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Worth Getting A 5 String?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Funk Warts, Jun 17, 2001.


  1. Funk Warts

    Funk Warts

    Jun 13, 2001
    London, UK
    Is it worth getting a five string bass. I've played 4 string for years now, so should I stick with it?

    What sort of sounds does a 5 string allow? How much do you have to alter your technique?

    Thanks a lot for any feedback, or mail me if you want.
     
  2. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    I have played nothing but 4 string basses for over 20 years, but 2 years ago I switched over to a 5 string...it took a few weeks to get the hang of the low B below the E...but just the other day I was in a music store and I hated every 4 string they had (though they were all top quality basses).

    I could never go back to a 4 string. I don't like the way they feel and I would really miss having the low B to come up underneath the notes on the E.

    If you've got the speakers to handle a low B, it gives such beautiful depth to the sound, that you can really feel. It is so nice to be able to play, say a blues in C, and still keep a good driving low end through the entire song.

    The neck (a Peavey Cirrus) is not all that much wider than a four...and the strings are slightly closer together, but not much. If anything the wider neck keeps me from "grabbing" the neck with a fist and I've found that it forces me (naturally) to play with better technique. I'm faster on my 5 string than I ever was on a four (which could just be 18+ years of practicing paying off...:)).
     
  3. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Same story. I was pretty much anti-five for the first 14 years of my playing. I played blues, jazz and classic rock. I could have played a 3 string bass and been happy. But a couple of years ago I started playing in a praise and worship band. Lead by a piano player. If you have ever had any contact with P&W, you know that it covers a variety of styles and is entended for group singing. So we transpose a ton of stuff, modulate continuously and are often playing in very anti-guitar keys like Eb and F, Bb and the like. I tried de-tuning the E string, but the wrinkle there is that the continuous modulation forces you to play out of classical scale positions most of the time. (Otherwise you have to transpose in your head as you go) A typical day is 2 hours rehearsal to learn 45 minutes of music straight from the charts that we have to play that night. So making things simple is important.

    So anyway, I started playing 5 string to get all of those E flats and low Ds in without dwelling in the guitars register and sounding wimpy. That was two years ago. I just sold off my last four string a few weeks ago. I NEVER touch them anymore. I hear some say the keep a four around for this or that, but I don't seem to have the need.
     
  4. Tyler Dupont

    Tyler Dupont Wesly Headpush

    I started on a 4 then got a 5 after about 2 years. I've been playing a 5 for about 8 years now and I find when I pick up a 4 I'm sloppy. I really wanted to get a 4 as my next bass.. but after thinking about it for a while, I can't see it happening.
     
  5. snyderz

    snyderz

    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    Go for the fiver. (but keep the four) :) I used to play 70%/30% 4 over 5 but now I'm at about 50/50. Can't see myself without either right now. Not only will you enjoy the low B, but it is nice to hang out up around the 9th fret and still hit a low register.
    Doc
     
  6. Im probably gonna go a step farther and get a 6er, for the same reason that I would get a 5, escept I kinda want a high C.
     
  7. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Definitely get a 5, IMHO.

    Having those 5 extra low notes is really nice, especially when playing in C or D.

    Transposing is also easier, and you have the option of playing in keys like E, F or G on the E string or higher up on the B string, and if you are playing for example in F at the 6th fret, you have the high end of a 6 string without having to shift positions.

    Of course, this is true of any extended range bass, like if you were playing in C at the 6th fret of your F# string on the 7 string, the high C string would give you the notes of the high F of an 8 string.

    But to me, the best thing about a 5 string is the ability to play the lowest notes on the E string in 2 places.

    A G fretted at the 8th fret of your B string sounds fatter than a G fretted at the 3rd fret of your E string. Fat strings sound fatter.:) And if you need the skinnier string tone, just shift down and over and get it on the E string.

    6's, 7's, 8's and even 9's are becoming more commonplace, and are nice to have, but the 5 string covers most of the ground that any bassist who plays a mostly supportive role(like me) needs. Face it, with today's music, you need to be able to go down to B to compete with the keyboards and 7 string guitars, dropped tuning, etc.

    And I'm not saying that you can't be supportive with 9 strings, but i only grab my 6 when I need to play a lot of chords, or for the occasional solo or tapping part.
     
  8. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk

    Apr 14, 2001
    Pennsylvania
    I have found that I would miss the low B for much of what I play. However, being a slapaholic, I can really freak-out on a 4. I can play more aggressively. I was actually debating getting a fretless 6-string or an old Jazz or something with 4 just to pop on. I guess if I have a major GAS attack I can get both!
     
  9. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    asia/australia
    If you need a 5 , get one. I stick on 4, because I could not find any song cannot be played with 4 strings only, and yet I never found a clear note below D on B string on any so called high end basses played on high end amp and high end cab.
     
