Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

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antlercody
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Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby antlercody » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:44 pm

While I'm hanging around the "waiting room", as my first Carvin bolt plus kit is in the making, I thought I'd check out some other sections of the forum. I have also seriously been thinking about building a bass kit as well...

First, I have never even picked up a bass guitar. I'm wondering if playing bass may be more user friendly for my always numb fingers that have simply worn out from forty years of aggressively working with my hands. I can comfortably play my guitar for about a half hour before my fingers are so numb that I can not only not make a chord, but hold onto a pick as well. After twenty minutes of resting my hands I can play another half hour or so.

And secondly, you bass players out there, can you give me your thoughts on weather four or five stings is better... I suspect that it's similar to, "I like twelve strings guitars verses six, cause that's what I like to play".

Any helpful suggestions would be appreciated.... I am also still quite inexperienced in my guitar playing skills.... I can chord songs and sing,(if you want to call it that...howl! :? ) :shock: , either way I'm pretty green! But hey, I'm having fun and nobody's thrown any tomatoes....yet!

Appreciate your opinions.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby Randy » Tue Jan 27, 2015 9:46 pm

I like the 4-string basses best-- all my favorite songs were recorded on 4's, I'm not tearing up the fingerboard like a young-gun... Blues, classic rock for me so I don't see a need for a 5th, 6th, or 8th string-- if you can relate to that, then a 4-string should work quite nicely for you.

Otherwise, 5-strings are nice instruments :)

BTW, even if you are the only one who enjoys your guitar/bass playing/singing-- that's all that really matters-- keep on playing! ;)

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Re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby gpbarnett » Tue Jan 27, 2015 11:04 pm

antlercody wrote:First, I have never even picked up a bass guitar. I'm wondering if playing bass may be more user friendly for my always numb fingers that have simply worn out from forty years of aggressively working with my hands. I can comfortably play my guitar for about a half hour before my fingers are so numb that I can not only not make a chord, but hold onto a pick as well. After twenty minutes of resting my hands I can play another half hour or so.


If your hands are having issues, I'd recommend trying a short or medium scale 4 string bass. With the lower tension, your hand doesn't have to work as hard, and your fingers don't have to stretch as far.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby Toptube » Wed Jan 28, 2015 3:04 am

Do you play/want to play music which needs notes lower than E? That should be enough to decide right there. Even if you are mostly hitting D and the occasional low C------the 5th string can be nice.

But even further than that: the 5 string neck on my Icon is the most comfortable neck I have ever layed hands on. Even for otherwise 4 string music. The neck just feels so 'right' in my hand, I don't like most 4 string necks anymore. Sure, I can't honk on the E quite as freely. But when I'm actually playing a song for serious: it's not an issue at all.

My Icon also has narrow string spacing, which makes things even easier for my right hand/non-fretting hand. I have little hands.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby antlercody » Wed Jan 28, 2015 8:04 am

Thanks for the input, it's appreciated... But also raises more questions.

I do tend to stick with music I'm familiar with and the songs I like which is more toward seventies Classic rock and country rock.

I like the sound of the "medium scale neck", but not sure if Carvin offers that in a kit build... Have to look, or ask.... I just measured my left pinky, from the point it leaves my palm I have a whopping two and 1/16 inches! .... And both my pinkies were given to me with a natural boomerang type bend towards my other fingers! My other fingers are straight but also short!

My good friend and guitar teacher Frank, suggested that I only play acoustic guitar for at least a year, when I started taking lessons, it's been just over a year now. His reason was that electric guitars are so much easier to play that if I didn't play acoustic only, my chance of playing one well would be tougher. And when I mentioned that I was thinking about a 3/4 size electric guitar, well, I got that look.... Frank's an old Pro who's been playing over fifty years, so I thought I should heed his advice. That's when I scraped the 3/4 size guitar idea and stumbled onto Carvin and went with the kit build. However, I think I like idea of the 3/4 size bass.

