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4 strings


Phil W

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Walked past a bass class yesterday - at the same location 8 years ago I saw 5, 6, 7 strings - fanned frets, fretless, active basses etc. Yesterday every bass was a Fender - every bass had four strings. Many basses had colored strings - even a different color for each string.

 

Went to my ex-teacher's gig - when he taught me in 2004 he played a 6 string Sadowsky with a high C - now he plays a 5 string Sadowsky looking a lot more like a standard Fender.

 

Trends?

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The Talk Bass forum has a sticky poll asking what kind of bass members play. You can vote only once but you can select as many as appropriate.

 

It seems to get regular use as people join (or change their ID :)

 

Not scientific for sure but check it out. If it's any indication 4s aren't a trend, they're the standard. Everything else is a trend. 5s run a not-so-close second, pretty much what you'd expect.

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I have really enjoyed playing my 44-02 and other 4 strings for the last few months. I haven't used a 5 string since December of 2010. There are occasions where I kinda wish I had a B string, but I get by without it just fine.
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Trends? Interesting question. I don't know.

 

5s still seem to be very common. It seems to me that many pros find having a 5 in their arsenal valuable, if not necessary.

 

I haven't been paying attention to the shops, but I still see plenty of 5s on stage.

 

How much of your shop window observation is related to the custom bass market, which seems to be less busy the past few years? For example, some custom builders have added or moved to vintage-style basses over the past few years because it's challenging to make enough on doing customs only. With increased focus on vintage-style instruments, comes more 4-strings (although not exclusively so). However, it also means fewer fanned frets, extended scale, > 5 strings, etc. There are fewer mainstream builders or companies that do > 5 strings, even though some do (like Ibanez).

 

PS: 6-string Sadowsky? Are you sure? I thought Roger never made a 6-string.

 

Peace.

--SW

 

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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If four strings were sufficient for (Jamerson)(McCartney)(JP Jones)(Entwistle)(Squire)(Lake)(Wyman)(etc), they are sufficient for me.

 

does that make me sound like a crotchety old man?

"Everyone wants to change the world, but no one thinks of changing themselves." Leo Tolstoy
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Funny, I have played 5'ers for most of the decade or so that I have been playing bass, but recently bought a 4-string :grin:

 

I think it is important to at least know your way around on a bass other than your own. I once was at an audition where there was another bass player present. He had a 4-string OLP and I asked if I could play it, and offered him my BTB 5-string to try out. He took it, shook it and said: "I can't play on five strings."

 

That is the exact same reason I got a 4 again, after almost ten years. If I am ever in a jam session or someone invites me to sit in and all that is available is a 4-string, I do not want to have to turn it down because of a missing string thing. And if it is a 6 I just ignore the high C like I did when I still played one :grin:

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I had and played a couple fives for a few years, and I really enjoyed having that B string for songs in D and C, even some stuff in E, because it allowed me to walk up to it. But I played a buddy's 4 one night, and it was like diving into a pool of warm water. I didn't have to think hard about playing, because not having the B string let me work out of the roadmap of the neck I've had in my head for years. So, I went back to 4s. I still miss that B sometimes, but not enough to get another 5. I can't afford one now, anyway. I have 3 cheap P basses with good p/ups, and I might string one up B-E-A-D sometime, but for now, I'm a standard 4 stringer.

 

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

 

 

 

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Diving into a pool of warm water, ugh. I swim every day and most pools are too warm. Give me 78 or 79 degrees.

 

Now, see that's 'cause you're swimming laps. Here at the homestead we just lollygag around on a couple of noodles. 92 degrees is just right for us skinny folks. Anything under 88 and I get blue lips in ten minutes.

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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Oh, yea. Bass. I forgot.

 

I can play on a four without messing things up, but unlike the rest of ya'll, the high C on my fivers is such a visceral part of my soul. FWIW, it's easier to go from four to five and back to four when you go up instead of down for the odd string.

Things are just the way they are, and they're only going to get worse.

