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Defo

5 string trouble

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So I have tried and tried and tried to get on with a 5 string and failed every time. However, I really want to own and play one as the concept is right up my street (I play in an 80s/90s covers band and a prog rock band).

I don't really know what the problem is. I can reach all the notes no problem and I'm sure what I'm playing sounds fine, it just doesn't feel right.

I've tried Spector, Ibanez, Dingwall, Warwick and Musicman, all got traded in for a 4 string...

Does any one know a bass or brand that could finally feel right to me? I know that's a big ask but there must have been people before me with the same problem who eventually found the right bass?

Thanks

Andy

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I’m not a 5 string player , I play jazzes, but but I really wanted to try one, about a year ago I bought a Yamaha BB415 and found it surprisingly easy to play, the neck is pretty slim front to back and the nut is about the same as one of my P basses, it sounds really good too 🙂

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2 minutes ago, Reggaebass said:

I’m not a 5 string player , I play jazzes, but but I really wanted to try one, about a year ago I bought a Yamaha BB415 and found it surprisingly easy to play, the neck is pretty slim front to back and the nut is about the same as one of my P basses, it sounds really good too 🙂

Thanks Mate, never played a Yamaha but that Nathan East model looks very nice (but expensive mind)

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1 minute ago, Defo said:

Thanks Mate, never played a Yamaha but that Nathan East model looks very nice (but expensive mind)

Yeah that does look nice Andy,    because I was only trying one I went for a pretty inexpensive one first, but for the money it’s really good value 

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I can only speak for myself and from my own experience, but over the years I've owned 5s from all the brands you listed except Dingwall (also Yamaha, Fender, ESP and probably others I can't remember) and whilst all of them felt subtly different in a number of ways when comparing them to each other, all of them felt fundamentally different in exactly the same way when comparing them to any 4 I'd ever owned.

Was it the same feeling of 'wrong' for all of the brands you listed or something different about each one?

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I opted for five string when I switched from playing guitar. The reason for the choice is that I had been playing rhythm in a jazz big band, so everything had been in Bb, Eb, even Ab, so I had completely got out of the habit of playing in the open position. With the five string it just felt natural starting from the fifth fret. The rest then followed easily.

Edited by Mykesbass

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7 minutes ago, Mykesbass said:

I opted for five string when I switched from playing guitar. The reason for the choice is that I had been playing rhythm in a jazz big band, so everything had been in Bb, Eb, even Ab, so I had completely got out of the habit of playing in the open position. With the five string it just felt natural starting from the fifth fret. The rest then followed easily.

Thanks, I think I am maybe a bit in the habit of needing an open E to orientate myself so that is useful advice

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1 minute ago, fretmeister said:

Tune a 4 to BEAD? 

I tried that once on a Stingray and it felt weird as I tend to use the G string a lot and flying up the D to get those notes drove me potty - I know it sounds like maybe I should just practice more :) 

 

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It sounds like you have experienced a range of string spacing 16.5 mm (Ibby) through to 19.0 mm, both normal and fan fret and fast very playable necks (Ibby again) and had some great 5 string basses. I'm a big fan of some of the basses you've already tried and +1 for the Yammy BB range mentioned above - the flat relatively thin neck is very comfortable indeed to play. I wouldn't recommend kicking off with a BB NE2 though, as wonderful a bass as that is! They are a small fortune new and you could be waiting a while for one to come up used.

I know this is going to be boring advice - but I'd really recommend resisting picking up a 4 string and exclusively play a 5, that you otherwise really like, until playing a 5 becomes second nature. When it does I suspect it will "feel" right too.

 

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7 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

It sounds like you have experienced a range of string spacing 16.5 mm (Ibby) through to 19.0 mm, both normal and fan fret and fast very playable necks (Ibby again) and had some great 5 string basses. I'm a big fan of some of the basses you've already tried and +1 for the Yammy BB range mentioned above - the flat relatively thin neck is very comfortable indeed to play. I wouldn't recommend kicking off with a BB NE2 though, as wonderful a bass as that is! They are a small fortune new and you could be waiting a while for one to come up used.

I know this is going to be boring advice - but I'd really recommend resisting picking up a 4 string and exclusively play a 5, that you otherwise really like, until playing a 5 becomes second nature. When it does I suspect it will "feel" right too.

 

Yep, I had a feeling that might be the truth of the matter, I'm definitely getting back in the market and plan to try and do this - it's difficult when you've got nice 4 strings sitting around staring at you though

 

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I had exactly the same problem and like you, I really wanted to try one again as I've been recruited by an 80's covers band where the B string is very useful.

I ended up going for the new Stingray Specials as I love the look and find them very playable (the new electronics and the new weight profiles make things a heck of a lot easier). For me the secret was to effectively lock my 4 string comfort blankets away and just persevere. It took a while and every so often I thought "hmmm, I'd feel a lot better playing a 4 stringer and try and transpose everything" but for once I stuck at it and now actually find 5's more familiar than 4's. 

