String position terminology

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by mjw, Jun 15, 2001.

  1. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA

    I'm curious as to why I see references to strings and their physical positions on the bass which seem to be the opposite of what I envision. For instance, there was a thread regarding ease of "slapping" on a 4 versus a 4+ bass and part of the dialogue included the following statement:

    "...slapping the E string isn't as difficult with the B under it because you can simply mute the B string."

    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the B the upper/thickest/lowest-sounding string on a 5-string bass, placing it "over" the E?

    Unless the word "under" was meant in the context of tone and not physical position. Anyway, I though the B was "over" the E.

    Maybe I'm just getting too hung up on figurative speech, but I just wanted to be clear. Thanks!
  2. Ummm...
    I'm not ENTIRELY sure, but I think the phrasing in question refers to the strings as:
    1 - G
    2 - D
    3 - A
    4 - E
    5 - B
    as is shown on all new packs of strings when you buy 'em. :)

    Someone else go ahead & correct me if I'm wrong on this. I slept through dinner, and now it's 3:15am (or so) so I might not be thinking straight. :p
  3. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    Case sol-ved.
    Yeah, "under"/"below"/"down"/"lower"
    are usually meant in the context of tone(I ASSume). ;)
  4. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    the individual that you quoted might also have been implying the B string "under the hand" when slapping the E string, given the topic. that sorta makes sense.

    which reminds me of something - you can always tell that someone hasn't played their guitar for very long when they say "lower on the neck" and mean closer to the body, or "higher strings" meaning location as opposed to pitch.

    this guy i used to work for used to talk like that all the time - he was trying to impress me with his musical knowledge and mAd sKillZ. he would tell me about his paul reed smith and how it was the best guitar he had ever played lower on the neck - meaning higher. looked like a fool.
  5. well, it's in terms of pitch and position, because if you look down at your bass as you're playing, the thinner strings are higher relative to you. sure, the person looking at you as you play would say "the thinner strings are lower" but he'd also say (assuming you're right handed) "the headstock is on the right." but of course, to you it's on the left. so i think it's more helpful to talk in terms of the player's POV. did that make any sense? :confused:
  6. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    Yeah, I think I see your point. When I'm playing, the thinner strings are higher (in pitch) although lower on the neck, assuming I'm right handed. Right?
  7. MJB


    Mar 17, 2000
    To make things more confusing, lower on the neck means toward the headstock (lower in pitch) which was what JT was talking about. I guess if you want to talk about physical location you could say closer to the floor.


    In general, I think when you say higher and lower you should be talking pitch, otherwise its confusing. If I want to make reference to a string I just say A string, E string etc.
  8. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    One reason the headstock end of the neck is called the "lower" end of the fretboard may be that the frets are numbered starting at the headstock end.

    Thus the first fret of each string is at the headstock end and the 24th fret is at the other end, so the lower numbered frets are at the headstock end. With that in mind, one would call the lowest numbered frets, the lower end of the fretboard, even though instinctively one might think the headstock end is the "higher" end.

    Plus, as was mentioned before, the lowest tones are at the lowest frets, thus another reason to call the headstock end, the lower end.
  9. Hey, cool!
    More technical stuff to confuzzle my aspiring-guitarist friends! :D:p