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5-string playing


Jumbled Jer

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Okay, so after 19+ years of playing bass, I have finally decided to purchase a 5-string bass (Music Man Sterling).

 

My motto has always been, "I'm still figuring out how to play four strings, so no need to add another!" Well, I feel I have figured them out (to a point, anyways) and could benefit from the lower string.

 

Any thoughts on adding the lower string? Specifically things to be careful of, watch out for, etc. I'm wary of adding a lower string just to play lower notes, as well as just having the extra string and barely using it?

 

 

Or should I just say "screw it" and go for the gusto with a 6-string??? (just kidding)

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I would vote "gusto" but thats me.

 

I actually don't think it is that big a deal. The biggest mistake I would have made was playing the b when it should have been on the e or the e when it should have been the a. There is a learning curve but you will adjust in no time, have fun and your musical sense will tel you when and when not to rumble!!

 

And we need pics!!

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Start by playing some of the songs you do that are in E, F, or G with those notes on the B string. You'll end up with a much bigger range of notes to use without changing hand position.

 

And as Jay said, the B string makes a great thumbrest.

 

+1

The biggest problem I had at first was getting used to it.

everything of course is 1 string down and you may occasionally, because of habit, hit the wrong string. That goes away pretty quickly though. You will soon grow to love a 5 string.

Obviously the one big bummer is the string sets will cost more than for a 4. Those B strings ain't cheap!

Lydian mode? The only mode I know has the words "pie ala" in front of it.

http://www.myspace.com/theeldoradosband

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I like swiping 5fr B on what would normally be open E on upper fret riffs. Hangover from technique I was taught (use the open strings as infrequently as possible)

 

That said, we had a discussion already on me causing involuntary bowel movements in the crowd with open B on songs like "On The Hunt" :D

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Good advice from Jeremy about thinking from the g string down.

I found out when I started trying to play a 5 that my entire concept of the fingerboard was referenced from the e string going up.

I'm still not comfortable on a 5 unless I don't have to think (at all!)about what the changes are in a tune. When subbing with bands that I don't know that well I have to go with the four.

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I have owned several fives but I am more comfortable on a four. When I go back to a five, it does not take but a few hours to get reacqainted. Using the B for a rest is my way of being oriented. The thing I like best is being able to play higher on the neck in the area I call, "the sweet spot" on the bass. Notes in that area just seem richer. But, for the music I play, the four does it all quite well.

Rocky

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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I've had one in the past but have been without one for a couple of years and I've been tossing the idea around of picking one up again.

 

Like others have said, 90% of the time it made a nice thumbrest. But, there are times it comes in real handy. Unless you are one of those types that think having that extra string and overusing the snot out of it means you're a more 'serious' player or whatever.

 

As far as what to watch out for, IMHO the low B is kind of like slapping- great when necessary but overdoing it is annoying. To my ears, the frequencies below the low D range just start to sound like mud unless you have a good bass with a good amp configuration. I just don't think very many amps and PAs handle those frequencies well. (I'm more concerned with ear pleasantness than teeth rattling) However, like Rocky and Jeremy pointed out, the working range of your patterns/ walking lines is a lot larger and user friendly- you can do more in one position. That's great for certain keys.

 

Hope you enjoy it.

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"- George Orwell
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Most bass amps and PAs can handle those frequencies perfectly well (unless you're talking about a crap system in a dive with no subs...or even a great system with a moron running it)...the funnel point is more commonly the bass cab. Most can "handle it" but it sounds like poop (which means they can't handle it in my book).

 

So let me get this straight...5 string Mike doesn't have a 5 string?!? :freak:

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Instead of thinking from the B string up (which will mess you up when you are trying to go to the A (the third string now) or the D (now the fourth), think from the G string down. It will be easier for you to know where you are.

 

Pretty good tip JC! I have to remember that one when I occasionally go back to playing a 4.

Rocky about playing in the sweet spot, I'm with you. I find it easier to play a 5 because I can play mostly in the middle of the neck and don't have to change position that often. Very convenient.

Lydian mode? The only mode I know has the words "pie ala" in front of it.

http://www.myspace.com/theeldoradosband

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I jumped straight from 4 strings to 6, and gigged with the 6 about a week after buying it. It took a lot of concentration at first, but after a few weeks I was comfortable with the fretboard layout.

 

I switched to 5 string last spring. I was no longer playing in a situation where I needed the C string. But I had become accustomed to using the B string to allow me to play in what Rocky calls the "sweet spot" without a lot of position shifting.

 

I never use a string as a thumb rest. Don't often rest on a pickup, either, unless I'm really digging in close to the bridge and want the extra leverage. My thumb just naturally floats a string or two lower than where I'm playing.

 

Last night I realized that I was thinking from the G string down (as Jeremy suggests) when I picked up the 6 string for the first time in many months. I'd get lost when I'd go above the A string!