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Lock the 4 strings away and practice with a lot of songs in Eb! 
 

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2 hours ago, LukeFRC said:

Lock the 4 strings away and practice with a lot of songs in Eb! 

But is that suggestion (the Eb bit rather than the lock your 4 strings away - which I agree with!)  proving effective in your own 5 string quest Luke - as I know you were having similar issues to the OP in transitioning to a 5 string from your other thread? If it is, well and good!

Personally, I didn't particularly see a need to focus on playing songs in Eb, which is pretty limiting and not necessarily something I'd be able to use a great deal with my band, given my guitarist much prefers E to Eb. Rather than advise the OP to stick with mainly one key, I'd recommend just getting used to playing 5 string in any key and make use of the low B for some of the lower E string notes (as well as the only B string notes, B to Eb).

Edited by Al Krow

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I made the big mistake of switching between my 4’s and 5 whilst getting used to the 5 , until someone on here told me to lock away my fours , which I did and it worked through the learning process. I’m glad I did it because it confirmed for me that I prefer 4’s , but if I had to play a 5 , I can , I also have a jazz permanently strung BEAD, but that’s another subject  🙂

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56 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

But is that suggestion (the Eb bit rather than the lock your 4 strings away - which I agree with!)  proving effective in your own 5 string quest Luke - as I know you were having similar issues to the OP in transitioning to a 5 string from your other thread? If it is, well and good!

Personally, I didn't particularly see a need to focus on playing songs in Eb, which is pretty limiting and not necessarily something I'd be able to use a great deal with my band, given my guitarist much prefers E to Eb. Rather than advise the OP to stick with mainly one key, I'd recommend just getting used to playing 5 string in any key and make use of the low B for some of the lower E string notes (as well as the only B string notes, B to Eb).

I was being slightly facetious and slightly serious. 
As the OP said hes using the open E To orientate himself.
if you play something in Eb you will naturally have to use the B string for the root ... for me once I’ve got a kinda muscle memory of where the Eb is playing D or E on the B string becomes a small step,and then by the time you are not really thinking about it and using all 5 strings and playing across them more... I’m not an expert in 5string playing, or even playing generally - but for me playing a load of stuff in Eb really helped me make the mental leap. 

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I think a lot of it is mental - the dependence on habits which have been built up over many years. I definitely play differently on a five than I do a four... but I know the likes of Leland Sklar think of them as four strings with a few extra low notes (what would he know 😂)

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If you can get on with a 4, you can get on with a 5. It just takes practice in my opinion.
 

Ask yourself, are you perfectly comfortable on a 4, i.e. you can play what you want/need relatively effortlessly? If so practice will ensure you become as comfortable on a 5. But you need to stick with it.

2 pennies...

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I moved to fives quite early,  driven by my favoured musical genres which feature lots of down-tuning.

My advantage was that the five string bass I purchased was dramatically better than the four that I already owned, giving me the incentive not to swap back too readily. 

I do have a decent 4, but every time I play it, I'll  end up looking for those lower notes that aren't there!

I completely understand your predicament, as it mirrors my desire to put down the Chapman Stick and head for a 5 string, with which I am much more familiar. 

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I started playing a 5 (SBMM SUB Ray 5) after joining a hip hop band and finding that my Mustang wasn't quite the right vibe. Sometimes you need the situation to force your hand. Now I like moving between my shorty 4 and multiscale 5 (Dingwall Combustion) - I play a bit differently on them both. 

 

Sounds like you've tried plenty. If you don't need the low B, maybe just get a de-tuner on your favourite bass for the occasions that you want to go a bit lower? 

 

Alternatively, what is it about your 4 stringers that you like so much? Or what didn't you like about the 5s you've had? Is it the mindset or the instruments you've tried? 

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19 hours ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

I moved to fives quite early,  driven by my favoured musical genres which feature lots of down-tuning.

My advantage was that the five string bass I purchased was dramatically better than the four that I already owned, giving me the incentive not to swap back too readily. 

 

I did the same quite early in my begining years, and the effect was that for a few year's time, I played exclusively fivers, which helped build the muscle memory and technique for muting strings. Then with band changes I came back to 4 strings, and for the last 15 years or so I've been alternating between 4 and 5 depending on bands and music styles. At home I'll still grab either to work on stuff.

I'll say that dedication to the 5, at least for a few months or years, is essential to build the habit, in the same way that if you really want to know to play fretless, you should get on it pretty much exclusively for some time.

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I was a devout 4 stringer for 30 years but joining a function band changed all that.

I tried to avoid buying a fiver by converting a 2nd bass into an Eb bass and buying a drop D tuner for my main bass but I found lugging 2 basses around was a pain. Occasionally I would forget to flick the drop D back to E too!

I think trying an Ibby 5 was my epiphany and now 2 second hand fivers (from basschat!) and 30 months later I'm a very happy chappy playing 5s.

Every now and then I pick up my jazz bass and that teeny tiny neck feels like I'm gonna crush it 💪

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