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Weekend experiment. Turned my 4 string P into a 5 string...well...sort of.......

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by DaveB, Feb 26, 2001.

  1. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    Ever since I decided to go 5 string (a Roscoe Beck)my '75 Fender P has been sitting in it's stand and hasn't been to a gig or rehearsal.I have really become an afficianado of the merits of the B string. So after considering how relatively little I use the G string (on a 5 string)I tried an experiment this weekend in tuning the 4 string P to B-E-A-D.

    I had an extra set of 5 string D'Addario Slowounds so I was all set.

    I thought the experiment would fail because of the nut size on the E-soon to be-B string slot.I was even prepared to take the P in and have a new nut cut and installed.That didn't turn out to be necessary. Although the B string sits higher in the E slot it is stable and doesn't seem to hurt the intonation. It does raise the action a little though.

    My next worry was the bridge. That turned out OK too because the old vintage Fender bridges have pretty wide string slots.The B fit better than I would have expected.

    At .130 there is a lot more tension on the 26 year old neck. It took two gradual truss rod turns of 1/8 each (total of 1/4 turn) to straighten out the resulting bow. But that went fine too. Of course all this then required a resetting of the action at the bridge.I would describe the action now as manageably higher than with 4 strings.Considering I like low-medium action this was a major success point.

    Playability. Way better than expected.If I were to get a new nut it would be even better ( I might do that).Intonation becomes very critical when you do this because, without the G string, you have to go up the neck to play some lines.Tenth fret lines on the G become 15th fret lines on the D.The first line I tried was Stevie Wonder's "Too High" and I ran out of strings real fast. But like a lot of five string shifts many lines are easier to play up the neck.

    Tone. Again, very surprised since the P pickups were not designed for B string use.I found that the B string was "acceptably" strong and clear down to the 5th fret (E).The third fret(D) wasn't bad but 2,1 and open were a lot more "farty" than my RB5.Having said that I rarely use 2,1 and open on my RB5 anyway.The overwhelming initial feeling I got was that this was still my classic P tone but way deeper.It's hard to compare to the new Fender P 5 strings because they have active electonics.But if I were to compare this mod to the passive Jazz 5 string I would say the mod is as good on the B string and better on the E-A-D strings.

    I'm going to take the P to rehearsal tomorrow and to both gigs on the weekend for the trial by fire excercize.This will definitely not take the place of the RB5 but it may encourage me to get the P out more like I used to.

    This would be an interesting experiment for you guys who are thinking about going to a five string
  2. I was considering doing that, but there's one thing, I NEED that G string (no, not the article of clothing). It's almost critical to me. I think I'd be better off buying a fiver. If I played heavy metal most of the time and had only enough money to buy a set of strings, I would do that in a second. But I play for the jazz band at school, and I play alot of high notes. Either I would have to go up high on the neck to hit those higher notes, or I wouldn't be able to play them at all. The band teacher would be pissed:D. But I'm not really worried about him, I'm more worried about my needs. I play stuff like Red hot chili peppers, and high notes are also required. I think that high notes are just as essential as the lower notes on the B-string. That's why, IMO, the five string is a perfect instrument. 4 lacks the range that a fiver provides, and a 6 widens the neck and gives me a higher C string I don't need (I said I wanted higher notes, not as high as a piccalo!). The five, to me is perfect. Any lower than the low B doesn't seem like a note to me anymore, just a toneless sloppy thud. I see no reason why anyone would need to tune a 5-string down; Come on people, this is music, not KoRn :D
  3. Yvon

    Yvon Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2000
    Montreal, Canada
    I have a '57 reedition Fender P that I conver as a 5. It's not perfect, but it is ok. Now that I bought a good 5 i will buy a jazz neck and put it on my P.
  4. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000

    Actually, there is LESS tension on the neck when tuned BEAD than when tuned EADG.
  5. The B string may be bigger, but it's tuned lower so the tension is very similar. If you look at the back of a set of D'Addario's, they give the tensions. The D string is actually the highest tension, the B is similar to the E.
  6. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    Turock/Marty - Thanks for your comments on the tension. That really surprises me. Within 20 minutes of putting on the BEAD strings the neck developed a VERY significant bow. How would that happen if the tension were the same or less?
  7. Just let it break in. I use BEAD for now; It was a bit weird at first, but both me and my bass got used to it!

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