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Why do you play an x string bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Marlat, Jan 21, 2004.

  1. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    Okay, so I was having this discussion via PM's about extended range instruments and I decided that I was interested in finding out why people play the basses with x number of strings. Ie why do you play mostly 4 strings, or 5 strings or 11 strings? (This is really aimed at what you play *most* often).

    I play a six string all the time - its all I own.

    I started on 4 but played with a band that did a lot of "dropped D" tuned stuff so wanted to get a five string. About that time I started to get into Dream Theater and saw all the cool stuff that John Myung was doing on a six in a rock context and thought (incorrectly) that I would be able to do it. So, when it came to getting a new bass I thought I might as well get a six.

    That said, if I was to get another bass it would definately be a four because I love how they feel in your hands and I really haven't found the need for a six to be as great as I thought it would :)

    Your thoughts / stories :D
  2. Tim Cole

    Tim Cole

    Jun 12, 2002
    Findlay, Ohio
    Four bangers for me. I ocassionally use/own a 5, but only when the current gig calls for one......downtuning, excessive capo use by the guitar players.....it opens up more positioning options.

    I'm just the most comfortable on a 4 banger, and I'm not a soloist, or lead type of player.
  3. Smurf


    Dec 27, 2003
    I say this because I just got a 5'er, but there is a little more to it. For the music I play the B is going to be a welcome addition, ie Country, P&W, and original. Also,I felt since I was switching to bass I should get back into it with a five string from the star.IMHO, I'm in the middle, so once I get comfortable on the five I can go back to a 4 or up to a 6 without to much work!:rolleyes: Just my 2 cents.........
  4. 4- & 5-stringers here, because i have no need for more strings. I hardly ever use the G-string anyway... why should i go higher ? The Low-B is deep enough for my, so why would i want to go any lower ?
  5. mostly 4 string, but on some occasions my six string (read, almost never).

    In a few weeks all the bass students from my school (that's 7) will be playing a piece my bass teacher wrote (for 7 basses, drummer and some horns) on some special "free" concert. And the part he wrote for me just has to played on a six string, whitch is quite a challenge because it has been years since I last gigged with my six....
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I only play 5-strings now because I like the way you can have two-octave scales open to you, starting anywhere on the B string - the B played higher up the neck gives you a nice rounded sound, especially when you use palm muting and pluck with your thumb - for an upright-like sound. So a 5 has a lot of tonal variation, which allows you to shape your tone with your fingers.

    I have tried 6-strings - but I found the higher string got in the way and resonated a lot - plus it didn't sound like bass to me - more like a spanish guitar sound.... :meh:

    I haven't been able to find a 4-string that doesn't feel like the neck is too narrow - like a toy in my left hand - 5s feel just about right in terms of neck width, when you have decent string spacing and nice flat neck.

    Finally - it is nice to have some of those lower notes - low C and low D are very satisfying as conclusions to tunes and I really appreciate low Eb in a lot of Jazz. Also - alot of funk tunes that used keyboard bass, can fit nicely in the range of the 5-string, but sound thin on 4 string, transposed up an octave.
  7. DDXdesign

    DDXdesign formerly 'jammadave' Supporting Member

    Oct 15, 2003
    Wash DC metro area
    i have four 4s and a 7. The 7 is for when I want to go musically where I cannot on 4, but for 99% of my playing, covers and originals, 4 is all I need.

    I actually like dropped-D better than reaching over to the B string for it, but find the B a godsend for those times when getting back down to first position just wouldn't be physically possible in a tune or riff.

    Maybe I could get away with 5 for that purpose, sure, but having 2 more high strings, just in case, is very nice.
    - By contrast I find the high string on a 6 useless by itself. So if I got a 6 it'd probably have an E on the bottom and I'd tune it guitar-style.
  8. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    I'm definitely most comfortable on 4 strings, although I do have a 5. The 5 is fretless though, and the G rarely gets touched, so I might trade it for a 4 and string it with a B. I always find myself looking for more range when on the 4 though, so I'm looking to try a 7 to see if that'll suit my needs. I miss the B sometimes, and 21 or even 24 frets is never enough.

