Tips; On going from a 4 to a 6-string Bass!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TravellinMan, Jan 11, 2003.

  1. TravellinMan


    Jan 11, 2003
    NW Indiana
    I play a 4-string right now being playin on and off since I was 16 yrs old now 25! And was just wondering how some of you guys that did the same thing! How hard it was, or how easy it was!
    Thanks TravellinMan!
  2. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    I started playing bass in '74 and made the step to 5 string just last year. I think the key is to finding an instrument that feels right and then trying to remember that the big one isn't E anylonger : - )

    I swore up and down that I'd never go the 5 route, owned a Warwick 5 for a few months, sold it, swore again that I'd never play a 5, bought a Squier Precision 5 Special (which I have turned into a fretless) and really took to it. For me it all had to do with feel.

    I stumbled into a fantastic List sale at Guitar Center in November...those three days of amazing deals left me with yet another 5 string fretted bass and a 6 string (Ibanez SR406). The neck profile of the SR fits my hands perfectly and I don't seem to have any problems remembering where I am.

    I don't really have any suggestions other than if you just make up your mind that you want to play a it. Like Ted Nugent says "It's all about attitude!!!"

    Have fun (and don't sell your 4 string)
  3. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    The simplest thing IMO is just to do it. Play the 6 as much as you can and get most of your mistakes (and you WILL make them) out of the way early on. My experience was that trying to ease into it just prolonged the time during which I was playing the 6 badly. Eventually I just put the 4 into a case and resolved I'd play only 6 until further notice. Things went better, and more quickly, after that.
  4. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Like anything, it'll just take practice. I jumped from 4 to 5 without any problems at all. Heck, JT jumped from a fretted 4 to a fretless 7 I believe. Now that would take some adjusting!!
  5. I went from a Squire Jazz Bass, to a DeArmond Pilot 5, to an Ibanez SR 406, to a Stingray 5, to a Warwick Thumb BO 4, and prolly to a Lakland Skyline 5502 Deluxe here soon.

    The key...practice.
  6. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    my advice is that if you want to play a 6 string, when you get it, put the 4 away and don't look back. your progress and development on the 6 will be hampered initially by splitting time with the 4.

    this was the case for me with going from 4 to 7. my development increased a lot when i put the 4's away. after all, there's nothing you can do on a 4 that you can't do on a 5+ string bass.
  7. Bonzai


    Dec 6, 2002
    Does anyone find that once you hit 6 and up that it gets easier from there?? Many musicians that play 6+ stringers, seem to play 6's and 7's almost interchangeably(sp?) Almost like once you hit 6, its easier from there on out. Anyone else experience this?
  8. i agree completely with mr. jt. it was the same story for me. there was a time i didn't even own a 4-string, and it was probably better that way because it allowed me to really get comfortable on the 6. as far as the 6+ thing goes, i have to say i've never played anything but 4, 5, or 6 string basses, so i can't say its easy for a 6 string player to goto 7.
  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    My experience is a little different from some of the others. I played 4 string for 16+ years, bought a 6 and gigged with it the same week.

    But I continued to play 4 as well. I now play fretted and fretless 4 and 5 stringers, as well as fretted 6 and 12 stringers. I can switch pretty easily between any of them. The only one that requires different technique(for me) is the 12.
  10. a 12 string will do it every time ;)
  11. JayAmel

    JayAmel Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2002
    Aurillac, France
    Being initially a guitar player (1973 - 1976), I think that if I switched to a 6 or 7 string, I'd not tune it that way :

    B - E - A - D - G - C - (F)

    but that way :

    B - E - A - D - G - B - (E)

    I believe this should produce more "rational" finger positions. But maybe my guitar experienced makes me have a biased opinion.
  12. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA

    You've got to ask yourself what are you looking for in a 6 that the 4 can't give you? Some of the best bass players in the world continue to stick with 4 string basses because they are sufficient, and they have good reasons. I personally don't see any need for a 6 but I really enjoy my five string. I don't like the sound of the "C" string on a 6 string bass, I think playing high on the "G" string on a five achieves a more pleasant tone for the same notes, and on down the neck even to the "B" in the high frets the sound is nice. That's just my opinion though. Six string basses are fun to noodle on.
  13. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I don't think it's necessarily more rational--or that rationality even enters into it;) --but what you suggest is how I tune my 6 (high B). IIRC, JT tunes his 7 that way, too (high B & E).
  14. jaybo

    jaybo Guest

    Sep 5, 2001
    Richmond, KY
    Using a major third interval between the G and B, or other 4th and 5th as the case may be, instead of a perfect fourth goes back to the days of gamba's so it makes sense historically. Anyone know for sure how the practice started? I've assumed that it better facilitated some chords, or arpeggios in the gamba's case, but in my playing with a high c I've found there are just as many chords that are made easier with that tuning so I'm a bit stumped.
  15. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    My guess, and it's only that, is that it may relate to the fact that when you put that third in there, you end up with a high string that's consonant with your low string. This has advantages for chordal instruments, certainly (imagine trying to play a big ol' E major chord, or even a C chord, on a guitar tuned EADGCF), perhaps less obviously so for melodic instruments.

    IME the kinds of chords you play on a bass are different from the voicings you'd play on a guitar, so what may not seem to make as much of a difference on a bass might make a much bigger one on a guitar, lute, or vihuela.
  16. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    yeah, that's right. i do some classical guitar style things that are facilitated by the guitar tuning.
  17. Yeah, but doing barre chords over a wide 7-string neck must be a bit tiring.... :)
  18. john turner

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

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    [drill instructor voice on]

    good technique and practice, maggot!

  19. Iwould definitely concur with previous posters that advise putting down the 4 till you're comfortable with the 6 . I went from 4 to 5 and as stated previously , the main challenge was remembering that your " anchor string " is no longer an "e" . Worked the 5 for close to a year before even touching a 4 string again . (man , what a skinny neck !! ) . I have since gone to a 6 string , which is my main instrument now . That transition was pretty easy for me since the high C was sort of " out of my way " until I needed it . In short --- go for it , and enjoy the process !!!
  20. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    When I made the transition from 4 to 5 strings way back in '87, I was so confident in my playing at the time that I brought the new 5 directly to the gig. Big mistake :oops: ...a near train wreck. We were doing some fairly difficult charts, first couple of tunes were okay, but then we did "Light Years" by Chick Corea, pretty much all slap. Not pretty. Next up was a very difficult Michel Camillo tune (can't remember the title). Another near train wreck.

    It took me a good couple of months before I was truly comfortable on the 5, and realized the true benefit of the 5th string was to facilitate greater range across the fingerboard with economy of movement. The extended lower range is nice, having a low D or C without detuning is great, but being able to play in the keys of Eb, F, F#, G, Ab or A and being able to access two octaves with just one position shift is the really cool thing.

    Going from 5 to 6 was far easier for me, and the transition was immediate. Again, the added range is cool, but being able to play throughout two or more octaves without two or more position shifts is the real benefit.

    Playing a multi-string bass has not changed the way I approch playing the bass .