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4 String Vs. 5 String Bass


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I have been commisioned to build a bass for someone who is learning to play. I am primarly a guitar player however I can play bass with some level of skill but I do not know the pros and cons of a 4 string and a 5 string. can anyone please educate me on what would be a better instrument and why. I am leaning toward the 5 string and my cliant would rather a 4 string but cannot provide a valid argument other than thats what he sees being played by most bassest. any input would be appericiated.

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More strings = more range. Go with a 4-string for a beginner unless he is dying to match some low end work or is heavily influenced by 5+ string basses.

Pros of a 5:

More range

Cons of a 5:

May involve more of a learning curve (a challenge is never a bad thing in my book, though)

Not for everyone - although the size isn't much bigger, not everyone likes the size of larger instruments

I don't see anything wrong with starting on a 5-string bass. I find the B-string extremely helpful regardless of music style.

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How much are you charging him? The reason I ask is, if its going to cost him a good bit, and he's willing to pay it, it seems more likely that he would follow through with learning. In that case, I would say go for the 5-string. However, if you are just building him a cheapy, I say go with the 4-string.

I don't know how skilled you are at building (not implying anything, just ignorance on my part), however keep in mind that a 5-string bass will be more difficult to build because you have that 5th string to account for.

All in all, the pros of a 5 string are only significant if they get utilized. Otherwise, it just means its more expensive to change strings!

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jon,

thanks for the reply, if it helps the guy that the bass is for is about 6' 2'' and has very big hands. he is the type of person that could palm a basketball.

You bet. Physically, anyone can handle a 5-string bass. But mentally, is a whole different story. I'm about 6'0", not too big, not very large hands, and I can fit my hand around 7-8 string basses nicely. It's all a matter of determination, I suppose. :D

All in all, the pros of a 5 string are only significant if they get utilized. Otherwise, it just means its more expensive to change strings!

I don't think it could have been said any better than this.

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It is really a question of if you think you'll want that extra string. While you get more range, you've got to change/buy an extra string (like Primal said).

Not really a case of what is better (plenty of pros use 4-strings), just a case of personal needs/desires.

CMA

I don't play bass, but someday hope to. I rather have a 4 string bass than a 5 string+ because I would be playing classic rock/blues/jazz and I simply don't need the 5th string. I also think a 4 string bass looks much better than a 5 string. I think the 5,6,7,8 string basses look too busy and the extra strings are overkill. The only bands using them are hard rock and metal bands, and the odd jazz band.

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I don't play bass, but someday hope to. I rather have a 4 string bass than a 5 string+ because I would be playing classic rock/blues/jazz and I simply don't need the 5th string. I also think a 4 string bass looks much better than a 5 string. I think the 5,6,7,8 string basses look too busy and the extra strings are overkill. The only bands using them are hard rock and metal bands, and the odd jazz band.

All personal opinion without knowing a thing of what you're talking about. :D

You cannot judge that of which you do not play, simple as that.

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I don't play bass, but someday hope to. I rather have a 4 string bass than a 5 string+ because I would be playing classic rock/blues/jazz and I simply don't need the 5th string. I also think a 4 string bass looks much better than a 5 string. I think the 5,6,7,8 string basses look too busy and the extra strings are overkill. The only bands using them are hard rock and metal bands, and the odd jazz band.

All personal opinion without knowing a thing of what you're talking about. :D

You cannot judge that of which you do not play, simple as that.

Yea, and I forgot to mention that the realm of 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 string basses is that of musical genres such as jazz, funk, etc. You RARELY see anything above a 5-string in rock and metal bands.

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I don't play bass, but someday hope to. I rather have a 4 string bass than a 5 string+ because I would be playing classic rock/blues/jazz and I simply don't need the 5th string. I also think a 4 string bass looks much better than a 5 string. I think the 5,6,7,8 string basses look too busy and the extra strings are overkill. The only bands using them are hard rock and metal bands, and the odd jazz band.

All personal opinion without knowing a thing of what you're talking about. :D

You cannot judge that of which you do not play, simple as that.

Yea, and I forgot to mention that the realm of 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 string basses is that of musical genres such as jazz, funk, etc. You RARELY see anything above a 5-string in rock and metal bands.

True, right now I know nothing about bass so I'll take that comment back. Also at first I think a four string would be easier for me to learn that say an 8 string.

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I don't play bass, but someday hope to. I rather have a 4 string bass than a 5 string+ because I would be playing classic rock/blues/jazz and I simply don't need the 5th string. I also think a 4 string bass looks much better than a 5 string. I think the 5,6,7,8 string basses look too busy and the extra strings are overkill. The only bands using them are hard rock and metal bands, and the odd jazz band.

All personal opinion without knowing a thing of what you're talking about. :D

You cannot judge that of which you do not play, simple as that.

Yea, and I forgot to mention that the realm of 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 string basses is that of musical genres such as jazz, funk, etc. You RARELY see anything above a 5-string in rock and metal bands.

True, right now I know nothing about bass so I'll take that comment back. Also at first I think a four string would be easier for me to learn that say an 8 string.

Well you also need to keep in mind the requirements for neck reinforcements.

What style of body? Bolt on or Neck Thru?

The low B will put considerable pull on your wood.

I assume you are using a good trussing system?

Are you doing a single piece of neck or laminates?

If you are laminating, be sure to use the happy face sad face wood ring pattern when you clamp everything up, otherwise the joints will fail over time.

What wood(s) are you using?

Remember that the weakest spot on a guitar is the nect to headstock joint.

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The low B will put considerable pull on your wood.

A low B will more or less add the same amount of tension as a high C would. Basically, the force of the strings would be approximately 125% that of a 4-string bass.

I assume you are using a good trussing system?

Define good trussing system. Any standard truss rod will be suitable for a bass neck.

If you are laminating, be sure to use the happy face sad face wood ring pattern when you clamp everything up, otherwise the joints will fail over time.

I think that is more for avoiding bowing and warpage over time. Grain pattern shouldn't have much, if any, effect on the actual glue joint.

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For this one i think it really depends on what you use out bass for

With a five string there is more range for tapping and it dosnt make much of a difference for fingering. Although trying to do victor wooten type slap techniques can get abit 2 close.

I spose 4 string has a lesser tapping range but slap is good

In my opinion i would either go 4 or 6 string but both would be best =)

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Jeff Ament (of Pearl Jam; rock band) uses everything from a 4 string to a 12 string.

Anyway, building a 5-string isn't much more complicated than a 4-string.

What does he play (or want to play)? If you think he would really benefit from a 5-string, tell him that. If he still wants a 4-string, so be it. You can still build an excellent bass either way.

CMA

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With a five string there is more range for tapping and it dosnt make much of a difference for fingering. Although trying to do victor wooten type slap techniques can get abit 2 close.

You would be assuming that the string spacing would be closer. String spacing varies greatly on basses, they commonly range from 15mm - 19mm. My fretless 4-string has much closer spacing than my 6-string, which happens to be very wide. It all varies.

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the materials that I plan to use on the bass are as follows:

Neck- 5 piece laminate, neck through, 35" scale, with double expanding truss rod and stiffening rods (flame maple and purple heart)

Finger board- birdseye maple bound in flame maple

Body- claro walnut

Body shape- modified warwick vampyre

Pickups- jp configuration and i am leaning toward seymour duncan

Bridge- havent found anything that i like yet but it will be recessed

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