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It was a college class with a bass dept of musicians between 19 and 24, that's what was interesting. And it was a protools class. I would play gospel and hip-hop gigs on 5 or 6 but just as easy on 4 and 4 tone better than 6 mostly. I would play 3. Saw a 7 string bass in a pawn shop today. Oh, the 6 wasn't a Sadowsky, don't remember what.
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I myself wound up feeling that, for me, a 5 string was just kind of "trick;" sure, it's fun to go down to a low D or B and make everybody's naughty bits tingle, but I rarely felt a musical reason for doing it. Maybe some others who jumped on the > 4 strings bandwagon are coming to the same conclusion for themselves?

 

 

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I feel along the same lines as Chad. It was cool for awhile to rattle dentures and tickle naughty bits, but for 75% of what I play, those low notes just feel out of place.

 

On one hand, it's easy to say 'use it for a thumb rest'- I tried that, but it was just in the way to me- having to deal with a wider bridge and neck, plus the cost of strings, etc. I found it easier to just play on a 4.

 

I got rid of my last 5 string to get a cab, but I might pick one up again. Some of the modern worship music I play in church has a place for a 5er, but it doesn't have to be there.

"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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I am a six string bass player and have been since 2002. I love the versatility of the instrument. My initial reason for buying the 6 was so that I wouldn't have to tune my E to D for playing certain riffs when writing my own lines for our band. I could use familiar scale shapes for writing lines and the wider range underneath my hands is great. I love the high chords and the odd wee flurry of high notes coupled with a bone rattling low note punching with a kick drum.

 

I have over time also realised that notes can happen in a 5 fret 2 string span and I would say that 80% of the music I've been paid to play over time could be delivered this way on the bass. Having great time, able to subdivide the beat and lock into the band matter much more than the number of strings on the Bass.

 

I also play a P Bass in a 2 Guitar rock cover context and I find that it fits great in that context and I love the sensation of playing it. In terms of my own voice and being creative on the bass I feel at one with my 6.

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I myself wound up feeling that, for me, a 5 string was just kind of "trick;" sure, it's fun to go down to a low D or B and make everybody's naughty bits tingle, but I rarely felt a musical reason for doing it. Maybe some others who jumped on the > 4 strings bandwagon are coming to the same conclusion for themselves?

 

Hmm, no. I do go down to some lower notes every now and then -mostly in a chromatic walking kind of way- but I never got a 5 because of those four or five extra notes. A lot of the time I will be playing around the 10th or 12th fret, and rarely below the 5th. Then why get a 5? It just feels right to my hands (small as they are). 4 feels tiny and 6 is too much.

 

One reason I got a 4 because it threw of my one pupil that I had an extra string. The main reason was I really liked the look of that Squier and just wanted it badly :grin: I still have not ruled out 6-strings either, but it would have to be a fretless.

 

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I'm often surprised that most threads that are about 5-string and 6-string basses are full of posts about the few extra low or high notes. It's about more than that, as EPB points out. I tend to get a lot of benefit from the low B in the 5th-9th fret range.

 

I've been playing more regularly w/ a keyboard player and there are times when being able to double a low D or C or B works well in his original tunes. In other cases there are times in the tunes where going lower allows him to go higher, adding more variety within the sonic spectrum of the tune.

 

In my prior band there were some things I played chordally where the low B string allowed me to voice the chords across a broader range, and made them sound richer.

 

While I can play just about anything I need to play on four strings, having five has put a lot more flexibility under my fingertips.

 

That said, I recently purchased a new 4-string because I've been playing a little more jazz, and the 4-string feels better and works better in that particular context.

 

So, Phil, back to the question about trend: I don't know if it's a trend that 4s are now preferred or if it's a sample size issue or idiosyncratic to the day you saw the class.

 

Peace.

--SW

 

 

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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There has definitely been an aesthetic shift over the past decade or so. Simply the word "VINTAGE" is much more a part of the vernacular on a number of fronts: instruments, cars, clothes, records, etc. And if you look at automotive designs of the past few years, older concepts like the 60's and 70's muscle car have been revisited and updated to modern standards.

 

I see very much the same thing going on with instruments. Fender and Gibson never went away. But some of their audience did in the 70's, 80's and 90's. Fender and Gibson lost a good deal of market share to companies like Ibanez, and then to boutique brands. Part of that was because of an aesthetic shift and some of it because of quality control issues.

 

For a while in the 1990's extended range basses seemed to be a growing trend. For 8 or 9 years I played 6 string bass almost exclusively. After that much time I found that I could play most of the same music on a 5 string, and almost as much of that on the 4 string bass. Having more range is nice, but would it ultimately serve the music? More does not necessarily equate to better.

