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Do you NEED a 5 string bass?

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Do I need a five? The way I play, yeah I kinda do as I'm so used to having the low B.

Could I make do with a four? Sure, the same way I could make do with three strings.

I get what he's saying about a five not being a higher spec, or an upgrade compared to a four, but I'm definitely a five string bassist, so would always pick one over a four.

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Nobody needs one, they can be incredibly useful though. You need to get away from the thing of playing down and along the neck though, and use the low B notes to play across the strings.

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7 minutes ago, Graham said:

Do I need a five? The way I play, yeah I kinda do as I'm so used to having the low B.

Could I make do with a four? Sure, the same way I could make do with three strings.

I get what he's saying about a five not being a higher spec, or an upgrade compared to a four, but I'm definitely a five string bassist, so would always pick one over a four.

This.

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I had left a pretty successful band due to family and work pressures and needed a project that was bass related. So I chose playing a 5 string bass. That was the want.

Then I discovered playing a 5 was as easy as playing the 4 string and there were more notes and more fantastic frequencies. There was no going back after that point. That was the need.

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We need just one octave to play a functional bass line. The other strings give options, comfort, creative liberty. I play 5-string because I use that.

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I was kind of forced into getting a 5er when I started playing with the Bon Jovi tribute as a few of Hugh McDonald's basslines incorporate notes below a low D.  Hand on heart I prefer playing a 4 strings but do find playing across the neck on the 5er useful, especially for getting a fatter timbre to the note.  So rather than chop and change basses I play the 5er all the time with the Jovi band and 4 strings with the blues trio so I get to enjoy both :)  More opportunity for GAS, too. :D 

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For what I play, I 'need' 6 strings. Need is subjective to what you want to do, what you like to do, how comfortable you are with an instrument and many other factors! You don't 'need' 4 strings, you don't 'need' 6 strings. Why anyone tries to justify everyone's 'needs' against their own set of personal parameters is beyond me. 

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It depends. Except for a small number of modern genres that make use of the 5 extra notes, almost everything can be played on the 4 string.

Many people who switched to become 5 string only players and then went back to 4 string said that they ended up becoming lazy and uninspired bassists. Because of the economy of motion they found themselves playing only in a small box which gave them an excuse not to know the fretboard and to rely too much on fixed patterns. They also ended up playing the 5th string only because it was there. Not because they needed to.

One problem I found with 5 and 6 strings is that they complicate things unnecessarily. For example when it comes to walking basslines it's far easier to play them on a 4 string because there are less options, but having less options is much more of an advantage because you can be more focused.

 

So, no you don't need a 5 string. Only if you think you do. Having said that, if you're a 4 string player then I recommend buying a 5 string if only because it forces you to think differently and to reconfigure where the notes are on the fretboard each time. The best bassists are those who can easily switch.

 

 

Edited by TheLowDown

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@TheLowDown - you state opinion as if it were fact. The important thing is that the above is entirely opinion based. It's not necessarily wrong, but it is opinion. 

I utilise my entire fretboard across my 6 strings, I also very much enjoy my 10 string. Consider them different instruments, you can't play Mozart accurately on a 4 string, I can on a 10 string. 

Furthermore, none of us 'need' to play bass at all, but we choose to. I choose to play 6, it's more fun in my opinion.

There is no need for 5 strings, there is no need for 4 strings, there is no need for 2 strings. We do what we choose to do, don't confuse your preference to fact. 

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18 minutes ago, binky_bass said:

@TheLowDown - you state opinion as if it were fact. The important thing is that the above is entirely opinion based. It's not necessarily wrong, but it is opinion. 

I utilise my entire fretboard across my 6 strings, I also very much enjoy my 10 string. Consider them different instruments, you can't play Mozart accurately on a 4 string, I can on a 10 string. 

Furthermore, none of us 'need' to play bass at all, but we choose to. I choose to play 6, it's more fun in my opinion.

There is no need for 5 strings, there is no need for 4 strings, there is no need for 2 strings. We do what we choose to do, don't confuse your preference to fact. 

