Tonal differences between a Jazz 4 and 5 string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by theroan, Aug 12, 2009.

  1. I've never really played a Fender Jazz a main bass. I've mostly stuck 5 strings as well. But I have a desire to play basses that sound good, record well and will retain their value. Is there a difference between a 5 string Jazz and a 4 string Jazz? Does anything get lost when a pickup is wound for 5?

  2. The 5 string definitely sounds lower.

  3. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, since I like a reasonably 'accurate' J bass tone, but also play 5 string instruments.

    While some say a 5 string and a 4 string (all other things being equal... which they never are anyway) will sound a bit different due to the amount of mass in the neck, and the placement of the E string away from the edge of the neck, this (even for me:D) is so subtle that only the 'vintage nazis' would hear it IMO!

    The bigger issue is to find a builder or brand who's goal is to make a 5 string that sounds like a 4 string Jazz with an extra string. Even Fender, until somewhat recently, 'moderned up' their 5 string J models so that many of the 5 string J models sounded quite different than the 4 string versions, due to different pickup windings, preamps, neck design, etc., etc.

    I find the relatively new 5 string MIM Fender J bass model (can't remember the exact name of it) to sound TOTALLY great, and it would be a rare person who could hear the difference on the E-G of that bass versus its 4 string version.

  4. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    If I could only own 36 basses what would they be?
    I found the Fender V sounds huskier on all 4 strings than the 4 string jazz. For me to get a jazz sound with 5 I build my own parts basses. I use a Fender or Fender copy 4 string jazz body, and a 4 string p-bass neck. I use 4 string jazz pickups, and of course I use a 5 string bridge, and 5 tuners in the headstock. I also like a 3 or 4 band preamp like j-retro or Audere.

  5. So the answer is pretty much yes. I may have to A/B them.
  6. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Two of my main players are a 2003 Am. Ser. Jazz four, and a 2008 Am. Std. Jazz V. Both are alder/maple, and I use the same Fender strings on both. I think the five sounds slightly thicker, especially on the E and A strings, which I've always attributed to the higher neck mass. My bandmates have commented on this, and seem to prefer the five. But it's not a huge difference. In fact, I recently A/B'd them through headphones to compare the tones, and didn't hear the difference I think I hear through speaker cabs. The five provides classic J-bass tone, no question.
  7. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    People here what they want to hear, or what they expect to hear.

    Only in a controlled situation do people really have to make a judgement based on what they actually hear without knowing what they're really hearing.

    Ya hear?

  8. Baker69


    Mar 24, 2008
    I know the Stingray 5 sounds different to the 4 string so it should be the same with Fenders.
  9. It's not that simple. The original MM 4's had a different preamp than the SR5's.

    It's very difficult to attribute the difference between two instruments to just one thing. Even an otherwise identically spec'd Fender 4 string versus 5 string J bass comparison is difficult, in that there will be subtle differences in the density of the wood, the weight, many times the age of the strings, etc., etc. between the basses that can impact the tone, sustain, brightness, and low end of the instrument.

    Only if you compare a relatively large sample of basses, tyring to hold everything constant except, in this case, the number of strings, can you START to get a feel for the impact of that one feature. Very few people would ever had the opportunity to play 50 or 60 identically spec'd J basses that only differed on the number of strings.

    There is no reason that a 4 string and 5 string version of the same bass model can't sound virtually identical (on average... every bass has its own voice) if the weight, pickups, string type and age, etc. are held relatively constant.

    IMO and IME.
  10. Marko 1

    Marko 1 Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    I have both the four and five string Standard Jazzes.

    I honestly never even bothered to compare, but they both sound to me like Jazzes, and they both sound great.

    As mentioned above, there are too many other variables to consider anyways… I wouldn’t even worry about it.
  11. +1

    This was the case for me, and I was bummed because I am getting seriously hooked on Jazzes these days and love my 4's.

    I'm sure there are ways to counter this with custom builds and electronics.

    However, before I got to that stage, I found the Peavey USA Cirrus 5. need to look any further, and I can emulate a Jazz tone pretty well for my purposes.
  12. sheepdog


    Feb 20, 2003
    Birmingham, AL
    interesting approach. What sort of string spacing do you get at the bridge? Are there ever any issues with the pickups not covering the string width? Nice looking bass...even though it took me a minute to put that together in my head :)
  13. dante rdz

    dante rdz

    Apr 5, 2017
    i found a diference in sound in the slap playing, probably that is because of feeling in a thick neck and one more string,
    however, both sound Great. my gear is 4 string Fender Jaguar Troy Sanders 5 String Am Std. Jazz BAss.
  14. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio
    Wow. Thread resurrection!

    I think @KJung pretty much covered it eight years ago. Wish he were hanging here more often these days. Always enjoy seeing his older posts, which were always straight shootin'.

    There are plenty of great 5 string J basses available now. Also, there is a full retinue of pickups and preamps, if a player wants to change things up. I believe the original OP has been answered for the positive for a while now. I recently acquired a Sadowsky RV5-WL; and that is the most Jazz Bass 5 string I've ever laid hands on.

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