What is the benefit if a 5-string bass? 6-string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SteamPanda, Jan 27, 2016.

  1. SteamPanda


    Jan 27, 2016
    Why would a bassist need a 5-string bass? What is the benefit of a lower string? What about a 6-string bass?
  2. I use a 5 for a variety of reasons, originally I bought one for a low C I needed for a couple of songs, also we now do a lot of songs in drop D, so I have a low D I can go to without altering my tuning. I also find it handy to have the lower notes higher up the neck if I need them. I don't overuse the low B though, it's there if I need it and I'd hate to be without it now.
  3. 3rdWatch


    Feb 9, 2009
    Escondido, Ca
    Because more is better!:laugh: Seriously though, I wanted to go lower than E (or dropped D) so I moved to 5. The I realized years later, some of the stuff my band was doing, simplified some fretboard gymnastics on a 6, plus I could add some more guitaresque chording with the high C. Not for every one, but I like it.:bassist:
  4. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    It's pretty simple. With a 5 you can get lower and a 6 you can get both lower and higher. The benefits are that often you don't have to jump around as much. I play a 5 because there are times when a low C or B really works. Rarely use it but like the option. With a 6 you can get a lot more chords and color if you like to do solo things.

    Plus when your playing in the classic rock band the low B makes a great thumb rest.
    Lovep, dtsamples, Alik and 8 others like this.
  5. 5 string benefits.

    Low B string is a great thumb rest. Allows you to play your low E faster in my opinion.
    Low D is a great note to play.
    Low B string allows you to play lower notes farther up the neck in chord shapes, which can make some songs easier to play.
    Looks cooler, is cooler, and makes your tone go up to 11.
  6. skeeler

    skeeler I am a stick.

    May 30, 2015
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Keep in mind that having a 5-string doesn't mean you have a low B. My 5-string has a high C instead. It gives me options to play melodies or chords in the guitar or cello range.
  7. Garret Graves

    Garret Graves Gold Supporting Member

    May 20, 2010
    Rosemead, Ca
    Why a 4 string? Leo Fender sees 4 string upright basses, wants to develop a guitar style replacement for it. But what benefit is there to creating a guitar style instrument with only 4 strings? That, to me, is a much more interesting question. It's also interesting that 4's are still as common as they are, they still rule the market. I think some of the main reasons for that are familiarity and bias. It is certainly true that when you get 5's and 6's in your hands, and actually use the strings, that you get more notes under your fingers, per position on the neck. This is a big benefit.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2016
  8. Sixpack324


    Jan 10, 2012
    New Jersey
    I use my 5 for the reasons listed already and I also like having the option to play passages in a different position with different fingerings. Open position isn't always the best option.

    I also use it for when one of the cover bands I play with switch between 440 and 1/2 step down. Depending on the song, I can usually get away with not changing basses for the altered tuning.

    And believe it or not, I actually like the string spacing on a 5 as opposed to a 4........ It's just more comfortable for me
    Strung_Low, RolandMHall and Charlzm like this.
  9. skeeler

    skeeler I am a stick.

    May 30, 2015
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    "I also like having the option to play passages in a different position with different fingerings. Open position isn't always the best option."

    Yes, I forgot to mention this, but it is a significant advantage in my mind.
    Fergie Fulton and lowdownthump like this.
  10. mikefromchurch


    Jan 23, 2014
    I initially got mine solely because my singers range usually has us in Bb. That puts us playing Bb Eb F and G often. Hi Eb is too close to guitar range for my tastes. Although now I love having the ability to play the same thing higher up the neck, as well as adding a low B or C here and there. Great for big builds or fade outs.
  11. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    More notes, and more options for positions to play in. At least some bassists (I have Chris Squire in mind particularly here, but I think others were saying the same thing) who adopted them in the 80s said they were concerned about synth bass reaching lower notes and taking their gigs, so an added B string was a competitive move for them. I was almost exclusively a 5-string player for a while, now I tend to favor a 4 unless I need the extra low notes, but I like both.
    PsyDocHill and Garret Graves like this.
  12. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Its very personal. I have played a four for so long that none of the fives I play feel right and I don't feel the overwhelming need to take the time to transition.

    The first time I almost went to a five string it was because of down tuning, then I realized that for what I'd play I could do drop D or C more easily and have more options by staying with four strings. When I played low I didn't need to much high range so I simply downtune to taste.

