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Why do YOU play more than four?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bad_andy, Sep 23, 2005.

  1. bad_andy


    Sep 21, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    When I was working nights at Ardent Studios in Memphis, I would use the dead time in the wee hours of the morning to practice. A producer came into the tape room and pointed to the C,G and D strings on my Warwick Streamer 6 and said, "That's not bass, that's not bass and that's not bass." Then he pointed to my A,E and B strings and said, "That's bass, that's bass and that's bass."

    I own two "extended range" basses, a 5 string and a 6 string as well as a 4 string AGB and a 7/8th upright. The majority of the parts I get paid money to play could be played on all 4 instruments. My upright teacher calls the notes between the nut and the heel (frets 0-7 on an electic bass) the "money notes".

    I'm not a blazing soloist or two handed tapper. All my instruments are used primarily rhythm section work. So speaking for myself the reason my electrics have the extra strings are:

    1) I can choose where to put a part bassed on the tone of the string. If I want clear and punchy, I'll play C below middle C on the third fret of the A string. If I want ballsy and more bassy, I'll play it on the 8th fret of the E string. If I want tubby reggae thud, I'll play it on the 13th fret of my B string.

    2) I like being able to play all my first position notes from my 4 at 5th position on my 5 and 6 string. The fret are closer together and I can play with less effort. I also like being able to play a chromatic scale in all 12 enharmonic keys in first position on my 6 string, if I add the open strings.

    3) The C string makes it easy to add double stops to my popping when I slap. I also makes is easy to add open voiced chords at a position on the neck where I can throw in a few "bass" notes as well. This is great for filling in space in duet and trio situations when the other guy solos.

    So why do you juggle more than EADG?
  2. cb56


    Jul 2, 2000
    Central Illinois
    That producer is a MORON!
    I could see him stopping Tommy Dorsey while recording "Getting sentimental over you" or "Marie" and saying "that's not trombone,that's trumpet range, take it down an octave"
  3. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have one electric fretted bass - a 5 string (BEADG) and I use an upright. The upright is for a big band I play with once in a while. I also use it if I get called to play a jazz combo type gig. Not too often as there is another guy in town that seems to get those.

    Anyway, I use the 5 for a few reasons:

    1) I like the bass. It sounds great (Bartolini pups and preamp) and plays easily. It also looks pretty nice and is really light.

    2) I like to have position options.

    3) I like to be able to choose different timbres.

    4) Some music I play "requires" some low notes.

    5) The singer I play with likes to transpose on the fly and the 5 makes this a litte easier.

    That said, I wouldn't mind having a nice 4 string. Not having finger and position options makes you play differently as well, and that isn't all bad. I've been really into Chicago lately and watch the new DVD often. Jason Scheff really does some nice things on his 4 string. Makes me re-think some of my playing.
  4. Blackbird

    Blackbird Moderator Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    You said it!
    You should have pointed out that a 4 banger has D and a G strings too.
  5. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Your question reminds me of the old joke, "Why does a dog lick his privates?" Because he can. :D

    My question would be, why not? Extra range is good for fingering, etc. I agree that the producer you quote is, if not an outright moron, at least a musical luddite. ;)
  6. brianh


    Aug 19, 2005
    Endorsing: Epifani Amplification
    I played 4 string only for years, and I still use one frequently. My main bass is a 5 string though. I feel a lot of modern music now requires the use of a B string. If the tune calls for it, you should have the notes.

    While I don't really love playing 6 string bass as music, I do own one. I personally don't perform with it much (but when I do it's really a nice touch), but really I use it more a writing tool or a way to study harmony.

    Bass is a supportive instrument first, but can be supportive in many ways...
  7. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    I like to confuse guitar players.

  8. Has anyone dropped the term "douche bag" yet?

    If not... there you have it.

    While I do tend to believe there are "money notes," why should we as bassists just pander to "those" people if it compromises our individual creativity?
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I suspect that the producer was simply expressing his frustration with bassists who are all about upper-register fills instead of holding down the bottom line when necessary. Even so, he's an a-hole: no reason to be so pedantic.

