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TheGreek

Do you NEED a 5 string bass?

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Depends. If you’re intending to cover certain songs accurately, then yes, you do. If you’re happy to compromise and play the low notes an octave higher, then no, you don’t (even though it’s wrong and you know it 😂). Fiver all the way for me when required. The rest of the time, I’m happy with fours.

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6 hours ago, binky_bass said:

Consider them different instruments, you can't play Mozart accurately on a 4 string, I can on a 10 string. 

You are surely compromising only slightly less playing it on a 10 string rather than a 4. I'm not sure accurate is the right term here?

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My last band required a 5 so yes, some people do need them. Had detuners on previous basses for a low D but playing a wider variety of music meant I needed lower than that, I also always found detuners more faff than just having more range.

 

Plus loads of songs are easier on a 5 anyway.

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Do I need a fiver... Yes I suppose so. For a long time all I had was my trusty five string fretless. Do you need a fiver? Yeah, go on then. 5 is 1 more than 4 after all. 

But 6 strings? 6??! Are you off your head. Nobody needs that. 

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As other have said no one NEEDS anything. There are plenty of instruments available as alternatives to the 4-string bass guitar and all of them are valid instruments for playing bass part.

Most of what I (and probably what a large majority of bassists on here) play could be done on a couple of 2-string basses, but no-one is suggesting that we should all ditch the redundant 2 strings on our 4-sting basses. 

As an owner of an Atlansia Solitaire Bass, I once took it to a rehearsal for my Dad Rock covers band. I was able to preform an acceptable bass line on it for almost all the songs we did, and in many cases actually replicate the recorded bass line perfectly. It wasn't as easy as using a bass with more strings, but that's not the point. It could be done. 

So you don't actually NEED a 4-string bass. If you are a good enough player 1 string is sufficient. Alternatively you could get a keyboard, or a tuba, or just sing...

Edited by BigRedX

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This thread has come at an opportune time for me, I've been flirting with the idea of a 5 for a while but had kind of talked myself out of it until I was listening to a couple of tracks that ran down to the B, then I went into the local music shop for the first time in months where they had a Cort fiver.

Haven't bitten yet so I'll make it through 2020 GAS free but no promises for 2021. I'm ancient, a relative newb and doubt if I'll ever gig, so I don't need a 5er, it'd just be nice to play with.............Now where's that link to the Ibanez site....

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For the sake of convenience, yes, I reckon I do.

I've not had a 4 string since about 1990, and it's just how I play now. I don't think there's anything I've recorded, either for my own projects or for other things I've contributed to that I could play the same part on a 4, I tend towards low. Possibly I could faff around with multiple basses, different stringing/tunings, but why would I when one instrument will do the trick. I guess I've painted myself into a corner. 

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Just now, binky_bass said:

You've not painted yourself into a corner, you've got the instrument thats right for you. 👍

Oh don't get me wrong, its a corner I'm happy to be in.

I did consciously avoid going further recently though. One track on the current recording was written on a sixer, then after it was done I had a think and replaced the part, to avoid having to take a sixer out for one tune. I love playing the six, but it's a seated gig only thing for me, and I'm not one for taking multiple basses to a gig. 

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I've tried playing a fiver several times over the last few years but it doesn't feel right for me especially when I thump & pop, flutter, double thumb, chuck and owt else that's funk/disco related.

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@TheGreek I think your question is very similar to someone asking "Do you NEED more than one bass?"

Well strictly, no...but I love having the basses in my herd.

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31 minutes ago, NickD said:

. . . .  One track on the current recording was written on a sixer, then after it was done I had a think and replaced the part, to avoid having to take a sixer out for one tune. . . . .

A record and a gig often have different requirements. Most of the Pro's will have a studio bass and totally different basses for the road.

Also the live arrangement will often differ from the record.

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2 minutes ago, chris_b said:

A record and a gig often have different requirements. Most of the Pro's will have a studio bass and totally different basses for the road.

Also the live arrangement will often differ from the record.

Probably, but that's a luxury us mere mortals don't have... at least not this mere mortal. It needs to be logistically managable (ie, fit in my car), and I've written the new tunes with one eye on being able to get by as a 3 piece live. The 6 would be useful for that, but the extra weight and stretch is something I'd like to avoid getting into long term. It's all compromise I guess.

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A fiver usually means extra weight, uncomfortably wide fingerboard, uncomfortably narrow string spacing, even extra expense, and all for the sake of four extra notes!

A poor trade off, many would say.

But you can play R - 3 - 5 - 7 - 11 - 13 in one position. And if you want to do that, you NEED one.

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1 hour ago, Manwithvan said:

A fiver usually means extra weight, uncomfortably wide fingerboard, uncomfortably narrow string spacing, even extra expense, and all for the sake of four extra notes!

Honestly if there is extra weight that you can actually feel, there is something wrong with the contstruction! My EHB1505 which is what I am playing at the moment is under 8lbs. And although its string spacing is a bit wide, it isn't uncomfortable unlike, say, a P bass.

 

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I play 5ers pretty much exclusively as, for me and the music I play, it is an absolute necessity. I listen to a lot of Neo-Soul/R&B etc which frequently utilises notes below an E, plus I play covers with friends that often need transposing down from the original key to be comfortable for whoever’s singing. While the guitarist does mental maths for however long it takes to transpose the chord structure, I can simply shift the whole line down by however many frets and quickly get back to the enjoyable part of actually playing music.

With this in mind, a 5 string isn’t just a “want” for me. It’s a necessary tool.

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19 hours 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.

I may be wrong but I think it's fairly common to see pro players on here who play in the very modern genres of shows and theatre to use a 5 string. 


EDIT: sorry, @Doddy has already said similar

Edited by LukeFRC

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I only play fours if they give me something I can't get from a fiver.  I have four fivers and two fours.  There can be a tendency to play too many super low notes on the fives though which can muddy things up a bit.  Some extra discretion is needed on when to flap those trousers.

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i play a lot in church and quite a lot of music is written for keyboard instruments so Eb crops up a fair amount and i like to be able to play the bass line as it was written (or at least try to)

i also find that it is easier for me to transpose on the fly with my 5 string as there are so many more options of where on the neck to play.

My next bass purchase will be another 5 string.

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I love the idea of a five-string, but I just don't get on with them. I've had three to date - all really lovely, playable instruments, but I just didn't bond with any of them. Maybe it's my dainty little hands or my inability to grasp the (not so) radical geography of a fiver that's holding me back. I played in blues bands for years and having the ability to play something in the key of 'E' without having to resort to open strings, would have been a boon. I tried. I couldn't.

I think they're a brilliant tool to have in the box, and if you're covering keyboard lines faithfully, they're invaluable. 

In short: Do you need one? No. Are they useful? Very. Do I wish I could get to grips with one? Yup. 

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