As to my numb hands.... I recently got Guitar Smith for my PS3 and found myself playing at the beginner level where I'm only picking notes and not so many chords... And the funny thing I've found is that I have actually had two hour plus sessions of practice playing non-stop, and my hands don't freeze up on me! BTW, if you haven't seen or tried RockSmith 2014, it's worth a peek. There are lots of YouTube videos where you can see what I'm talking about. What is so cool is I can plug my real guitar into my play station and the guitar becomes like the controller. Did I mention there are three setting to learn, lead, rythm, and bass?

For some reason it's seems to be playing chords that mess with my hands....
Either way, I'm hooked for life now... I first started playing guitar at sixteen, played a few years, then didn't play for over thirty years... But at it again. I've been playing with Frank once a month at his coffee house on Friday nights, and having a blast, he doesn't like to sing but man can he play guitar!
Again, appreciate the ideas and will definitely look into the smaller bass, and maybe playing bass will be easier for me?

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Re: re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby gpbarnett » Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:11 am

antlercody wrote:I like the sound of the "medium scale neck", but not sure if Carvin offers that in a kit build... Have to look, or ask.... I just measured my left pinky, from the point it leaves my palm I have a whopping two and 1/16 inches! .... And both my pinkies were given to me with a natural boomerang type bend towards my other fingers! My other fingers are straight but also short!


Unfortunately, Carvin doesn't yet offer short/medium scale basses. If you want to try one out, you can get a kit from Warmoth, or buy a cheap SX bass from Rondo.

antlercody wrote:For some reason it's seems to be playing chords that mess with my hands....


I don't think Carvin offers this, but you might want to try an electric guitar with a really small radius fretboard (7.25" or 9.5"). Another guitar type to try would be a nylon string guitar with a flat or nearly flat radius fretboard. Or, just stick to playing leads and power chords.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Wed Jan 28, 2015 6:35 pm

Start out on a 4. It's the essence of bass.

Other elements of the rationale for a 4: Jack Bruce, Chris Squire, John Entwistle, Geddy Lee. I could go further: Scott LaFaro, Paul Chambers, Ron Carter. I could go still farther: Victor Wooten. These folks play a 4. The obvious omissions are Jaco and Lemmy. :mrgreen: So, there you have it.

One caution -- on every Forum BUT the Carvin BBS this would be a dead-topic pure flame-war horrid thread of attacks and insults. Here, you'll just get a smaller version of a civil tonewood debate. If we are true to form, we won't even debate: you'll just get different perspectives.

I would build and play a 4. Get centered in your mind and mechanics on the fundamentals of the instrument (pun intended), and that's a 4.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby antlercody » Wed Jan 28, 2015 8:34 pm

Well Bruce certainly was the cream of the crop... And yes, Chris did play on every album... And who could forget John???... Some people might not even have a name if it wasn't for Grandma.... Scott was certainly one stand up bassist. Paul, Yep another stand up guy... This close to Valentine's Day.... I believe Ron has at least a couple thousand jazzy moments... I'm sure Victor could teach all of us something. Sadly, we can only celebrate Jaco 3rd, and appreciate his contribution, Lemmy keeps the motor running in my head...

gumbynotpokey wrote:One caution -- on every Forum BUT the Carvin BBS this would be a dead-topic pure flame-war horrid thread of attacks and insults. Here, you'll just get a smaller version of a civil tonewood debate. If we are true to form, we won't even debate: you'll just get different perspectives.


Thank goodness we are all family here and we don't do that.... We are civilized guitar players here! Who do respect each other's oppinions and perspectives... :wink: :wink: :wink:

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby antlercody » Wed Jan 28, 2015 9:16 pm

Brain fart... I should start the shortest pinky club! :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby NorthBass74 » Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:00 am

I have never owned a 5-string, but I have owned several 4-strings and - for a few years - an Ibanez BTB 6-string bass.

Based on my experience with the Ibanez, I would likely not own a 5-string bass...why? Because I found that I rarely played the low B. Even though that Ibanez had a 35-inch scale (maybe even 35.25), I just found the low B string to be too muddy. I found myself playing the high C way more.

Now I'm kind of torn because I would, at some point, like to try out and possibly own a sixer again. That big ol' BTB neck/fretboard was quite comfortable for me - way more so than a lot of 4-strings I've owned - but it almost seems a waste if I end up again not liking/playing the low B.

