Stepping away from the 6..thoughts?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Matt Morgan, Nov 28, 2005.

  1. Matt Morgan

    Matt Morgan Fellow Conspirator Supporting Member

    Having played 6 string basses now for the last 10 years, I've reached a point where I'm seriously considering going back to the 5.
    Over the last two years especially, I find that when I'm playing in anything other than a very small group context, I'm simply not using the upper C string very much if at all anymore. I almost find myself deliberately trying to play on the C string in order to justify it! Part of me says "better to have it an not need it...etc", the other part of me says "that musical range is not your job 99% of the time".
    I've always enjoyed the benefits of the six (fewer position changes, diffent voicings of the strings, etc.) but more and more I find myself anchoring the music instead of motoring around in the upper ranges.
    I'm sure there are others with similar experience. I'm looking for comments, both positive and those with regrets, concerning stepping away from the big 6.
  2. I've been a four string player for most of my career. In the last two years I've purchased two six strings, a Yamaha TRB-6P and a Tobias Toby Pro6 Deluxe (the latter being a suprisingly good bass, except for the preamp). I've been playing these almost exclusively live for the past two years. Largely because my four strings tend to stay in the studio.

    However, on occasion when I play the 4 string live I realise how much I really enjoy them. Frequently I wish I'd bought a five string. In fact, I think what I really should have are a couple (or more) good quality 4 strings and one good quality 5 string. It is just that I never bring myself to sell any of my basses so I'm keeping the sixers. But I'll never buy another 6 string. I've never had a five string and that will probably will be my next purchase (Sadowsky or a Valenti).

    But know that you are not alone in thinking that 6 strings maybe redundant in a lot of cases and that there is something sexy about a four string.
  3. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Inactive

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    I was gonna get a 6 string...but then a dream 4 string of mine turned up, and I had to re-evaluate my outlook on "the string thing".

    I decided to go for a 4 string...I would never go for a 5, only 4's and 6's. I prefer 4's now, in a weird way. When I'm playing on a 4 string, I find myself being much more creative with my basic tools, rather than knowing "oh, I have a lot of upper register so I'll just widdle away up there". I like that "trapped" feeling you get a 4 string, where you have to work harder to wow yourself with what you have...

    Also, I find 4 strings much more comfortable to play, more so than 6's. It's mainly a weight and size issue. I'm by no means a small guy, but I play a 32" scale bass, for the feeling. I like them light, you can groove and bop with them, and you can solo away on them like guitars if you feel like it.

    For me, it was a big thing getting oer the need for 6 strings...but since I have, I feel like the world is my oyster!
  4. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    Matt, I'm exactly where you are these days... I have been playing a 6 string for over 10 years and when I initally did this, it made total sense. I played in a situation where I was doing alot of chording and really needed the extra string. I also use my six string for soloing. I am actually more comfortable soloing on the 6 string than anything else. Lately, I find myself going back to the 4 string more often. For the cover tunes I play (mostly R&B and Jazz) it makes total sense. I think playing an old motown tune on a 4 string sounds better than a 6 because you are playing up and down the neck instead of across the neck. Which I believe helps with the feel of the tune.

    Oddly, I have had the hardest time adjusting to a five string. In the past 3 years I have had a few very good 5 strings that I could not get comfortable with including Pedulla, Yamaha, and Lakland. I finally found a 5 string I like alot and still I find I go back to my Fender Jazz most often...

    On the other hand, I have some bass playing friends who have 7 strings and I think for MOST things this is overkill. I have seen very few people use this tastefully in a band context
  5. Fretless5verfan


    Jan 17, 2002
    Personally i plan on owning a fretted and fretless pair of 4s, 5s, AND 6s, because for me the playing experience on each type of bass is totally different and makes me come up with different things in different contexts. 6s make me let loose melodically in a controlled Jazzy/Progressive manner, 5s make me want stay deep in the pocket and really groove and nothing else, while 4s make me want to go crazy in a instrument manipulation kind of way (slap, neck bending, harmonics, etc.).

    Honestly i'd tell everyone to have every string amount they enjoy and not regulate themselves to just one. :D
  6. Ed Goode

    Ed Goode Jersey to Georgia

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    I made a serious committment to 6 & 7 string basses over the past year and truthfully do not regret the decision at all. I use the basses for everything, no matter the style or complexity. If I don't play every string every song, then so be it.

    I do have two 4's (part of my old school upbringing ... you always need a decent fretted and fretless 4), but they rarely see any activity. I have been considering another 5 (stopped playing 5's when I upped the string count) for some of the more basic funk dates, but I'm not sure if I'll take that step right away. Right now, I'm happier with my equipment than I have ever been ..... :D

    I guess that I feel at home with the higher string counts, but I can see where someone may want to downsize a little. Who knows what my opinion may be one year from now ... :cool:
  7. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown Commercial User

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder/Owner: Wing Instruments
    I adjusted easily to the 6-string coming from a 4 and love the wider neck. Lately I've found it easier within a band context to use the more narrow neck of the 5-string. I guess my main bass is the 5-string, and I use the 6-string for solo stuff (when I have time). I'm actually contemplating an 8-string for next year with more narrow string spacing (17-18mm versus 19mm) for more solo stuff. I don't see myself going back to a 4-string any time in the future.
  8. Matt Morgan