 

Disclaimer: I a relative beginner on bass guitar compared to others on this board. So YMMV.

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The biggest mistake I would have made was playing the b when it should have been on the e or the e when it should have been the a.

 

Hence my recommendation -- in part -- for using the B string as thumbrest most of the time. If you're anchoring on it, you're less likely to get misaligned on the strings. And when you do use the B, it's intentional.

"Tours widely in the southwestern tip of Kentucky"
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Most bass amps and PAs can handle those frequencies perfectly well (unless you're talking about a crap system in a dive with no subs...or even a great system with a moron running it)...the funnel point is more commonly the bass cab. Most can "handle it" but it sounds like poop (which means they can't handle it in my book).

 

So let me get this straight...5 string Mike doesn't have a 5 string?!? :freak:

 

This is why I used a Crest power amp and a pair of 15" PA cabinets as my "bass cab" in my last band. Never had a problem making that B sound full and clear.

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I always looked at the B as a thumb rest that I could occasionally use for notes too. I guess you could use the B more for some styles, but I've found it's best to use it sparingly in the music I play.

Even though I still like my 5er I'm getting more into 4 string again these days.

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But, for the music I play, the four does it all quite well.

I grew up on classic rock. All of that can be played with a 4 because it was all recorded with 4s. (Generalization: I'm sure someone will come up with an example of a classic rock song recorded with a 5 now. :rolleyes: )

 

You can always down tune or drop tune or use a hipshot if you need to. (For example: Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" uses a low D so I tune drop D for it. [No, I don't consider that to be classic rock.])

 

And I guess if you really wanted to you could mess with the arrangement of Beatles' songs (because they weren't big enough hits as written). Not my cup of tea but to each his own.

 

Having said that, don't think I'm against "more than 4".

 

A lot of new country is recorded with 5s. And the songs don't sound as good, IMO, if you arrange the bass lines up an octave. Same with some P&W songs.

 

I can't say whether I avoided songs that "required" 5 strings when I only had a 4 or if I just didn't come across that many.

 

Of course if you're writing original music you can do whatever the hell you want.

 

 

Last night I realized that I was thinking from the G string down (as Jeremy suggests) when I picked up the 6 string for the first time in many months. I'd get lost when I'd go above the A string!
Yeah, that trick doesn't work with 8 string (unpaired) bass either. ;)
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I'm a newbie bass player, more experienced as a keyboardist.

But please let me insert my 2 cents. Fifth string is convenient, why don't have it even if you don't really use it? It's not like it takes a lot of space or adds weight. On keyboard, extra range means few kilos of weight and much larger instrument. So I don't really undertand why not have the low B 'just in case'. Someone, please explain.

Stage: MOX6, V-machine, and Roland AX7

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Sometimes the low B will start to vibrate if you are playing in E (or F# or A...) and the low B will generate a hum. I have even heard of the low B vibrating to Eb. So I like to keep the meaty part of my palm beneath my thumb/heal of my hand on the B to damp it.

 

The low B is great if you play nearer to the 5 or 7 fret. Playing in F is easier. You can play fantastic blues turn-arounds from the low B if you think "accross" the fretboard (from low B to high G) instead of "Going down" to the nut on the B.

 

In other words, the "blues box" (1-2-4-5-7-8) is larger to work with.

 

 

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Hi bloodyMary,

 

I mostly play 5-string. Your "why not" question is a good one.

 

I'll give it a shot.

 

1. The extra string adds to muting issues. If you've got decent technique and already know how to mute strings so that unplayed strings don't ring out through sympathetic vibration when you don't want them to, you can usually adjust relatively quickly to muting an additional string. However, it does add something else to pay attention to or become habituated to when you go to a 5.

 

2. The "just in case" varies a lot for different players. Often going below the E, or even an E-string downtuned to D, isn't necessary. Sometimes I'll bring a 4-string to a rehearsal and on tunes where I use the lowest notes on the 5-string I typically play, they often sound just fine an octave higher.

 

3. A 5er is about more than those lowest notes, though. As others have commented, it may be more advantageous in terms of offering more fingering choices further up the neck. This can be a good thing. However, if you're used to playing a 4 and can get around the neck as needed to cover the music you're playing, those alternative fingerings may be of less utility.

 

4. Sometimes the low B is tricky to get to sound even with the other strings or to get to feel similarly tense as the other strings. So, there is experimentation with longer scale (35" rather than the traditional 34"), different string winds (taper or not), gauges, thru-body stringing or not, and more. These issues, I feel, are less common to 4-strings (or else we're all more used to them). That said, there are 4-strings with feel and tone balance issues and there are more and more 5-strings for which these are not issues.

 

5. Some folks are just traditionalists. :-)

 

6. The lower notes present amplification challenges.

 

That said, I really like playing 5ers. Some music I'm doing with a couple of musicians has benefited, I think, from using a 5. The added range and more flexible fingering choices have been more noticeably advantageous in this situation than I've found in the past.