I dunno...maybe it was a setup issue. Maybe with some adjustment of the low B saddle I could have gotten a less muddy sound...maybe if I'd tried different strings...I dunno. For now I am back to playing a 4-string. There are tons of well-respected players out there who have stuck with 4s for their entire careers, many of whom have been mentioned. A 4-string is not, in my mind, a "lesser" instrument than a 5 or 6.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby tbonesullivan » Thu Jan 29, 2015 1:22 pm

I have both, and it really depends on what you will be playing. I don't have trouble switching back and forth between the two.

And honestly, in most cases you don't "need" a 5 string bass. It just really helps if you are in a band with a vocalist that likes to play covers down a whole step or more for their own vocal range. It also gives you more options for hand placement, etc.

another thing to consider is size: 5 strings have necks that are a bunch beefier than a 4 banger.
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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby OakParkMusicGuy » Thu Jan 29, 2015 4:14 pm

I love 5 strings and for bass guitar that's all I'll play now.

- I DO use the B string a lot for fingering options.
- Those notes are nice to have even if you rarely use them.
- The narrower string spacing of a 5 (Icon, LB) makes playing easier for me and more efficient.
- Even if you never or rarely use the B, it makes plucking the E string just like the other strings where your plucking fingers have a string to come to rest on.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby bchulse » Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:45 am

5 for me. I've been playing 5 strings for 25 years and I'll never go back to 4. I do a lot of lead & background vocals, so I'm always on the mic. The 5's are nice because you can cover more ground in any given position and I don't have change hand position as much while singing. Plus, you can cover most of the newer drop-tune stuff very easily. I also have a 6 String, a 10 Sting Chapman Stick & 8 String Chapman/Steinberger NS Stick. Just sold a 5 string fretless last year..

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby Toptube » Wed Feb 11, 2015 3:08 am

If you have small hands or issues with your hands, I would actually advocate a narrow spacing 5 string even more. The narrow spacing makes everything easier to play. Who cares if you never use the extra string?

However, the extra string will be there, if you want it., and you can switch from BEADG to EADGC (that's a high C), if you want. Ibanez just released a 33" 5 string BTB with a high C. It's not crazy!

For shorter scales, squire's Short Scale Jaguar is a fantastic player with good pickups and decent build quality, for a very small amount of money. The string spacing on those is a little tighter, as well. I have a 4 string and it feels like its probably 18mm spacing.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby antlercody » Thu Feb 12, 2015 9:53 pm

I'm be beginning to realize that my hands are not the issue... I can deal with the pain/discomfort, at the end of the day, I think my biggest challenge is me. ...and I never quit

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby gumbynotpokey » Fri Feb 13, 2015 9:51 am

BTW, if I was getting anything other than a 4, it would be an extended scale 6.

Why trifle?

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby kimo » Thu Feb 19, 2015 2:56 pm

Not to snub Carvin but they don't make one.

Couple years ago, tore-lite a shoulder and have had back issues for decades. As church bassist for 8+ years, full 34" basses were always normal.

Tried and bought a Gibson SG Bass 4-string (unfilled mahogany) with 30 inch scale (think a la Jack Bruce in Cream days) and fell stupid in love with it, light, easy to play, sounds great, have used it more than any other, for the past year and a half at church and blues band practice and gigs. Highest recommendation.

If you don't want to pay for a Gibson, there is a Chinese Epiphone version. Get THE BEST setup you can. Best of fortune.

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby rlm » Thu Feb 19, 2015 5:10 pm

A few years ago they made me a LB20, 14" radius and set it up with the top 4 of the 5.
The B E A D bass, covers the lower range of the 5 with the playability of a skinny neck 4.
I have several 4,5 and 6's ,but I use that b/e/a/d bass more than any. Good luck!

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re: Four string or five string bass, pros-cons?

Postby antlercody » Sat Feb 21, 2015 12:26 am

Really appreciate all the love, thanks so much... But I think I'm going to stick with my heart...
My grandpa played old stuff, that he liked, and I do too... He was a six string man, and I think that's where I will aim.... Six string guitar.... That's for me... His birthday was the nineteeth of Feburary. Rip :D


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