4 String vs 5 String Bass: Which is the Best?

Part of the categories in the types of instruments, a bass is not a single entity instrument. It further has sub types which are an important topic of knowledge for musicians and those who have interest in the theory of music, alike.

Two of these include a 4 stringed, and a 5 stringed bass. Only a string apart, what is it that sets these two apart, from each other.

In this article we cover what both of the entities are, understand their working, and then set them apart with features of each.

What is a 4 String Bass?

As suggested by the name itself, a 4 String Bass means an instrument that has 4 strings that are an octave lower than the standard strings (4) on a guitar.

Why a 4 String Bass?

The hardest step for beginner to begin playing is to figure out the ideal type of instruments for themselves.

This is where a 4 String Bass comes in as it is the ideal choice for beginners. It is not complex and is easy to work with, if you are just beginning to play out. It provides good resonance which is, all the more reason to love it.

Composition of a 4-string bass

The tuning on both the 4 string vs 5 string bass can have considered to be quite similar in their own way. However, talking of the composition of a 4 string guitar we see that, it is tuned at E-A-D-G, where G is the highest string and E is at the lowest position.

A 4 string bass is known to be perfect to play out better notes as it is easier to handle. The Neck that is 3 inches long is comfortable to hold and thus, comfortable to play.

Advantages of a 4 String Bass

  • While a 4 string bass may sound like it doesn’t offer much variety, variation or in turn choices when it comes to instruments, this notion could not be further away than the truth. A 4 string bass offers versatility as it is easier to play, it makes it easier to play out different notes in a good way. It gives you a chance to be able to master them without being lost in the complexity.
  • Bass notes are an important part of all types of music. Ranging from Rock to Jazz, a 4 string guitar adds flavour to whatever type of music it is played into. It works as more of a supporting force than the lead.
  • The missing B string can come across as a con but trust me, it is seldom far away from that. Complex string structure can mean it will cause complexity to your playing. It is way easier to belt out the perfect notes with a 4 string bass
  • The string placement on a 4 string base is comfortable. Less strings mean, there is more and comfortable spacing in between strings, which makes it quite comfortable to hold and play.

Disadvantages of a 4 String Bass

  • There aren’t many disadvantages to owning or playing a 4 string bass as it is very good at what it does. However, sometimes, it can be limiting to the one playing. It might not be an always thing but if the musician is looking for a lower note, a 4 string bass is considerably, not the best choice.

Good brands that sell a 4 String Bass

  • Fender
  • Ibanez
  • Ernie
  • Yamaha
  • Hofner

Some good products available online

Ibanez GSR 4 String Bass Guitar, Right Handed, Walnut Flat (GSR200BWNF)

Yamaha 4 String Bass Guitar, Right Handed, Translucent Black, 4-String (TRBX174EW TBL)

What is a 5 String Bass?

While a 4 String Bass ranks as the most common type, next in line we have the 5 string bass. Used comparatively less than the 4 stringed but more than a six one. A 5 string bass included another string, this is known as the B string. This gives the instrument an extended range.

The B string offers the lower part of range so that, the musician in need of that can go for a 5 string bass.

It is quite less common but is a possibility that a 5 String Bass may come with a high note C string which extends its range into the higher side of notes.

Why a 5 String Bass?

The answer to this question is quite simple. While it is good to have something easier and less complex to work with on your hands, if you are somewhat experienced to playing and would like to extend your range, there is nothing better than a 5 string bass.

It does not offer excessive range like the six-string bass which some people, might term as being too much. It offers you just the right amount of experimentation and chance to play up your musical experience.

Composition of a 5 String Bass

As mentioned above, a 5 String Bass comes with an added lower string more often than it comes with a higher one. In that case, its composition goes one of the two ways.

  1. With an added higher string – E-A-D-G-C where C is at the top and E is at the bottom.
  2. With an added lower string – B-E-A-D-G, where G is at the top and B is at the bottom.

Other than this, the neck is made comfortably with perfect spacing to hold it and play it, as suggested by the size.

Advantages of a 5 String Bass

  • The range offered by the 5 String Bass is something worth appreciation. While less leaves scope for safety, more gives chance to experiment and to set the pace. There are times when one must hit that low or high note and lack of the added fifth string can cause trouble. It is always beneficial to have more as regarded to less as, less can’t be compensated for, but more can always be incorporated in more ways than one.
  • There are the basic 4 strings present so it is nothing entirely new. Just an addition for good. Moving into unknown territory can be hard. Exploring something along the present one can come across as a blessing. There isn’t much of a difference. There is only one additional string so the structure stays the same. The person playing can find comfort in that.
  • Even if the fifth string is not in use to play out notes, it can definitely be used as an anchor for support or simply, as a thumb rest. Might not seem like a big advantage, but when playing, even small things such as these are to be considered, as comfortable playing is what will help you produce choice full melodies.
  • A 5-string bass is comparatively heavier. For the added range, there is wood added and it is made bigger which in result, makes it heavier. This might be a con for those, looking for a lighter instrument as a 5-string bass doesn’t offer that.
  • The neck of a 5-string bass is quite wider in comparison. The added string needs space to be placed on the fretboard and thus, the neck is made wider. It does not have much of a disadvantage other than it not being as comfortable. Someone used to a slimmer neck may find it rather uncomfortable while holding this.

Good brands that sell 5 String Bass

  • Music Man
  • Lakland
  • Warwick
  • Spector
  • Lefay

Some good products available online

Ibanez BTB745 5-String Electric Bass Guitar Low Gloss Natural

Shredneck 5-String Travel Bass

Price Comparison

As the rule goes, the higher is the number of strings, the more is the cost of the bass. Similarly, 4 string vs 5 string bass, a 5-string bass is bound to be costlier than the 4-string bass.

Other factors that may be included are also the excessive wood used in the 5-string bass for a larger fret space.

The added string means added resonance, which also requires space. Other than that, a 5-string bass offering more variation means that its price is going to be higher than the 4 string one that offers limited range.

Get more information on How to tune an electric guitar?

4 String vs 5 String Bass: Which out of the two is better?

If you are a beginner and new to this, it would probably be for the best that you go for a 4-string bass as something that can be simple and can be done in a rather easy way need not be more complex. Also, while beginning out, cost can be a big factor.

A 4-string bass is cheaper as compared to the 5 string one. However, if you’re pursuing advanced playing and would like to widen your arena, or open up more choices, a 5-string bass is the better choice. Not only will it let you experiment, it can also turn out to be a pretty good investment.


While there are many available options out there, it is first important to understand and realise what you as an artist, as a musician need. Everyone is familiar with their own style of playing and thus, one must choose what fits them accordingly.

Excessive doesn’t always yield good result, even though the variation doesn’t hurt. While sometimes, even less can prove to be an obstacle. Understanding and learning about what it means to own which instrument is the key to choosing the right one.

Hopefully this article has provided important insight and has given clarity to those who sit in confusion of what to choose. Now is the time to check out some amazing products and start playing.

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