as much to do with it as technique. I've got hands about the same size as yours, and can play wide 6's (2-1/8" at the nut, 3/4" spacing at the bridge) without a whole lot of difficulty, if I center my thumb on the back of the neck, and wear the bass high enough that I can keep my left wrist straight.

  10. DarkMazda


    Jun 3, 2000
    Vander: JT has the same hands as u and he plays a doubleneck 7 string and 8 string basses.... so stop your whinin!! :cool:

    It's not the matter of "How many strings you have".. It's how you use it that counts! :cool: :p
  11. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    Thanks for the thought-provoking replies. I went and played a few MIM J- and P-basses on the way home, and a low-end Yamaha (not the BBG5S in which I'm interested). Wow... long time, no play electric! It was fun though, I gotta say.

    I don't know how long it would take me to adapt to a fiver... I certainly didn't see any signs of it happening right there in the store. :D Them thar strings are just too damn close! And I gotta wonder what getting used to a fiver would do to my upright playing. I think I'd be best off sticking to a four-banger for now. (Besides, I know where I can get a certain neck-through four-string for $300.)

    BassBoardBrad may be right -- I may get a 5 someday... but right now, trying to get back into BG after about 10 years away, isn't the time.

    Again, Thanks!
  12. Mellem


    Feb 1, 2002
    Greenville, MI
    Yeah, I think the adjustment from 4 to 5 is harder because of the strings being closer than because of small hands. But, I have played many fivers, and I normally can't see a reason to have that extra string anyway. Really, if classical double bass players have been plucking 4 strings for hundreds of years, why now does the bass guitar have to one-up the double bass and go for more strings? Besides, if you really want that low bottom, just drop D.
  13. I don't know your pain now, I had a growth spert and my hands wrist to the tip of my middle finger measures now about 9 1/2 inches. Which isn't that much of a difference then yours, but before I grew I played an Ibanez Soundgear.
  14. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Actually, the standardization on 4 strings is fairly recent, certainly not hundreds of years old! The number of strings has varied over the years from 3 to 6 (if you include the viola de gamba).

  15. vanderbrook

    vanderbrook Some days, I miss frets... Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2001
    Denver, CO, USA
    All too true. OTOH, many bassists performing in orchestral settings are using 5-string double basses or C-extensions. Something I'm quite content to overlook for now, seeing as how I placed the winning bid on a 4-string, neck-through Pilot Deluxe bass a little over nine hours ago! :cool:

  16. Don`t let the hand size stop you!

    I,too,have small hands...not much larger than an average sized female :( I currently play a 4 but have tried 5`s and found them comfy(my next bass will be a 5er).Is`nt the doublebass neck wider and/or thicker than a BG neck?
  17. Nick Gann

    Nick Gann Talkbass' Tubist in Residence

    Mar 24, 2002
    Silver Spring, MD
    Always try it out. If it works, it works. Don't go to buy it without trying a bunch of things out. I just recently, (last weekend in fact), switched to a fiver. I went to the shop thinking I was going to get a 4 that was really good, but after trying a bunch of different basses, I decided to go with a fiver.

    The size of your hands doesn't make that much of a difference. There are many narrow neck 5 string basses, and there are many wide ones too. It doesn't matter the size. All that matters is the feel. If it feels good and is comfortable, and you can easily play it, go for it.

    All that matters is the comfort level. I know a bass player with hands that are about your size. I have huge hands, and my buddy's bass's neck is almost wider than mine, but it is comfortable for him.

    Go to buy your bass with an open mind. Don't make a decision until you get to compare different basses. Play fours, fives, (if you're daring, try a six), wide necks, and small necks. Find what is best for you, and go with that.

    Every one is different, and it's all about how you feel.

    What he said. :D

  18. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    your hand dimensions are pretty much identical to mine, and i've played 7 and 8 string basses exclusively for the past 9 years. proper techinique is more important than anatomy, imo, for playing an extended range instrument.
  19. JayAmel

    JayAmel Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Carcassonne, France
    Sure, but in a certain limit though : a guy with 3 hands will more at ease than you or me on tapping, for instance :D

    Same thing for a guy with 5 feet, who will footswitch his preamps and pedals much better than us :D:D:D

    All the best,
  20. Rodan


    Feb 4, 2002
    Hollywood, FL
    Oh, no. I just did a controlled experiment (measuring tape) - I have small hands too!!! There goes my dream to rule on my soon-to-be 5 string.
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