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Where to start? 4 or 5 string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SouthernShred, Feb 2, 2004.

  1. SouthernShred


    Feb 2, 2004
    First, I should say hi. Some of you may know me from other forums. I'm a guitar player looking to get low and learn bass. This isn't a whim or what not, I really want to become a bassist, and learn the right way. I've been searching the forum, reading appropriate stickied threads (NEWBIE Links, etc).

    I intend to stick with this for the long haul, but I also don't have the cash to lay out for a $2000 bass at the moment (new baby in the house, etc). So, that said...I've gathered that most recommendations for newbie bassists are for a Jazz or Jazz style bass to start with. My question is, should I start with 4 or 5 strings?

    I'm definitely open to the used market and would like to stay below $750 for the instrument itself if I can. Regarding stylistic influence, I admire the playing of Danyel Morgan (Robert Randolph and the Family), George Porter Jr., Allen Woody, etc...

    Any recommendations regarding 4 vs. 5 or even particular bass?
  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    definitely four string first.

    starting on five would be like building a house with no foundation. once you progress and feel the need for a low B or high C then purchase a five string

    just my input

    p.s. i have never heard of someone starting on a five string
  3. rick1906


    Jun 6, 2002
    Hey. I had the same question when I first picked up a bass. I read many debates and talked to several accomplished bassists. I think if you ask 10 different people, you'll get 10 different answers. So the answer, IMHO, is to choose what is best for you based on the style of music you want to play.

    I chose a 5'er because I read about some players having difficulty switching from 4 to 5 strings. I also like the extra low end. Plus, I fugured that if I didn't need it, then it would simply be a matter of not using the B string. Otherwise, if I would have gone with the 4 string, I would have needed to buy another bass for the extra notes.

    BTW, I'm not sure about Allen Woody or George Porter, but Danyel Morgan primarily plays a Modulus 6. :)
  4. DDXdesign

    DDXdesign formerly 'jammadave' Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    well, I'd say it's not unheard of or even discouraged to start on 5 if that's what your music requires.... that said, it sounds to me like your musical influences don't need a low B string too much (I mean, Allen Woody may have had 12 strings, but the low 3 were E's :D ) - so you'[d be fine to start with 4. Plenty of good to great 4's under $750. 5's are harder to find "good" examples of as you go cheaper, but 750 is probably the low end of decent 5s. EDIT: I didn't know Danyel Morgan was a sixer...

    Also, a used higher-end instrument will be more bang for the buck than new cheapies. Like a used Stingray or, even better, Sterling, from MusicMan... quintessential tone, used about 800 bucks, and they're traditional to look at... Sterlings have similar neck size to Jazzes too.
  5. rick1906


    Jun 6, 2002
    I agree, you definitely want to get a quality used bass, IMO. Either way you decide, you should be able to get a really decent 4 or 5 in that price range.

    Let the music dictate what you need. I wouldn't buy a 5, 6, or 7 string just to have extra strings.
  6. SouthernShred


    Feb 2, 2004
    I'm definitely not going to slouch on quality. I play high quality guitars and don't have the patience for an instrument that won't last me a long time.

    Some other players I'm into are Billy Sheehan, Willie Weeks, Tommy Shannon, Flea, Roscoe Beck, Doug Pinnick, John Myung...

    For a good 4 around $750 or so (+/-), where would you start? A used Fender Jazz, maybe with active electronics? Sterling or a Stingray? Peavey? I've had my head buried in guitar so long, I'm not completely sure what brands/models are recommended like I am with guitar.
  7. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    I would go for a used Fender Jazz if I were in your posistion. You should be able to get one in good shape for around $750 or so.
  8. For a budget of $700 i'd recommend a used Fender Jazz or something similar as a starter bass, and i'd go a four banger, that way you can decide if you really need a fiver later on.
    I have a fiver but i only use it for select purposes, and thats only because of the music I play, not everyone will have a use for a low b or a high c, you need to find out for yourself.
  9. DDXdesign

    DDXdesign formerly 'jammadave' Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area

    Doug Pinnick, another 12er guy =0)

    But seeing the list above makes me think Fender Roscoe Beck Jazz 5-string. There's a 4-string out now too, but the RB5 is said to be the best 5er Fender has out, and you're starting to list more low-B guys.... And they've been out long enough they should be available on the used market as well, not sure for how much though.