    Matt Morgan Fellow Conspirator Supporting Member

    I will never be without the precious low B on a good 5 string! I routinely find myself using the B string. I do enjoy the wide neck 6 strings that I do have now (Roscoes) but I have been contemplating going to either Roscoe SKB3005s, Zon 519s, or most likely a couple of custom Skjold 5 string basses.
    I always own a fretted and fretless and would be committing to two of whatever. I love the thick, fat sound of the Roscoes, the cutting clarity of the Zons and the incredible build quality, tone and personal efforts of Pete Skjold.
    Too many basses....not enough money! It's killing me!
    Oh and I totally love my Roscoe SKB3006ers that I have now.
    AAAGGGHHHH!! (beats head against wall)
  9. Lo end PUNCH

    Lo end PUNCH

    Jan 28, 2005
    I've gone on to a six with no regrets. There's a point now where I do a lot of writing on the six so my music requires it. I think what got me very comfortable is just refering to it as a bass, not a six string bass, just a bass. I've really never understood wanting to go back to 5 or 4, I feel knda "naked" on those, but I'm just a bassist whose always looking to expand my possibilities. Recently thinking about a 7. :)
  10. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I had the same thought with my 6 and sold it. I used the C string so little (like 2 - 3 tunes) that I couldn't justify having it.

    I get by just fine taking things down an octave for those 12 bars or so...
  11. If anyone's looking to ditch their 6, send me a PM - I've just about had it with my Brice 6 and their noisy electronics. Did some recording with it on Friday night and was quite embarrased by how nasty it sounded - didn't make a good first impression.

  12. I was thinking six when I bought my last five string but the deal on the five was sweet so I went five and now glad I did.
    I play a lot up the neck and the five works well for me. I like the five so the low E can be freted and to me sounds better than open. Also makes grooves easyer in the low range. But to play higher than a five string will take me I just go up the neck a ways. As some of you sead that you dont go that high often and the same here. That is why we play bass. If you are going past a G string you are getting up there with the guitar that I do now an then but not often.
  13. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I played nothing but 6 for about 10 years...then snapped and bought a 4 (a jazz). I'd forgotten how much I loved it! I use a 5 most of the time now, because in my gig it's just about required. My main bass is a 5 because the tone is perfect, and I just bought another 4 string.

    My main problem with the 6 (and 6+) is that the C string (and above) tone is just so vastly different from the rest of the bass...but that's just my opinion. Isn't it nice we can all have them, and all be right? :D
  14. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    I was in a similar situation. I played a 6 for about 11 years. Recently, my 6 was destroyed in an accident, but I haven't had the overwhelming urge to replace it. I had been using it less and less over the last couple years. I found I was kinda "forcing" myself to use the C string as well ("well, it's there, I might as well use it...") but for the music I do these days ('70s-style prog meets '80s New Wave), a 4-string does the job. Sometimes I miss the B string, but not enough to really justify buying a 5 string at the moment. (Plus I just acquired a set of Moog Taurus pedals which do a fine job of nailing those below-E notes. ;) )
  15. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I see no need to feel guilty about not using the C string that much. How many of use all the notes available on any bass? Right now I'm playing a Peavey Fury P-bass until I get my five string back from the tech. I miss the low range, but I still enjoy playing. I would be playing 90% of the same songs even if I had a six.

    I bet piano players don't go around saying they only need 60 keys!
  16. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    Ha, that's true actually. I know of many keyboard players who will not settle for anything less than an 88-key model when shopping for/playing a digital piano.
  17. Matt Morgan

    Matt Morgan Fellow Conspirator Supporting Member

    After a lot of playing the last few weeks, developing and writing new music with the group I'm in and some experimentation with some high quality five string basses; I've decided to go back to 5s.
    "Going back" really isn't the right term. It has some negative feel to it. I'm simply chosing the tool that works best for me now.

    I found that on 5 string basses which have very accessible upper registers, I could play anything that I've ever played on my 6ers, just further up on the neck. I know, I know... "but on your 6 string, you don't have to switch positions and...". Preaching to the choir. I've found myself liking the tone of the G string in the upper register a little better than the C string these days as well. I also enjoyed the slightly more narrow and comfortable neck and a little lighter bass as well.

    Musically, I found that in the last four or five pieces of music that my group has been working on, I didn't touch the C string at all. That was kind of a turning point for me as well. In this group and as a whole, I'm focusing more on the lower register and more fundamental playing. That's just the way I'm headed these days.

    The 88 key analogy is interesting. I would submit that the piano by design, is meant to be an instrument capable of upper register melodies self supported by its own baritone and bass ranges. I don't see that as my musical role right now.
    There are plenty of bass guitar players whose music completely fits this description and for them the 6+ string bass makes perfect sense. It did for me for 10 years!
    My musical needs and how I feel about my role as a bass player have changed over time and I chose to change my equipment to match those needs.

    God bless us all and our diverse instruments, amps, cabs, musical careers, weekend gigs, garage jams with friends, playing along to our favorite records at home in our living rooms...may we all continue to grow, change and love it!
  18. grygrx

    grygrx Lookout! Here comes the Fuzz!

    Dec 24, 2003
    Columbia, MO
    Am I the only person who actually enjoys switching positions? I mean, it adds visual flair! :)
  19. I got my six string the same time - I got my upright back, so I don't really have a lot of mileage on the 6 as I tend to practice the upright more. On most gigs that are electric I bring my old 4 strings. However I practice on the 6 string only -- Never touch the 4 at home. Weird but somehow my brain does not get confused when I have to gig on a 4.

    I have a Yamaha TRB-6P also and the local music store is having a hard time to sell their Pedulla six and I already got a call that they just want to move it out. I might actually enjoy a fretless since I use fretless a lot.

    So bass guitar wise I only step away from the 6 on gigs but end up with it at home