Why play 5 or 6 strings?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jodathmorr, Jan 14, 2003.

  1. Just a silly newbie question. Whats the point of playing 5 and 6 string basses. I understand you can create different, varied, maybe more precise tones and songs on a 5 or 6 string bass but is there any other reason?

    Why would you play a 5 string if you could play a 6 string?

    Anything else i should know about the topic?
  2. neptoon


    Jul 25, 2000
    summerville, sc
    where's turner and his 7 and 8 strings? :rolleyes: :D you know....why NOT play 5 or 6 strings? there's nothing you can do on a 4 that can't be done on a 5 or a 6....or a 7. they just open the possibilities up. chords sound better on lighter guage strings to my ears...you also have the option of not having to shift positions as frequently by having another octave or more within reach. different strokes for different folks...i like 6 strings not because i've "mastered" a 4 or 5. few can say they have...i just feel more inspired by playing 6 string basses...and my 5ers.
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    3 main reasons for me;

    1. Notes on the B sound noticeably more "huge" than the same notes on the E

    2. The ability to play more "horizontally" or across the neck than more "vertically" or up & down the neck. Consequently, difficult lines/patterns are much smoother.

    3. Reginald plays one now :D

  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I prefer 5 to 6+ for the following reasons:

    1) The playability of the 5-string is perfect for me. On a 6+ string, either the string spacing would be narrower or the neck would be wider, and neither would be comfortable for me.

    2) I don't want any more strings to damp.

    3) I don't like the sound of the high C string. Heck, I'm not all that crazy about the G. :D I briefly considered an F#BEAD fiver, but decided it would not be a useful tool.
  5. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    I play a 5 because it has a different sound than any of my 4s, and because the B string just makes some things ALOT easier. I plan on making either a 6 or 7 next because I like to chord to fill the space left with only one guitar player.
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I play 4 stringers because they are fun to play.

    I play 5 stringers because the low B comes in handy for music written in C, C#, D and Eb, and I like playing F and G higher up on the neck. Access to two octaves without a shift in position is nice, too.

    I play 6 stringers for a lot of the reasons that I play fivers. Plus, they are great for tapping, and for playing doublestops and chords. And I even have a song that I wrote that uses the lowest C and the highest G on the 6, notes that would be impossible to get on a 4 string in standard tuning.

    I play 12 stringers because they have a unique sound that no other instrument can produce.
  7. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Hasn't this thread been done before, at least a few dozen times?

  8. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
    Uh yes, just a little bit

    There has been alot of De jevu, with all the newbies coming in. It's a good thing, just refer to the thread, and ask them to do a search before posting.

    As far as the "why"..

    Why not? if you want a 5 string to get low, get a five string. it's not all about going low, some people play 5 or 6er's so they don't have to switch postions so fast, and it makes switch easyer in some cases.

    And if you play in a band with guitarist that play 7 stringers, it's easyer (for some) to get a 5 string, thats made to handle a low b, than to string "BEAD". It's all about what you want as a bassist. I always thought it would be real cool to have a 5 string with a h "C" instead of a low "B" for melodic stuff.
  9. Jaco only needed 4 strings.

    - Dave
  10. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    You don't need a reason other than it feels right to you. I tried a 5, but it didn't speak to me. So, stick with 4. You do whatever feels right to you.
  11. niomosy


    Nov 9, 2002
    5 I find rather useless. It doesn't offer enough over a 4 for me. 6 and higher, on the other hand, offer a nice extended range for doing some fun stuff. I tend to like slap/popping with the G and C strings.

    The 6's are also good for chords and soloing as well as just keeping you from moving up and down the fretboard.

    I still love 4's and my main bass is likely to remain a 4 but I will definitely pick up a good 6 as I like the range they offer.
  12. niomosy


    Nov 9, 2002
    Who cares what Jaco needed? Why make such a limiting statement like that? All that matters is what you need.

    If you find that you need only 3 strings, go for it! If 4 is it for you, great. If you need five, fine. 6, super! 7, have at it.. and so on and so forth.
  13. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    Jaco wasn't the only great bass player in the world. There are plenty of other great bassists who use more than 4 strings.
    BTW Jaco was also famed for pioneering the fretless bass, does your theory also mean that because he used fretless', fretted bass are superfluous?
  14. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    my .02 :

    why play 5 ? simple, extended lower range- personally, i cant live without a lo B

    why play 6 ? extended upper range - and the ability to play across rather than up and down the neck - Chords and soloing are a little cleaner and cuts thru a little better in a mix -

    My dilemma is, i have good nites with a 6 and i have bad nights with a 6- i dont need bad nites , i cant afford not to be playing / sounding the best i can at all times in this town. Fives are perfect for me.
    Jaco died young. There weren't too many fivers around in S Florida around Jaco's time. I know, i was there. God only knows how many strings Jaco would be playing now? I know hed be chin deep in effects and technology . He had very cool ideas on an old MXR analog delay -
    play what feels best to you - but realize that you have to commit for a good while - what may feek awkward today may open up your tomorrow
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree with what people like Jeff have said - but to add to your question about what else you need to know.

    I think you also have to bear in mind that a lot of good basses were produced as 5-strings which have other advantages besides just the extra string.

    So for example, Michael Tobias hand-made a lot of great 5-strings, but not many 4-strings - and many of the great bass builders have produced 5-strings -which are almost the "standard" now for, boutique basses.

    I find that most 4-strings are not 24-fret and don't give good access to the higher frets; whereas my Tobias Classic 5 has 24 frest and easy access to every one - so the higher range is easily enough for my purposes.

    And on 6-strings I have had, the neck has been slower and there is the problem with strings ringing when you don't want and expending a lot of effort/thought/technique on muting, which could go towards a better solo!! ;)

    But the main point I was making, is that I don't necessarily go looking for a 4,5, 6 or 7 stringer - just the best bass I can find, that suits what I want to play - it seems that high-quality 5-strings are in better supply, than most other configurations and this may also influence why people buy them.
  16. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Someone missed the sarcasm.

    Take a look at Dave's gear listing. ;)
  17. Ya, I only see two 7s and a 6 string for Dave. But he is still right. ;)

  18. Every thread discussing the merits of extended range basses is required to have at least one "Jaco only needed 4 strings" response. Read the forum rules people! :D

    - Dave
  19. DougD

    DougD Bassman7654

    Sep 19, 2002
    North Las Vegas NV
    WHY?? why not? Why where boxers when you can wear briefs! Why drive a Chevy when you can drive a _______! Why use brand X when you can use brand Y! So-n-so and Whats-his-face only needed ___! As a wise man once said, It's your thang, do what you wanna do! I can't tell ya who to sock it too! HEY It's yo.... Er no wait. That was the Isley Brothers.:D