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The B String vs the Hipshot

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bucephylus, Jan 9, 2012.

  1. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Pretty clever variation on the 4 string vs 5 string theme, eh?

    Reason for posting is that I have been re-assessing these two approaches a lot lately. I personally just went with 5's pretty early on and never really got to know how to use the Hipshot. Guess I figured I didn't need to. Anyhow, here are a couple of points I've noticed:

    Takes a little time to get used to the alternate tunings with the Hipshot. Maybe I just wasn't willing to fight that battle 20 years back. But, its really not all that bad. I'm now getting pretty comfortable with the Hipshot set for either Eb or D drop tunings in working situations. I think that was the barrier I hadn't considered worth the effort.

    Here's why it is worth the effort:

    OK, IMO/E, I like the lower notes on the de-tuned string with the Hipshot better than on the B on a 5. The de-tuned D or Eb just sounds to my ear way better than the stopped notes on the B string. I say this based on several very good basses with correct setups etc etc. I believe that, as in the 34 vs 35 rationale, the longer string length just helps; simple physics, no way around it. Anyhow, this makes a compelling case for the Hipshot, IMO.

    Second, I am just not using the notes below D a whole lot (mostly playing covers); and for the few cases where I would/do, transposing up doesn't cause any significant issues.

    Third, I get the across-the-string advantage of the ERB's. But, quite honestly, I was pretty heavily schooled in position shifting on the upright; so, in my own case, that aspect is not so important.

    All of this has me re-evaluating my own take on the 4 vs 5 debates; and for reasons I don't see discussed much.

    One thing I am tempted now to re-evaluate is to setup my 5 strings with E to C and put the Hipshot on the E string. Guess there are just always new ways to look at things. Part of why playing bass seems to a have an endlessly interesting well of things to think about, understand, and practice.
  2. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    I have two 5 strings with D-tuners on the E. Works better than the stopped notes on the B string since a lot of tunes were written with a drop D and it's the "natural" way to play the lines. If you decide to put D-tuners on the E string of your BEADG 5 string drop me a PM and I'll give you some pointers. Both of mine required modification to the tuner but work as they should.

    Also, all my 4 strings are strung BEAD with no D-tuner. Weird, huh?

  3. I'd love to get a cheap fretless 4-stringer and mod all 4 tuners with Hipshots like the Zon HyperBass.
  4. I made the jump to Hipshots recently and I can't say enough about the result. I got them because I was losing some gigs (and money) because I couldn't cover the 5 string gigs. I owned a 5 before and didn't like it, but I wanted the gigs so...enter the Hipshots.

    I say Hipshots with an s because while I first got a D tuner to tune to E and D, I also bought a Double Stop which allows me to tune to E, D, and B. Works great, sounds great, no issues.

    I gotta say, the low notes with the Hipshot sound better than the low notes on my old 5. I'm not an engineer or whatever, but I find that the Hipshot keep really good tension on the string and make the notes sound fuller and more defined.

    Whatever the case may be, I can now cover those gigs when needed and just revert back to E for the regular stuff. I am a happy camper. I don't understand why more people don't use these things. They're cheap (certainly cheaper than buying a 5) and they sound good. I guess they are not as macho as using an actual 5 or maybe people are scared of the work involved in learning to use them, but I didn't find it that bad. Anyways, I'm a convert! To me it is the cheapest, most useful upgrade you can make to your bass.

  5. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    +1 that was the thing that surprised me, though maybe should not have in 20/20 hindsight.

    I actually like my 5's. So, I was not prejudiced either way on this one. My sole reason for exploring the Hipshots was to enable use of my 4's on gigs. Got more than I bargained for.
  6. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    That's interesting. Did you bend the lever out so it would pass over the B tuner?
  7. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I agree - and I haven't even gone to the Hipshot yet. I sold my Sadowsky MV5 (foolish as many said) and just today picked up a Fender American Standard Jazz 4. I thought I wanted/needed/liked a low B string but I don't. I used it to please other people. I have used a friends jazz for a while and tried DADG tuning for a few songs that "needed" a low D or Eb, and you know, it isn't THAT hard to get used to. I doubt I'll make it my "standard" tuning, but for a song here and there, I can see it.

    Nothing against 5 strings and low B's, hell, I played one for years, but at this point in my life, I am happy with a passive 4 string jazz.
  8. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    For me it's more a matter of the specific songs in which I need to go lower than E.

    My last band, there were a couple of tunes which benefitted from a 5 string, however in one current band we do some drop D songs, which would be comparatively awkward to play on a 5 rather than use a Hipshot XTender.

    If you need to drone the open D note in spots there really isn't another option.
    You can do it on a 5, but not as well.
    Conversely, some songs work well on a 5, but using drop tuning makes for some broad stretches in fingering.

    So I own both.
  9. madbassplaya


    Dec 28, 2007
    Playing a 5 string tuned E-C with a drop tuner makes total sense to me. A lot of songs written in open D sound better and are easier to play because you're riding the open D. So you have all the "Low notes" you need and the extended range with the high C.
  10. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    I ground and re-contoured the front of the lever to miss the B tuner and shortened the adjustment screw and it's spring to give some finger room by the D tuner. Pretty easy to do. BTW...the lever will break before it bends far enough to miss the B tuner. Don't ask how I know.