 

As for the Fender designs? They're pretty classic. I don't think you would see so many boutique builders making their own rendition of Fender designs if they weren't. Plus, I think that musicians are just as interested in playing an instrument that is very playable as well as visually appealing (to them). To some extent that instrument becomes a part of their musical identity.

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Having more range is nice, but would it ultimately serve the music? More does not necessarily equate to better.

 

Again, for me it is not about the additional range. The instrument should serve me as I serve the music. If I can do that more fluently on a 5-string then heck yes, a 5 does serve the music, and then more does equate to better. If minimalism is the way to go, which to me seems like more of a trend among bassists, then we should all consider 3-string basses.

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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I've been playing 5 string basses almost exclusively now for 23 of the 32 years I've been attempting to play bass. I can still manuver around pretty well on a four but some songs I do would require rethinking on my part. I like the extra versatility of a five and that I don't have to play an open low E which makes muting much simpler. Still, it amuses me when I pick up my 4 string jazz bass how skinny the neck feels. Like holding a broomstick! I do agree that 4 string basses are the norm and always will be. It is curious that the vast majority of basses observed were Fender. I wonder why? For me growing up Fender was basically the only game it town when it came to basses but for kids now a days with all the choices out there?

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There's definitely a retro-vintage thing going on in so many spheres of life - a rose colored perspective on the 70s and even the 80s (gah -yuck!).

 

I did think of swapping to 5 or 6 to alleviate the carpal tunnel - less having to play at the extremes of the neck but my technique work seems to have made that unnecessary.

 

Another factor might be that there are a lot more budget 4 string basses of far higher quality than ever.

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Having more range is nice, but would it ultimately serve the music? More does not necessarily equate to better.

 

Again, for me it is not about the additional range. The instrument should serve me as I serve the music. If I can do that more fluently on a 5-string then heck yes, a 5 does serve the music, and then more does equate to better. If minimalism is the way to go, which to me seems like more of a trend among bassists, then we should all consider 3-string basses.

 

Perhaps I should have made my own stance here a little more clear. Your own interpretation of my statement seemed for lack of a better term, simplisitic. It's certainly not about some move towards minimalism, but a utilitarian approach: what is the ideal tool for the job?

 

My own experience had come from playing 6 string bass almost exclusively for close to a decade. During that time I have been almost vehemently against playing a 5 string since I felt it was too much of a compromise. But toward the end of that decade long love affair with the 6 string I took a long, hard look at just how much I had been using (or not using) the C string on my 6 string. And the answer was really not that much at all. Then, when I found a 5 string I really liked I found that from a musical standpoint it was not that significant of a change FOR ME. In my own case more did not equate with better. It was just a different approach.

 

Then there's the present. In my current gig, if I only want to bring one instrument to a gig, I will bring a 5 string. It covers all of the bases for me for ALL of our material because there are a few songs where I will play a low D or Eb. But in reality I could play most of our material on a 4 string, and I prefer to play 3 or 4 songs on the 5-string. Musically speaking, I could play the same song on 4 string but in a different octave, or I can use an octave effect if I want to go in that direction. There are numerous ways to skin this musical cat.

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Perhaps I should have made my own stance here a little more clear. Your own interpretation of my statement seemed for lack of a better term, simplisitic. It's certainly not about some move towards minimalism, but a utilitarian approach: what is the ideal tool for the job?

 

I won't be insulted by the above since I know you don't mean to achieve just that :grin: Still, if you ask what the ideal tool for the job is, my answer is:

 

The instrument should serve me as I serve the music. If I can do that more fluently on a 5-string then heck yes, I consider this the ideal tool for the job

 

My original argument stands. For me. YMMV and I am okay with that. Like many a debate, this is not one to win or lose. It is a topic to discuss, and I for one (read: once) enjoy the argument.

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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Listen to Family Man or Robbie Shakespeare or Jamerson or any upright player play in Eb or D. You don't need to play down an octave to get deep. Perception of depth is more about tone. That said, there are times I'd love a low B or high C. I dug piccolo bass and I dig the OC-2. I'd love a three string bass with a transpose/octave button like a keyboard...keep the wide string spacing...get the notes.
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