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vmaxblues

5's and 4's

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It does so much depend on both the style of music and the mix of the band. My ex-band - indie-pop - gave me a lot of scope to mix deep broody prog with bright disco-pop and all things in between - a 6 would have been perfect, but ironically I left before buying one. Now with Plastic Mojo, while we had our excellent lead guitarist, I used the low B a lot to put some depth under his high bright leads, but now that he's left (no blame, change of personal circumstances) we just have rhythm guitar (and keys) and I'm using the high C to add some detail and sparkle. 

If I could only have one gigging bass it would be the 6.

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For me , as @ambient said,  playing the notes made sense as did learning the fretboard off by heart.   I used to struggle to transpose a song I've learnt from scratch on a 5 string over to a 4 string,  but learning the notes and then practicing the same songs on both guitars made it easier.

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I own both and generally don’t find it a problem to switch between them, but I do approach them differently and don’t play both in the same performance or even band. For example, I instinctively play across the width of a 5 as soon as I’m holding one (I can’t just treat the extra string as a thumb rest, ignore it and play as I would on a 4 - I’ll end up altering my playing and maybe even the line itself to use what I’ve got) so I guess that kinda means that for me, the fabled “thing I can’t do on a 5 that I can do on a 4” is instinctively play like I’m holding a 4, and that’s actually something I actively enjoy doing.

Just to be awkward, I don’t have a clue which notes I’m playing - I go by ear and relative position on the board. Granted that means that nonstandard/drop-x tuning just doesn’t compute, but does mean that any variant of standard tuning intervals across any number of strings is fine; all I need to do is find the first note and be able to hear myself 🙂

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I haven't gigged with my 5 string for a long time due to back issues. I found it easier to swap from 4 to 5 than the other way round since you can swap your point of reference on the fretboard a bit easier. I'm now of the opinion that the extra weight involved for 5 extra notes doesn't make sense (for me) although I do miss the added versatility of the 5 with regard to playing higher up the fretboard.

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1 hour ago, Japhet said:

I haven't gigged with my 5 string for a long time due to back issues.

Buy a lighter bass. There are lots out there.

With my bad back I can get through 2 hour gigs with my 9 1/2lb 5 string Jazz. . . .  on a good day.

My 5 string Mike Lull Precision weighs 8 1/2lbs and doesn't affect me, even at the end of a 4 hour rehearsal.

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12 minutes ago, chris_b said:

Buy a lighter bass. There are lots out there.

With my bad back I can get through 2 hour gigs with my 9 1/2lb 5 string Jazz. . . .  on a good day.

My 5 string Mike Lull Precision weighs 8 1/2lbs and doesn't affect me, even at the end of a 4 hour rehearsal.

I can get through the gigs OK but I get a trapped nerve when I start moving about again. I get it with a pretty light 4 string as well but the 5 is worse. I've got a few exercises now which are helping. There's nothing I need a 5 string for in our set so I've stopped using it.

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I played a three hour gig a week or so ago using my 12lb six string, and on reflection wished I hadn't! My other six is a mere 9 1/2 lbs, and would have been much easier on back and shoulder.

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On 12/11/2018 at 07:05, Painy said:

Looks like I'm going to Hell then. 😈

Lo, verily I crave that thou dost save me a seat; for I too have been cast down from the path of righteousness by  the temptation of BEADG.

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I stick to the Holy Scripture, as outlined below:

A Reading from the Book of Bass, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20: 

'First enter thou the purveyors of the Holy Bass. Then thou must count the strings to four. Four shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be four. Five shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count three, excepting that thou then proceedeth to four. Six is right out.'

🙂

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1 hour ago, lozkerr said:

Lo, verily I crave that thou dost save me a seat; for I too have been cast down from the path of righteousness by  the temptation of BEADG.

Secure yourself a place in the hotseat by allowing the temptation of BEADGC to confirm your reservation!

Edited by FinnDave
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25 minutes ago, Muzz said:

I stick to the Holy Scripture, as outlined below:

A Reading from the Book of Bass, Chapter 4, Verses 16 to 20: 

'First enter thou the purveyors of the Holy Bass. Then thou must count the strings to four. Four shall be the number of the counting and the number of the counting shall be four. Five shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count three, excepting that thou then proceedeth to four. Six is right out.'

🙂

Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I didst count the strings to four and all was good. And then I didst count yet another string. Five was the number of strings and the number of the strings was five. And yea, did I allow myself to yet pluck the string and the sound was good. I turned aside from the path of righteousness and found within myself that I did yet make music that was pleasing to the Lord God of Bass with sinful lack of effort, and the music didst exceed that which I could yet play when the number of strings was but four. And Lo! The band of disciples - for always shalt the other players of strings follow the Lord God of Bass - did say that it was good and did promise to wreak a plague of locusts upon my soul should I worship at the Temple with but four strings. They spake in tongues and didst proclaim 'thou now hast a decent instrument and we do dig thy grooves, man'.

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No problem adjusting between 4, 5 or 6 string basses and use them all frequently. Just time spent with the instruments, and applying concepts from 4 strings further to incorporate the 5 and 6th strings will see you through, ime. 

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Played nothing but 4's for the first ten years of learning to play and being in bands, then got a 5 and that was the end of 4's.  Just works better for what I play, and never had a problem dealing with the extra string.  May have helped that my first 5 was a Wal, so if you're going to pick one, start with the best.

If I'm day dreaming or shopping around for a new bass, i will discount anything that doesn't have a 5th string.  Although I have kept my 1975 Rickenbacker 4001 as the one bass I'll never sell, no matter what, I still love it, even if I rarely play it these days.