  10. I got my first five-string a couple of months ago, and I'm so happy I made the switch. I play in my church's worship band, and I swear that half the songs are in Eb or D, so the added range helps immensly. J.S Basuki, I have to disagree. My Warwick Streamer Standard, even with a 34" scale, has a reasonably tight B with enough definition to actually use when playing. That is one thing that I have noticed: the more you play, the better the B sounds. You just get used to the way it is, so you might have to change your stlye a bit. I thought that my Streamer had a lousy B when I first got it, but now I'm perfectly happy with it.
     
  11. 5 string make playing low easier. No need for detuning. Fatter notes etc.

    I think the only thing not covered here is that you can string a 5 with a high C and play chords if you want.
     
  12. Sundogue

    Sundogue

    Apr 26, 2001
    Wausau, WI
    Well, that low B does take some getting used to...

    It is in a very low frequency so it will never be quite as clear or as crisp as the other strings. If you really listen to each string, the thicker they get the less sharp the notes on each string becomes. It is just something inherent to bass.

    What I love about it, is that you really "feel" those low notes more. Ever notice how more people want to dance when the bass is turned up? Why do you think disco (with it's funky, driving bass) became such popular club music? People don't dance to guitar. They can "feel" the bass more...and it is certainly true that the low B is felt even more than it is heard.

    I wouldn't say that "all" low B strings are dull. Alot has to do with the acoustical properties of the bass they are on. I own a Peavey Cirrus 5 string and the B is quite clear given the string's size and how low the frequency is.

    Perhaps it is in part, a matter of taste, combined with not finding a bass that can handle the low B properly. The design characteristics of a 5 string is far more demanding than simply having a four string with a wider neck and extra tuning peg.
     
  13. I'm glad I dropped in on this thread. I'm going to buy something anyday now, and was really considering getting a Yamaha BEX4C acoustic/electric bass, but, since I have a Jack Casady already, it would be kind of redundant. I think I'm going to get an Ibanez BTB405QM. What a clean, clear, deep B string. I think they'll always be a place for a four though.

    Mike J.
     
  14. I'm glad I dropped in on this thread. I'm going to buy something anyday now, and was really considering getting a Yamaha BEX4C acoustic/electric bass, but, since I have a Jack Casady already, it would be kind of redundant. I think I'm going to get an Ibanez BTB405QM. What a clean, clear, deep B string. I think they'll always be a place for a four though.

    Mike J.
     
  15. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    I've owned a 6, and I currently own a 5 and a 4. I like the extra range that more strings provide but I LOVE the feel of a skinny 4-string neck-I can just zip around on it.
     
  16. Aaron

    Aaron

    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    here is my opinion on fivers:
    for older styles of music stick with four stringers
    for music that involves the b string, use a five string.

    I was down at a jam a while ago and there was this bass player that was using low b's and c's in traditional country songs. It just didn't sound right. It made the music almost sound cheesy, like playing electric bass in an orchestra.

    I am sorry if i offended anybody. Excuse me if i was ignorant. This is just my opinion.
     
  17. I went from a four to a five and then went back to fours. I was pretty happy with fours, but I whipped out the five after a few years and I realized that the B can be very useful.

    I don't know what to recommend. All I can say is they're different. Just like every instrument has a different feel and makes you play differently, I find that fivers bring out a different side of me. I don't know, I like them both. The B string can be a comfortable place to rest your thumb. Left handwise, the B string won't "get in the way" because you're not playing over it, so to speak. The B string is "on top" of the E string, so if you want to play it, you just have to reach for it, but if you want to ignore it, you can easily avoid it. In the case of a 6-string though, I find that you have to get used to playing over the C-string, so it's harder to get used to.

    Well, didn't mean to ramble, gotta go to sleep.
     
  18. i personally don't feel that a five is necessary in most musical situations. then again, it totally depends on what type of music you're playing and what the instrumentation of your group is. i own a five and a six. the funny thing is, i find that i never hover around notes on the low B string or high C string - i use them mainly to change things up, etc. also, i think it depends on the instrumentation of the group you're playing with. for example, if i'm playing in a trio situation, i will rarely go down on the low B simply because it leaves too much sonic space IMO. Now, if that third player is a keyboard player with a heavy left hand, its a different story (i hate keyboard players' left hands.. heh).
     
  19. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Go 5, and never look back.
    Well, you don't have to, all four strings are still there, just one more is added to increase your range. Simple choice, IMHO.
     
  20. The first five years I owned my 1st 5'er - I was intimidated my it really.

    I would look at it at then turn and use my trusty 'ol Jazz..but then one day I just had to prove to myself that I could play it live and not totally screw up.

    That was 6 years ago and I truely have not looked back. Now that doesn't mean I never play my Jazz.. but it does mean it's been regulated to being a "back-up" bass.

    Go for a 5'er, You'll wonder why you didn't switch sooner!