    I absolutely love narrow 4 string necks. They feel really cool. the 5 is a tad too flat, and the uselessness of the G doesn't really make up for it too much.
  9. I´ve only owned 4-stringers, but I have always been just a tad tempted by 6-string basses. Unfortunately they have always been too expensive for me, especially here in Finland, where they still are quite rare - until now. I wouldn´t want to pay huge amount of cash for an instrument that might not suit me at all (those wiiiiide necks are a bit intimidating), but I am thinking about getting some inexpensive six in the future, just for fun and to see if I can get myself around the fretboard. If I don´t care for it, it´s not a big financial loss and if I fall in love... well, you know.:)
  10. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    I play 4 but I'm looking for 5. Eventually, I hope to go to 6. I think anything beyond 6 is not very useful or practical.

    I play 4 because that's what I can afford/play at the moment. Many people try to switch to 5+ when they don't have the technique down. Even though I've played since I was 14 (16 now), I still don't think I have the technique for 5. I think I'm going to buy a 5'er during the summer.
  11. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    I use a fretless PJ 4 and a Kubicki Ex-Factor. I really enjoy having the drop D on the Ex factor. I was looking at getting a 6 or a 5 but instead broke the bank and got a NS Design EUB. :eek:
  12. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    My main axe is my 8 string Conklin. It's the ultimate do all instrument.

    You've read over and over from many people about the benefits of ERBs (first position playing, increased chordal, tapping and harmonic possibilities, yadda, yadda, yadda...) so I wont waste time repeating all that here.

    One of the nicest benefits of the bass that I didnt think of when I first got it but realized over time is that (for me) it's the perfect composition tool. With a simple twist of a couple of tuning keys I have guitar tuning which I can work out guitar passages on that will directly translate to the other instrument. The bass range is still there and I can see (hear) in real time (using two handed tapping) how complementary bass and guitar passages will (roughly) sound together. There was a time when I used a keyboard to develop and arrange different parts of whatever piece of music I might be working on... Now all I have to do is grab the Conk.

    This can be done just as well on a 7 as it is on my 8. I don't use the low F# string much while composing, but I love to use it in recording and playing for that DEEP bass rumble.

    CAN YA FEEL IT, BABY!?!?! :bassist:
  13. i played one of JT's sevens once. conklin makes a very comfortable bass and the one i played sounded really sweet. it had a kent armstrong pickup and demeter preamp.

    i play a 4-string, because i express myself the best on it. and for me, it's all about self-expression.

  14. Seven's the key number here. Think about it. Seven-Elevens, Seven doors, Seven, man, that's the number. Seven chipmunks twirlin' on a branch, eatin' lots of sunflowers on my uncle's ranch. You know that old children's tale from the sea. It's like you’re dreamin' about Gorgonzola cheese when it's clearly Brie time, baby. Step into my office, 'cause you're f**kin' fired!


    - Dave
  15. Cause it was on sale.
  16. I feel that the bass role tends to dissapear when you start adding higher strings onto the instrument. Theres no reason to get up in that register, and if you want to compose, i guess having all those notes is good, but nothing beats sitting down at a piano to write. I stick to the fours myself, and i like fives for the purpose of easier positiioning for scales and such, but anything above a 5 tends to make me ask myself if its even a bass anymore.
  17. What is the "bass role" anyway though? Why should it apply blindly to every form of music that we play?

    - Dave
  18. AraThorN

    AraThorN Guest

    Jan 21, 2004
    There's no way I'll ever leave my 5 string to rot. The 5 gives you all the uses, of a 4, without reducing the distance between strings too much, and without increasing the thickness of the fret board. Anyway, I play mostly rock, and only a solo artist ever touches the 'g' string (no pun intended), unless popping. For most songs like metallica's 'sad but true', its so easy to hit that low 'd' on the b string. I really don't think anyone would need to go any lower that 'b' anyway.
  19. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I own several fours, but don't play them much any more.

    I play primarily five string, because that is what feels like home to me.

    I play six, because I wrote parts for three songs which are either impractical, or in one case, impossible to play on a four or five, due to range limitations.

    I play twelve, because there are certain songs that need that 12 string sound, a sound you can't get with any other bass(except for a 15 or 18;)).
  20. mark beem

    mark beem I'm alive and well. Where am I? Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    Alabama, USA
    What'd I tell ya Mark??

    :D ;)

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