It's not necessarily that I always need the extra notes, simply that they are there if I need them.

that said...I've been learning a lot of songs for a couple of gigs with a band over Christmas, and two songs are off their last album, all in standard tuning so the guitars only go down to E, with the rest of the set being on guitars that are down-tuned to C.  Currently I'm using one 5 string, tuning up from low B to C for most of the set, and then back down again for the two songs in E.  I'm debating whether or not to bring my Rickenbacker out of retirement for the shows so that I can swap basses rather then changing the tuning, as none of the songs in E actually use any notes below the low E, although I do play some of the notes on the B string further up the neck.

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I swapped to 5 from 4 a coupe of years ago.  I am used to it now and, with no plans to mess my head up by swapping around, will stick to 5.

Having said that, I recently acquired a Dean Pace 5 to see if a 5 string EUB worked for me.  And in all honesty I prefer playing the 4 string Stagg I already have - the longer scale length, string spacing and curved fingerboard radius just seem easier for me to play upright.  Maybe it is more a factor of how different the Dean Pace is rather than the extra string, but I reckon the Stagg's 4 strings will cater for all my EUB needs.

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I played 4 exclusively for my first 12-13 years of bassing, then got a fretless 5 and 6 in the space of about 6 months in '99. Took the 6 out on tour as my main bass with Howard Jones about 5 weeks after I got it... that was a trial by fire! 

It took me 3 or 4 years before 6 felt as comfortable to play at 4, and about 8 or 9 years before I could read as fluently on it as on 4. 6 is now definitely my main instrument. I still play 4 regularly for teaching and sessions, and I enjoy the fact that it feels like a toy alongside the 6s, but my instrument is definitely 6 string bass... :) 

But anyway, don't feel bad about 5 or 6 (or 7+!) taking a while to get comfortable - if the music you hear in your head sounds like it needs the extra range and possibilities of the 6, stick at it, but there's obviously nothing superior about any number of strings on a bass. It's all about the right tool for the music you're trying to make, and the thing that inspires you to play... No-one else's opinion on your chosen instrument matters 1/10th as much as how you feel about it :) 

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I'm curious about grasping the 6 string bass and I have put my hands on one maybe a  handful of times. I have thought that if I ever went down that route I'd get a fretless one. But somehow I can't see that happening anytime soon as i'm still finding the 5 string enough of a challenge. 🙂

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I love playing my sixes - to the extent that I haven't played my fours (including my Alembic Epic) since my first six turned up. Keeping my eye out for an Alembic six at a reasonable price, but am not optimistic! Something like a nice light six string Essence.

Edited by FinnDave

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...it's also worth noting that the ergonomics of a 6 string bass mean that the experience of playing them fails or succeeds within much tighter parameters. I can't remember the last time I played a four string where anything other than string height felt like an impediment to playing - scale length, neck width, string spacing, on a four string are all workable within fairly wide parameters. With a 6, despite it being my chosen instrument, there are LOADS that I just can't play at all - the additional strings means that the effect of spacing differences are amplified, and the size ratio between finger length, arm reach and neck width makes that a far more critical measurement too... All of my 6s have the same string spacing (17mm) and the same nut/bridge width. The Modulus' are 35" and the Elricks are 33", which makes the Elricks pretty much exactly one fret shorter :) - when I pick up 6s with 18 or 19mm spacing, you might as well hand me a Harp... :)

So, if you're interested in playing a 6, but find the ones you've tried uncomfortable, it may be worth investigating others with different spacing/scale length. 

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38 minutes ago, FinnDave said:

 Keeping my eye out for an Alembic six at a reasonable price

More chance of a successful Brexit.

 

12 minutes ago, Steve Lawson said:

So, if you're interested in playing a 6, but find the ones you've tried uncomfortable, it may be worth investigating others with different spacing/scale length. 

Not nearly as experienced as Mr Lawson here but a trip to Bass Direct or the Bass Gallery will evidence his comments - to wit Yamaha's gorgeous TRB sixers which have enormous fretboards compared with say, Ibanez' Gerald Veasley (the cheapie - not the custom) which have much narrower spacing and therefore much less playing real-estate.

Edited by visog
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20 minutes ago, jazzyvee said:

I think it's rare to find a reasonably priced alembic for sale outside the USA.

Perhaps I should have said 'realistically' priced - very few sixes seem to come up for sale. I love my Epic but now my hands have adapted to the extra stretch required by a six, a four just feels wrong!

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I switched to primarily 5-strings in 2007 or so when I finally found a 5-string neck I got on with. However, having joined a Marillion tribute band who play a semitone down, I've brought the Warwick 4s back out of retirement as Pete Trewavas plays a 4, and also I don't have to keep retuning any 5s. Still using the 5s in other bands and with no intention of changing that, unless I start using a 6 regularly.

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I play 5s almost exclusively these days, although I occasionally pick up a 4 and find no difficulty in swapping between the two. I'm going to be using a 4 a lot more in the future, as I've got a new project for which I'll be using a 4 string fretless. But everything else will be on the 5s.

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21 hours ago, visog said:

Not nearly as experienced as Mr Lawson here but a trip to Bass Direct or the Bass Gallery will evidence his comments - to wit Yamaha's gorgeous TRB sixers which have enormous fretboards compared with say, Ibanez' Gerald Veasley (the cheapie - not the custom) which have much narrower spacing and therefore much less playing real-estate.

Perfect comparison - I love the sound of the TRBs (or at least, some of the iterations over the years) and John Patitucci was the first 6 string bassist I was properly aware of, but when I tried a TRB it just felt like it was designed for some kind of giant...! I was SO happy when I found the Modulus basses with their narrower spacing. Feels like they were designed for my hands. ...and then the Elricks actually WERE designed for my hands :D 

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