    Good luck!
  10. TampaBlues


    Oct 28, 2002
    Tampa, Florida
    I started with a four and switched to a five. If I had it to do over again I would have started with the five. My 2 cents. Good luck with the search for a Bass. Ebay is not for everyone, but IMHO you can get a lot more Bass for your dollar there. I've been very happy with my ebay purchases. I got my Spector Euro 5 there for way less than I could have anywhere in my area. Oh and welcome to the low side of the tracks! :rolleyes:
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    After playing 4 for 20 years, I switched to BEADG five. I now wish I had started on 5. I enjoy having greater range of notes in each fingering position, and notes below E are readily available without detuning. IMO there's no reason to start on four first unless you know you want to play four. I'd be just as good a bassist today, if not better, if I had started on five.

    I think a four would be fine for the music you mentioned. That said: for some types of music, having just four strings can be a hindrance. You never know if your taste will change, or what sort of opportunities you'll encounter in the future. Therefore, I strongly recommend the five because it can do everything the four can do. The reverse is not true.

    As always, I'm not saying 5 is better. The point is, it is more versatile. Best of luck whichever you choose.
  12. sheepdog


    Feb 20, 2003
    Birmingham, AL
    if you want a 5 and think your music needs a 5, get a 5. That is what I started on. There is absolutely no reason for you to have to start on a 4 unless you know that 4 is all you will need. I like 5s because I may not play the open B, but I often drop down to C or D. Yes, you can find plenty of decent 5s out there if you look, especially used. You DO NOT have to pay $800 just for a good one if you don't want to. If you play alot of solo jazz stuff and want a 6 to gain the low B and high C, then get a 6. I have never understood why people insist on misleading others into "you have to start on a 4". The house with no foundation argument? Let's take this to its (il)logical conclusion... Why start with 4? Why not start with just 1 string? Why did you start with 6 when you learned guitar? Wouldn't 4 or 5 be enough? Rediculous!
  13. I don't see the point of 5 strings. I play 4, if I go higher (eventually will) I will go right for a 6.
  14. I started out on guitar too. I was always drawn to the bass though.

    There are many good basses out there for a reasonable amount money. You should really try out some to see what you like and what you don't like. For example, do you like a thick neck or a thin one, wide spacing or narrow spacing 19 frets or 24 frets ....

    Go to Guitar Center or some other store that has a good selection and try some different brands out.

    My advice is to get a 5-string. They're really not much harder than a 4-string to learn and play and the times you need it, you'll be glad you have it.

    - Dave
  15. mjw


    Jun 12, 2001
    Spring, TX USA
    I started on a five for the exact same reasons that Fuzzbass stated. For what I play, I don't think I'll ever have a reason for a six+, but who knows. Personally, I don't *ever* think you'd regret having started on a 5.

    Best wishes regardless of what direction you choose!
  16. Turock


    Apr 30, 2000
    It's simple; if a 5 is what you want to play, then get one. It would be silly to get a 4.
  17. MMiller28


    Apr 27, 2003
    because we play bass, and not every bass player wants/needs a high guitar-like c string along with their low b.
  18. Ben Mishler

    Ben Mishler

    Jan 22, 2003
    San Jose
    That is what I did. I jumped from 4 to 6. It worked well for me.
  19. natrab


    Dec 9, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    No matter which you decide, take a look at Lakland Skyline basses. Excellent quality for the price as well as incredible customer service.
  20. I started on a 5 about a year a go, I have not regreted it once, I don't think starting on a 4 is bad at all, I play 4 strings more than my 5 recently, but the 5 always gives me the options of added notes, different fingering patterns, etc. I would say go for 5 but if you find a crazy good 4 string in that price range, its practically the same thing if you took up a 5 later.

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