    The second time I almost went to a five string it was because of hand positioning, one can get a range of notes more easily with an extra string nearby. I still never played low notes so have yet to invest in a fiver, only practiced my technique to do what I need to do on the four.

    In fact in that second case I very nearly did go to a five but intended to string it like a 'dropped high c' five if that makes sense. No low B, strings would've been DGCFA#.
    Theorybass'd likes this.
  13. dinoadventures

    dinoadventures Feets don't fail me now!

    Jul 10, 2015
    Dallas, TX
    For me the benefit is mostly its economy of movement (MUCH less shifting). I also like being able to stay completely out of the way of guitars. I've been in situations with three guitars+keys running all kinds of effects and I can just completely avoid that range. It's pretty great.
  14. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    So far I've been playing bass for 50 years and the split is about 50/50 between 4 and 5 string basses.

    My only comment is, if anyone can't see the benefit of something then they obviously have no need of it. That's cool. Play what works for you.

    The other side of that coin is to accept that others can have a different view and different requirements.

    In the various bands I play in, there are many songs I couldn't play on a 4 string bass so a 5 er is ideal for me.
  15. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    To go lower.
    Lower notes.
    Higher notes as well.

    Hope that helps :)
  16. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    This is like... the 762910323th thread about ''what is the benefit of 5 or 6 or more strings?''

    Seriously : wider range (more low and / or high), less hand movements, easier to downtune if you go from a B to Bb, A or Ab.
  17. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    A lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan tunes are in Eb. I much prefer playing in Eb using a 5-string. The alternatives are downtuning my bass to give me a low Eb or playing using the root tone an octave higher. I don't like either of those alternatives nearly as much as just using a 5-string.

    A 6-string means I can play every note from a low B up to a high E without ever moving my hand from the "home" position covering frets 1-4. When I am reading Big Band charts, where they often go up that high and where I can't really ever look at my fretboard, this is highly advantageous to me. If I were a more technically proficient bassist, this would not be such a big deal ... but I'm not. So, nowadays I pretty much only play 6 strings.
  18. kimokeo


    Jul 7, 2009
    It is nice to have extra strings for flexibility alone. Yes, most of the time 4 strings will more than suffice. However, there will be times that Low B would come rather handy. It's kinda like having a pistol with one bullet. That one shot might be all you need, but if you have it loaded up, you can keep on poppin'! It's convenience and preference.
  19. dave64o

    dave64o Talkbass Top 10 all time lowest talent/gear ratio! Gold Supporting Member

    I've played five strings almost exclusively since I started playing. Here's my list of reasons:

    - Having the option of playing in different positions in order to use a fingering that makes something easier to play (can find fingerings that help reduce the amount of shifting you do).

    - Having the option of playing in different positions in order to take advantage of the difference in tone you get from playing a specific note on a different string.

    - Having access to notes you don't have on a typical four string bass. It seems like most people string a fiver with a low B, but there are people who choose a high C instead. The choice is your depending on how you'll use those extra notes. FWIW, I rarely play those lower notes on my B string, but it can be cool to drop one once in a while for effect.

    - If you play a low B, you can use it as a thumb rest.

    - Can help make changing key easier because you have more opportunities to use the same fingering patterns when you transpose a song (especially if you tend to minimize the use of open strings when playing).

    - Not that I'm proud of being the type of person that enjoys being a d!ck once in a while, but I'll admit to getting some entertainment value from driving guitar players crazy when they watch my left hand in order to try learning a song or to try recovering after getting lost. ;) :D
    exidor, Jeff Bean and SpazzTheBassist like this.
  20. Sweet Willie

    Sweet Willie

    Dec 31, 2014
    Former moderator for now non-active Nordstrand Forum
    Others are doing a fine job providing good reasons why some folks prefer to play 5- and 6-string bass guitars.

    Isn't this similar to Anthony Jackson's position on the matter? He even calls the instrument a "contrabass guitar" intentionally. Guitars have six strings; why shouldn't a guitar that sits in a lower register have six strings?

    That said, I play and own 4s and 5s, and although I've played some 6s and 7s, too, I haven't been excited enough by those experiences to make the move to even more strings. :)

    (I have fingered a 5-string upright as well as a 4-string upright with a C-extension. Those are the only two URBs I've ever touched and I'm not qualified to weigh in about the possibilities there...and don't want to derail this thread. Another topic for another time?)
    gebass6 and Garret Graves like this.