Why play 5 above ?

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by gitparker, Dec 20, 2015.

  1. gitparker


    Nov 10, 2015
    What I mean is - many DB in Bluegrass will play C on the A string and then 5( ie G) on the D string above, instead of below on the E . Why? It doesn,t sound 'right' to me.

    Hope this makes sense
  2. martinc

    martinc In Memoriam

    git: on many basses the G on the E string just does not project or sustain enough and gets lost if you are playing in the key of C. The other alternative is to play the open G and control the sustain by damping with your left hand. But if you play the G on the D string it is easier to match the sustain of the stopped C on the A string.
    However there are many times the G on the E string will work. It all depends on the song/tune and what kind of a bass line you want to construct...... or approach notes you want to use between chords.
  3. Holdsg

    Holdsg Talkbass > Work Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 10, 2009
    Alta Loma, CA
    ^^^perfect explanation
    vin*tone likes this.
  4. 5 year beginner here.

    The E string on my bass is strong enough and I usually play G there, but I go to the "high G" more for the higher sound than anything else. Sometimes if the song is going lower it's a good counter to go higher on the bass. Sometimes not. And if a section ends on G D G I'll often go G-b D-a G-d HighG for sort of finish of that section.

    I don't currently play open G on the high string as a routine 5 or anything else, even 1. However, I think I need to get over my love affair with the low notes and start to move up the fingerboard a bit, so who knows.
  5. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    It cuts through a boomy room better.
    Holdsg likes this.
  6. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    In reality, you would/should use both methods, perhaps even mixing both in the same song. In my root 5 playing i can go fifth below, fifth above, octave below, octave above. All those notes are fair game and can be mixed, but tastefully of course. Sometimes the root and fifth below really is the best sound for the song, but don't get too hung up on rules like this.
    RBrownBass, Holdsg and james condino like this.
  7. Eddy Blake

    Eddy Blake

    Mar 9, 2018
    A good rule of thumb I find is: keep it low. For me, the biggest reason why I'll start playing the higher (open) G is honestly that my hands are getting tired. Leaning on the open G gives a much needed rest. Musically speaking, it's usually worth it to muscle the low G (and the low F for that matter). One thing I also find musically is that when the dynamics get softer it works well to play up the octave. The real power of the bass is in the low register. Also, it's a tricky beast because a lot of times while playing the instrument onstage, it will seem that the higher notes cut through better, but when listening to playback of a recording the low ones always seem to do the job better. Thats my two cents :)
    BobKay likes this.
  8. turf3


    Sep 26, 2011
    For me a lot of it depends on where we are going next. Just off the top of my head, for example, I might be going from a D chord to an A chord. I might choose to play open D and A on the G string for the D chord and then go to open A for the first note of the A chord, to avoid repeating the low A. On my bass the "high" A is not particularly quiet or particularly loud, but the open A is quite boomy, so it would make sense to have the high A on the 3rd beat of a D chord and then the big heavy open A string on the 1st beat of the A chord.
  9. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    Good points in everyone's answers. I'll add one more: it sometimes depends on the style of the guitar player. For example, I'm occasionally asked to play in a 4 piece band with a guitar player who plays a huge amount of bass runs. It's almost as if he doesn't know or care if there is a bass player. In that group I'm playing the lowest position for any note required.

    One additional thought - I think open strings are the best part of the bass. If I wanted to play stopped, I should have taken up the bass guitar. That includes the open G; it is very useful, at least for me.
  10. martinc

    martinc In Memoriam

    Bob: No bass guitar needed for stopped strings. If you are playing a lot of open strings on your upright you need to dampen (or stop) them anyway to have control over the sustain that you need for the song/tune.
  11. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    Probably just a definition misunderstanding, when I say "stopped strings," I'm referring to EBG players who play almost exclusively up the neck. I understand completely the issue of damping the string to control sustain, but that is different from playing a note higher up the neck when there is an open string to play the same note.

    Neither right nor wrong, just my suggestion based on my experience.
  12. martinc

    martinc In Memoriam

    Thanks for the clarification.
    I play EBG too (mostly country) but I try to be just as solid on it as I like to be on the upright. That means playing big fat noted low notes. I saw a quote one time that I always thought was very appropriate for most kinds of music: "It's a bass. Play the low notes!"
  13. You’re basically guaranteed to play in tune when you play open strings.

    Solid intonation helps you punch through the mix.

    Add to that the fact that most basses are too small to push the fundamental of the low notes.

    Add to that the fact that in the old days when everybody played on gut, low notes sounded like mush, so keeping tradition in mind and shifting up the neck makes more sense than playing a double bass like a bass guitar and hanging out on the low strings.
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