  11. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    LOL! Been there done that. No better way to learn. Thanks!
  12. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I haven't made a decision yet on whether to get a five, tune BEAD, or just continue to love my EADG four so this is based on thought experiments not experience. For me the attraction of the five is having the extra string rather than the extra range/lower notes. I'm hoping to play in the worship band rotation in my church some day and recently got plugged into the rehearsal materials. So I can see that yes, there are notes that are below the open E in pretty much every song which has a written out part rather than just chords. However these parts are all written for keyboards which sound the note indicated on the paper. Our basses sound an octave below what is written when using music written for bass guitar. So in reality I have yet to see a note that cannot be played on a standard EADG bass even though some of the notes as written would be below an open B if you interpreted them as bass guitar rather than keyboard music. The rehearsal mp3's don't go below an open E either.

    Neither BEAD, nor a Hipshot, nor four of them on one bass (I've thought about that too!!) gives me the easy fingering range that a five would give me and it does seem like I hear that being used in the rehearsal mp3's. We are all different though and have different goals so a Hipshot (or four :D) may indeed be the best solution for many. Finding a five that really fits you is hard enough that I can see the attraction of other options. My left had wants 16 mm string spacing in order to make that extra string as easy as possible to get to. My right hand keeps tripping over strings that are too close together if they are not 19 mm. So far I don't believe I have found any inbetweeners to try to see if they would be the perfect compromise. Since I don't do a lot of banging off of open strings the Hipshot is the least attractive option for me unless I did use four of them to switch between BEAD and EADG. Since I play a Fender now the notion of buying a different brand with 24 frets (to regain most of the "missing G string") tuned to BEAD seems just as good as four Hipshots and there are some fairly nice 24 fret basses that can be had for the price of four Hipshots. One size does not fit all so none of this negates your decisions of course.

  13. Jarrett


    Jan 19, 2004
    Waxahachie, Tx
    I'd like to get a Hipshot on my 5 to make going to drop D easier. But I've been playing 5's too long to go back to 4's at this point. I tried going from a 22 fret 5 string to a 20 fret 4 string with a Hipshot recently and felt like I had handcuffs on. If anything, I'd like to go to a 6 string if I could find a reasonably priced one that didn't weight a ton.
  14. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Don't take my OP the wrong way. 5's work just fine. If you can justify the cost to get a 5, I would recommend that personally vs BEAD 4; but, that's just me. You can see from other posts here that a restrung 4 for the lower string also works. I just use the G string!
  15. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    The 6 is a tricky bass build, considering the compromises needed. My Tobias is quite playable, but a lot of them are pretty hefty.

    Yup, handcuffs; that's a good description of going up the learning curve. Took me a little while. After a while, it got more addictive, and that was when I started to notice the tonal advantages.
  16. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I should probably also mention for anyone reading this and not familiar with the Hipshot thing; I personally do not "ride" the de-tuned string. Our band simply has 7 or 8 tunes that are in Eb or D: Black Velvet, Nothin Better to Do, I Wish, Piece of My Heart, Beat It etc etc. I am not "riding" any string playing those. You still have to play them. The fingering just gets a little more disorienting at first. Bouncing back and forth between dropping to D and dropping to Eb keeps the fingerings from getting too stale. You really have to pay attention. I tend to slap I Wish, and the band plays it as an instrumental; so there is some solo time as well.

    Anyhow, you work at it a bit and after a while it works out.
  17. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Different strokes for different folks. I started out with a Hipshot on my Fender Precision, but wasn't satisfied until I tried my first 5-string in the mid-80's.

    We're all different, but in my case, while the Hipshot sounded fine for dropped D, I wanted to be able to play more than just a fixed low D or Eb. When I tried tuning down further, things just got too floppy. Plus, the fingering got a little weird as I moved further away from standard tuning.

    Mind you, once I really got into the 5-string, I discovered that my amps and cabs weren't up to the job either, which started another series of gear changes. I don't regret my decision to go with 5's, but it was certainly a long and expensive journey by the time I was satisfied.
  18. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
    It's also a whole heap of fun! :D
  19. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Something I've wondered about using a Hipshot is, how accurate & repeatable are the alternative settings? By that I mean, once you've got a good, accurate E tuned, how accurate is the D, & then how accurate is the E again when you go back (repeat series indefinitely)? In other words, how much retuning is necessary?

    I play a 4, & use occasional drop-D tuning. I can change tuning pretty quickly. I've considered trying a Hipshot, but if it requires frequent retuning anyway, I'm not sure if it would be worth the trouble to me.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    I have a Hipshot D-tuner on a few of my 5 strings (on the B string) and I have a D-tuner on my Conklin sub contra bass(C# F# B E) on the C# string.

    I also have a couple of 4 strings with a double D-tuner system that allows me to drop my E and A strings on a standard 4 down to C# and F# with the flip of one lever.

    Here's a pick of one of my 4 strings with the double D-tuner.

    I'm a Conklin and Hipshot endorser.

    Attached Files:

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