    Anyway: I confess that I was first attracted to five because I needed low notes, and five turned out to be a much better solution (for me) than four plus Hipshot Xtender.

    After I'd been playing five for awhile, realized its true advantages:
    1) Greater range of notes in each fingering position
    2) More locations to play the same riff
    3) Easier to play in flat keys, particularly Bb and Eb... easier to play in F-minor when you have 6th fret B string to work with... etc.

    I've decided to stop at five for the following reasons:
    1) Don't need additional range
    2) Haven't found a C string that sounds good to my ears (I'm not always crazy about G, either)
    3) "Wide 5" has the optimum fingerboard width and string spacing for my hands

    Each of us has to make his own decision: what's best for me isn't necessarily best for anyone else.
  10. mark beem

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

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    ..Because I haven't sold them to buy a Fender 4 string yet...

  11. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    I love my four string (Rick 4003) and consider it my main bass. However, in my main project, there are songs that we play in G# where I need to go down to Eb, we have songs where I need a low D, one song needs a low Eb, etc.

    Also, if I don't feel like carting around multiple basses, the 5 string is perfect because, no retuning, no switching instruments, etc. Plus, as stated earlier, you have so many more options of where to play a note so position shifts are easier or eliminated and you can pick different timbres for the notes you play. An E played on the fifth fret of a B string sounds different from an open E on a four string.

    You need to have the right tool for the job!
  12. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA

    I love it when the guitarist starts playing an A chord over my E or a C over a G when trying to follow me and trying to figure out why it sounds so bad!

    "This string is tuned to 'B'" I'll have to point out! LOL
  13. michele


    Apr 2, 2004
    Your answer should have been: "I know it, my man, but I carry these extra strings just in case I meet a producer who think he's the bass player to fasten his wrists with the D string, his ankles with the G string and to whip his @$$ with the C string! Wanna try? :D
  14. sheepdog


    Feb 20, 2003
    Birmingham, AL
    I like playing EADG in 2nd position (5th fret on the BEAD strings). Easier stretch for my fingers and it allows me to drop down as low as a B when needed. I often need at least an extra step on the low end, this gives me an extra 2.5 steps to work with. Great for Praise/Worship music
  15. bville


    Aug 25, 2005
    It's funny that they never ask piano players questions like that. (Why do you have so many keys??? :eyebrow: )
  16. chording, and those low Cs and Ds are nice to have. The high notes are cool to throw in too. Just more flexability.
  17. Jeff Martinez

    Jeff Martinez

    May 10, 2005
    Denver, CO
    I like the versatility. My 5-string is tuned A-D-A-D-A. With 24 frets, I have 5 octaves of A at my fingertips. These roots work well with the majority of the songs both of my bands write.
  18. BSR6P-Bob


    Apr 5, 2005
    Sounds to me like the producer was just voicing an experienced opinion and kidding around a bit. Taken out of context I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and cut him some slack.

    Personally I can't do with out the sound of the C string especially for chords and chord melody stuff. The sound of the F string did nothing for me though which is why I'm back to 6's. To each his own.

    IMHO as long as you play a great part, the string count is a moot point.
  19. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I find I need the extra range more often than not, and since I'm not the type to play a ton of different basses, if the tune only calls for the "basic" EADG then I'll just play it on my bass. The flexibility works well for me, and since I'm a big guy with big hands, the increased width of the necks doesn't bother me at all.

    I'm kind of surprised at the producer's 'tude, though ..... most guys I run into don't care if you're playing a broomstick, as long as it gets the tone they want and you can play the parts they've given you ......... :cool:
  20. bad_andy


    Sep 21, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    You hit the nail on the head. He was saying it with a smile on his face and it was from the perspective of a guy used to doing whatever made the tune work, whether it was a commercial jingle or a label demo. He actually had an old Fender Stu Hamm model lying around Studio B that he'd had set up for BEAD, so at least he practiced what he preached.

    The comebacks people are posting are pretty funny, though. :D

    Actually, have you ever played with a keyboardist with left hand disease? One guy I work with is so bad about muddying up the low end, I've had to threaten to break his left pinky to keep him out of my octave. :mad: