Choosing the right bass guitar can be a daunting task, especially for those just starting out. With a variety of options available, one of the most common decisions bassists face is whether to go for a 4-string or 5-string bass. While a 4-string bass is a traditional choice. A 5-string bass provides an extended range of notes and opens up new possibilities for playing.
In this blog post, we will explore the differences between 4-string and 5-string basses. Examining the pros and cons of each and guiding to help you make an informed decision on which type of bass guitar is right for you.
What is 4-string Bass?
A 4-string bass is a type of bass guitar that features four strings tuned to the pitches E, A, D, and G. It is the most common and traditional type of bass guitar 4-string bass is widely used in a variety of musical genres. The four strings on a 4-string bass are typically thicker than the strings on a guitar and are typically played by plucking them with the fingers or using a plectrum. The 4-string bass has been a staple of popular music since the 1950s. It continues to be the preferred choice for many bass players.
What is 5-string bass?
A 5-string bass is a type of bass guitar that features an additional fifth string, extending the range of the instrument. The five strings are typically tuned to the pitches B, E, A, D, and G, with the lowest string being a thicker gauge than the others. The extra string allows for lower notes to be played and provides greater versatility and flexibility in playing styles. The 5-string bass is particularly popular in genres such as metal, jazz fusion, and funk, where the extended range can be beneficial. The additional string can require some adjustment in playing technique compared to a 4-string bass.
4 String vs 5 String Bass: Which is the Best?
History and Origin
The history and origin of the 4-string and 5-string bass guitars are closely tied to the development of electric bass guitars in the 20th century.
The 4-string bass guitar was first introduced in the 1950s by Leo Fender. He designed the Fender Precision Bass as a more portable and versatile alternative to the traditional double bass. The Precision Bass quickly gained popularity in popular music, especially in rock and roll. It became a staple instrument for bassists. Over time, other manufacturers such as Gibson, Rickenbacker, and Music Man also introduced their own 4-string bass models, solidifying the instrument’s place in modern music.
The 5-string bass guitar, on the other hand, was not introduced until the 1980s. Anthony Jackson, a session bassist, is credited with inventing the first 5-string bass in the mid-1970s by modifying a Fender Precision Bass to add a low B string. This modification was later adapted by other bass guitar manufacturers. The first mass-produced 5-string basses were introduced by Ibanez in the early 1980s.
The 5-string bass was initially met with skepticism and resistance from some traditionalists who viewed it as unnecessary and cumbersome. However, it quickly gained popularity among bass players in various genres, including heavy metal, jazz fusion, and funk, where the extended range was highly advantageous.
Today, both 4-string and 5-string bass guitars remain popular among bass players, with each offering its own unique advantages and characteristics.
4 String vs 5 String Bass: differences
|Criteria||4-String Bass||5-String Bass|
|Cost||Less Expensive||More Expensive|
|Genre Suitability||Various Genres||Metal, Jazz Fusion, Funk|
|Playing Technique||Traditional||May require adjustment|
4 String vs 5 String Bass: similarities
Although there are several differences between 4-string and 5-string bass guitars, there are also several similarities. Here are some of them:
- Playing technique: The playing technique for both 4-string and 5-string basses is similar. Bassists use their fingers or a plectrum to pluck or strum the strings, and the same notes and chord shapes can be played on both instruments.
- Sound production: Both 4-string and 5-string basses produce sound through the same basic principles of vibrating strings and electromagnetic pickups. While the additional string on a 5-string bass can produce a fuller or deeper sound, the fundamental sound of the instrument remains the same.
- Body shape and construction: In terms of body shape and construction, both 4-string and 5-string basses are similar. They are typically made of wood, have a similar overall shape, and have pickups and electronics mounted on the body.
- Versatility: Both 4-string and 5-string basses are versatile instruments that can be used in a variety of musical genres. While the extended range of a 5-string bass may be more beneficial in certain genres, a skilled bassist can play a wide range of music on either instrument.
The choice between a 4-string bass and a 5-string bass ultimately comes down to personal preference and playing style. However, certain genres of music may be more suited to one type of bass than the other.
4-string basses are typically associated with classic rock, pop, funk, and blues music. These genres often rely on simple bass lines with a strong emphasis on the root note. A 4-string bass is also generally easier to play for those with smaller hands or who prefer a narrower neck.
5-string basses are more commonly used in metal, progressive rock, and jazz music. These genres often require more complex bass lines with extended ranges, and the low B string on a 5-string bass can provide additional depth and tonal options. The wider neck on a 5-string bass may be more comfortable for players with larger hands.
Ultimately, the choice between a 4-string and 5-string bass comes down to personal preference and the musical style in which you plan to play. Both types of basses have their advantages and can be used in a variety of musical contexts.
- A 5-string bass has an extra low B string for greater range and versatility in playing.
- Playing techniques are largely the same, but the low B string requires different hand positioning and technique.
- Choosing between a 4-string and 5-string bass depends on personal preference and playing style.
- Playing a 5-string bass requires more finger stretching and hand dexterity due to the wider neck and extra string.
Cost and Availability
The cost and availability of 4 String vs 5 String Bass can be explained as follows:
The cost of a 5-string bass is generally higher than that of a 4-string bass. This is because the extra string and wider neck require additional materials and manufacturing processes, which can drive up the price. Additionally, because 5 string basses are often associated with more advanced playing styles and genres, they are often marketed toward professional and serious players, which can also contribute to a higher price tag.
While 4-string basses are more common and widely available, 5-string basses are becoming increasingly popular and can usually be found at most music stores. However, the availability of 5-string basses can vary depending on the specific make and model, as well as the region or country where you are looking to purchase one. Additionally, some brands may specialize in 4-string basses and have a more limited selection of 5-string options.
Options and Customization:
4 string basses are available in a wide range of options and customization choices, such as different body shapes, finishes, and pickup configurations. Similarly, there are a variety of options and customizations available for 5-string basses, such as different scale lengths, number of frets, and string gauges. However, because 5-string basses are less common, the range of options and customizations may be more limited compared to 4-string basses.
4-string basses tend to hold their resale value better than 5-string basses. This is because 4-string basses are more widely used and have a larger market of potential buyers. Additionally, 4-string basses are often viewed as a more traditional and classic instrument, which can also contribute to their resale value. However, if you are a player who needs the added range and versatility of a 5-string bass, the potential resale value may not be a primary concern.
Options for Beginners
When it comes to choosing between a 4-string and a 5-string bass as a beginner, there are a few factors to consider. Here are some options to help you make your decision:
Stick with a 4-string bass:
If you are a beginner, it may be best to start with a 4-string bass. These are more widely available and generally less expensive than 5-string basses. Additionally, learning on a 4 string bass can help you develop your technique and finger strength without the added complexity of an extra string.
Consider a short-scale bass:
Short-scale basses have smaller neck and frets than standard basses, which can make them easier for beginners to play. Short-scale basses are often available in 4 string configurations and can be a great option for those who are just starting out.
Try a 5 string bass with a narrower neck:
Some 5-string basses are designed with a narrower neck, which can make them easier to play for those with smaller hands. If you are interested in a 5-string bass but are concerned about the wider neck, look for models with a narrower profile.
Rent or borrow a bass:
If you are not sure whether you want a 4-string or a 5-string bass, consider renting or borrowing one to try it out. This can help you get a feel for the different options and determine which one is best suited to your playing style and preferences.
Ultimately, the best option for beginners will depend on individual factors such as budget, playing goals, and physical ability. It may be helpful to try out different basses and talk to other bass players to get a sense of what will work best for you.
Tips and Tricks
The primary difference between a 4-string and a 5-string bass is the addition of a lower “B” string on the 5-string bass.
Here are some tips and tricks for playing a 5-string bass:
- Start with the basics: If you’re used to playing a 4-string bass, take the time to get comfortable with the extra string. Practice playing simple scales and basslines, paying attention to the new low “B” string.
- Use the low “B” sparingly: While the low “B” string can add depth and complexity to your playing, be careful not to overuse it. The low frequencies can muddy up the sound, so use it selectively for emphasis or in certain parts of a song.
- Be aware of string spacing: 5-string basses typically have a wider neck than 4-string basses, with the strings spaced further apart. Be mindful of this when playing, especially if you have smaller hands.
- Adjust your playing style: With the added string, you may need to adjust your playing style slightly. Experiment with finger placement and technique to find the most comfortable way to play the new string.
- Use a high-pass filter: When recording or playing live, consider using a high-pass filter to cut out the lowest frequencies of the low “B” string. This can help prevent the sound from getting too muddy and can make the bassline easier to distinguish in the mix.
- Experiment with tunings: While the standard tuning for a 5-string bass is BEADG, you can experiment with alternate tunings to create unique sounds and textures. Just be sure to tune carefully and avoid putting too much tension on the strings.
- Learn from other 5-string bass players: Many great bass players specialize in the 5-string bass. Take some time to listen to their music and learn from their techniques and playing styles.
A: The main difference is the number of strings. A 4-string bass has four strings tuned to E, A, D, and G, while a 5-string bass has an additional low string tuned to B.
A: The additional low B string on a 5-string bass provides extended range and versatility, allowing for deeper notes and easier access to lower registers. It also eliminates the need to tune down the entire bass to play lower notes. Additionally, a 5-string bass can be useful in genres like metal, where players often use lower tunings.
A: Yes, you can play the same music on both a 4-string and 5-string bass. However, the added low B string on a 5-string bass allows for more versatility and options when playing certain genres or styles.
In conclusion, the decision to choose a 4-string or 5-string bass ultimately depends on the individual’s personal preferences and musical needs. While a 4-string bass may be more traditional and straightforward, a 5-string bass offers additional range and versatility. It’s important to consider factors such as playing style, genre, and technical proficiency when making this decision. Ultimately, both options have their unique advantages and can produce great results in the right hands.
Hey Everyone! I’m Herbert Smith. I’m a guitar enthusiast and I love helping beginners to master their string instruments!