I don't see where I've stated anything as a fact. I've made clear what I've heard from other people and also my own experience of playing 4, 5 and 6 string. I play all of them, but I made a lot of effort to become familiar with the fretboard, but regularly switching means that it's advantageous to. The opinion of some 5 string players is not my own.

All 3 are fun to play and are used for different purposes.

Edited by TheLowDown

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7 minutes ago, TheLowDown said:

It depends. Except for a small number of modern genres that make use of the 5 extra notes, almost everything can be played on the 4 string.

As previously mentioned, everything can be played on a 1 string, some people are just more used to using 4.

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27 minutes ago, TheLowDown said:

The best bassists are those who can easily switch.

1 hour ago, Paul S said:

 I play the 5er all the time with the Jovi band and 4 strings with the blues trio so I get to enjoy both :)  More opportunity for GAS, too. :D 

You must be one of these fabled 'best' bassists Paul! It was my privilege to have met you 😁

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Depends on the gig. .

Personally, I much prefer playing 4 string basses. But I was up for a gig where it became apparent that much of the guy’s recorded material needed a 5 string. So, I went and got a decent 5 string. There is another project that I’m involved with that will require a 5 string tuned down a whole step for live gigs (if that ever happens), so now I have two 5 strings, one with a 35” scale.

But for most gigs, I will take a 4 string.

Edited by peteb

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If you want to use no strings, please sing.

If a stringed electric bass is a must, Atlansia Solitaire is available as fretless and fretted.

I see the fifth string good for me, as many of the singers (4 + 1 + 1) in the bands (3) I play tend to transpose many of the songs. I can go a second, or a third down, and still play in the area, where others do not play (piano, g-word etc.). Am I doing right things with wrong instruments, or should I always play with unsuitable instruments and create something funny instead of functional?

Do you think the camera is the reason for a good picture?

Tom Kennedy is simply an excellent musician, no matter which tool he uses.

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I love my self built 5 string and did a sort of 'awww' when i realised today's impossible transcription challenge started with the first note below the lowest E on my fretless 4... i had a horrible feeling I might 'need' a fretless 5 but happily, for TODAY at least, I could suck up downtuning the E to a D and that got the low I did need.

I hate open strings AND needing to retune so I guess that's my problem isn't it?

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Funnily enough I considered this again last night from a similar Facebook post.

For probably 20+ years I used 4 strings, and for quite a lot of those (until I joined here and got GAS) just the one bass.

Then I bought a 5 from Silverfoxnik, followed by others, so that pretty much every bass since has been a 5.

Often I am only using the B to play across the neck rather necessarily  than going down to the low B.

In Lockdown we have been recording and posting cover videos to keep things going, and I realised that the last four of those I have recorded with my only 4 string - it is the Wal though and sounds blahdy marvellous, so...

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Do we NEED 5 string basses?

Well no, but then we don’t need any of this. No-one held a gun to our head and said we have to play bass. None of us actually NEED to play music at all*. We could choose some other way to express ourselves. If we accept this, we see that playing bass is about choices. Some of us choose different approaches. None are wrong. 

“Need” suggests an objective binary (either you need it or you don’t). It’s not that simple. What do you want?
 

*I know for a lot of people it’s a living. I’m talking about the decision initially to pursue music as a career over other occupations. I’m aware that there are many who are now “tied in” to music, and for whom playing is not a choice. I’m also aware this is a slightly smart-alec answer :)

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What it really comes down to, is having the right instrument for the gig.  A lot of modern shows have parts that are written in the lower range, so you need a 5 string to play what's written. Even in a lot of function band situations, you'll probably covering tunes that were played on 5 strings or synths. Could you get away with playing up an octave? Probably, but it depends on the bandleader. Some specifically ask for a 5 string, others don't care as long as you play well.  I usually take a 5 string out as standard, but one band that I've been playing with stipulate that I use a Precision bass, so the 5's will stay at home.  

If you play in you're own band, you can do whatever you want and it's cool. But if you're playing lot's of different gigs you need to do what's asked of you, and in those cases you probably will need a 5 string at some point.

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