 

Peace.

--SW

 

spreadluv

 

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The low E string on a five string actually sounds different than the low E string on a four string. It's a subtle difference, but it's there.

 

If you add keys to a keyboard, the keyboard is wider. I have a 61 key keyboard and an 88 key keyboard. Playiing them is exactly the same. Some keyboards have smaller keys (like some Casios). It feels weird to play with smaller keys.

 

If you add strings to a bass, it also gets wider. Every note you play feels different with your left hand (than on a four string) and muting techniques sometimes have to change.

 

Nearly all the music I get asked to play does not require any notes lower than E. (and I play a wide variety of music). Sometimes I bring a five string and most of the time I don't. No one in the bands I play with ever seems to care or even notice.

 

שלום, חבר

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The low E string on a five string actually sounds different than the low E string on a four string. It's a subtle difference, but it's there.

 

If you add keys to a keyboard, the keyboard is wider. I have a 61 key keyboard and an 88 key keyboard. Playiing them is exactly the same. Some keyboards have smaller keys (like some Casios). It feels weird to play with smaller keys.

 

If you add strings to a bass, it also gets wider. Every note you play feels different with your left hand (than on a four string) and muting techniques sometimes have to change.

 

Nearly all the music I get asked to play does not require any notes lower than E. (and I play a wide variety of music). Sometimes I bring a five string and most of the time I don't. No one in the bands I play with ever seems to care or even notice.

 

Shalom, chaver!

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So let me get this straight...5 string Mike doesn't have a 5 string?!? :freak:

 

I know, it's false representation ins't it? :crazy:

 

As of right now, nope- I had one when I joined (a cheap Washburn XB105)- got a Jazz 4 as a backup, then my 5 went away. I was going to get another one, then bought a Fender P that I got a good deal on from a guy I knew, then my jazz went away. So I might not get another 5. I've been debating it for months- I'm saving up some green to get one, but I've been able to do just about everything I want to with my P- plus it's hard to find a good 5 in my price range* that isn't active (I'm an old-school passive guy) with decent string spacing, plus the cost of strings, etc. I'm thinking more of a fretless now than another 5.

 

I should change my user name, I guess...

 

*- I'd really like a Fender Jazz V but finding decent used ones for less than $4-450 is hard, and that's more than I want to spend- I'm seriously thinking about a Squier Affinity jazz V and doing a p/up & pot upgrade- they actually don't sound and play that bad, just weak and 'plain' sounding.

 

P.S. not trying to hijack the thread- carry on :)

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"- George Orwell
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When I switched I ended up going "Full Immersion" IE- played nothing but the 5 until I was comfortable. Muting issues on the B were probably the biggest issue. LOVE the lower range though. Hint: add an 18" speaker to your set-up. Make them feel it!

"There's not enough bass in the mix unless the first three rows are having involuntary bowel movements."

http://www.myspace.com/biguglyman_bass

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I have never had muting issues with any five string I've owned. And I may not need a note lower than E, but there are a lot of things I don't need that I really like having and enjoy using.

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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As Jeremy mentioned, adding strings necessitates the instrument's dimentions getting wider (body and neck) which adds weight. An extra pound or two in a keyboard isn't even noticed whereas the difference between a 10 lb and 11 lb bass on a 3 hour gig can make a big difference.

 

That said, my main bass is still my 9873645 lb MIM Jazz 5.

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T've never really noticed a weight difference between a 4 and a five. I think it depends on the wood used and the body size.

The thing I've noticed regarding weight is that some 5s have more of a tendency to neck dive probably because of the added weight of the extra tuner. Especially if it has a short upper horn where the stap fastens. like my Warwick.

String spacing is usually different as most 5s I've played seem to have a narrower string spacing so Jeremy is correct that you may have to alter your technique a tad. One thing I've noticed about the B string mostly on the 34" scale basses is it's a bigger problem setting the intonation. I usually have to crank the bridge saddle back really far sometimes having to remove or shorten the spring to get the intonation right. Or use tapered strings. I don't have that problem with a 35" scale bass. Weird.

Lydian mode? The only mode I know has the words "pie ala" in front of it.

http://www.myspace.com/theeldoradosband

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T've never really noticed a weight difference between a 4 and a five. I think it depends on the wood used and the body size.

I was thinking in terms of a direct comparison of a 4 and 5 of the same make, model and materials. My MIM Jazz 5 is definitely heavier than a MIM Jazz 4 with the same woods.

 

The thing I've noticed regarding weight is that some 5s have more of a tendency to neck dive probably because of the added weight of the extra tuner. Especially if it has a short upper horn where the stap fastens.

The weight of a single tuner is infinitesimal in comparison to the added mass of the 5-string neck over the 4. The body design and sepcifically the horn placement and length (like you said) is a huge factor in balance, though.

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