Life is often at its finest when you have choices, but periodically having excellent options makes for difficult decisions. Such is the case for bassists who are wondering whether to buy a four- or five-string bass. Who kbrand-new that including a single string might complicate things so much?

It’s fair to view the four-string bass as the conventional bearer against which all various other bass ideas are measured. It was an established instrument years prior to the electric five-string bass advanced from an speculative oddity right into a bonafide option in the mid-1970s. Now, through many type of years of style refinements under its belt, the five-string bass — through a burly low-B string included to the standard four-string’s E-A-D-G — is thought about nearly mainstream, to the suggest wbelow many type of bass manufacturers offer five-string instruments. (All BB basses and also most TRBX basses are easily accessible in four- and five-string configurations, and also the BBNE2 Nathan East Signature Model is a five-string as well.)

Here are the pros and cons you must know as soon as considering whether a four-string or a five-string is best for your arsenal.

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Four-String: The Pros

* TRBX604FM four-string bass.

The physical qualities of eextremely bass are subtly various, yet they boil down mainly to string spacing, neck width, neck profile, range size and all at once weight. When you action up from a beginner four-string bass to a pro four-string design, those components might adjust incredibly slightly in one direction or the various other, however they will seem much more too much as soon as you move from any four-string to a five-string bass – somepoint we discuss in the “Five-String: The Cons” area below. Sure, you’ll acquire access to even more notes and even more flexible hand positioning on a five-string bass, but will certainly the trade-off for “more” be worth what you need to get supplied to as a result, and just how will it affect your playing? So ask yourself: Do I require the additional string, or perform I just need a far better four-string bass?

Sometimes buckling dvery own to acquire much better at what you currently recognize is much better than jumping into something new, and also sometimes having more note selections is actually a poor point. When it comes to bass, the right note is far even more crucial than the most notes. You might think that a five-string bass will act choose steroids for your creative thinking and take you to some brand-new level of greatness, but perhaps mastering your playing within the “limited” confines of a four-string bass is what you need rather. And that’s definitely way much better than spfinishing time onphase or in the studio worrying about where you are on the neck or overreasoning whether you have to play a note on the low-B string. The four-string bass is really all you have to lay dvery own a tasty, economical groove and has actually even more than enough selection for you to play a creative solo.

Four-String: The Cons

There’s nopoint naturally wrong via a four-string bass, however if you’re a pit, studio or session musician that is on a regular basis meant to transpose components and deal with vital changes, playing a four-string may not be enough to keep the gig. Of course, you could get a small extra low-finish out of a four-string bass by including a drop-D tuning machine or utilizing an octave pedal in your signal chain, but those hacks still won’t acquire you below a low C, and also also then, those reduced notes still won’t sound tight. If the material you’re playing counts greatly on the extended low array, a four-string bass simply can’t complete through a five-string.

Five-String: The Pros

The greatest benefit of the five-string bass is its extfinished lower variety. From the fretted low-E all the way dvery own to the chest-imploding low-B, that fifth string gives a gateway for exploration right into previously uncharted region. The expanse dvery own to the low-B is considerable — both felt and also heard — and rewards you with thick and palpable low-finish note options that a four-string bass deserve to just supply via changed tunings or result pedals that color your tone.

Nathan East with his signature BBNE2 five-string bass.

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Exciting possibilities open up on a five-string bass when you realize a song in C can currently be played an entire octave below wbelow you’d usually play it on a traditional four-string. That kind of sonic transition enables you to alter the whole character of a verse, a chorus, a lead section or also an entire song … and also not simply your part in it.

An additional bonus to having a prolonged lower selection is that, as your bass trends move reduced, your sound will certainly normally carve out more isolation in the in its entirety mix bereason your note options won’t frequently contend with mid-array frequencies from guitarists and also vocalists.

But perhaps the biggest benefit a five-string bass brings to the party is how that additional string have the right to simplify the method you play your basslines from almost every place on the neck. For a severe instance, think around the should drastically shift your hand place on a four-string bass to play a descfinishing two-octave run. On a five-string bass tbelow is no sweeping readjust of place — all it takes is a subtle transition down for the same outcome. The finish outcome is even more efficient hand also placing and also less wasted power, and with even more note options available.

These are big upsides, however they come via some caveats too …

Five-String: The Cons

If you use a pick or play slap bass you’ll quickly realize that palm-muting the B-string is a need unless you like the incessant, rumbling drone of an open up low-B. If you’re a finger-style player (as opposed to utilizing a pick), you’ll likely remainder your thumb on that bottom string as you play, however you’ll still have to be ever-mindful of muting it as you move around the fretboard.

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And with that low-B string in mind, is your amplifier and also speaker cab up to the task of redeveloping these lower frequencies? Some bass amplifiers, cabinets and also speakers aren’t adequately designed to actually recreate the true basic frequencies of also a four-string bass’ lowest notes, and also those deficiencies will certainly be intensified as you plumb the reduced selection of a five-string bass. If your rig isn’t as much as the task, you could be underwhelmed by an evident lack of note definition. Even assuming your rig is actually qualified of transferring the reduced frequencies, you’ll need to stand slightly further away from it to actually hear points the method the low-end gods intended. (The regulations of physics dictate that reduced frequencies need longer sound waves, so it’s fairly possible the audience will certainly hear you much better than you will certainly.)

Perhaps more instrumental is the fact that you’ll invariably notification that a lot of five-string basses feel various in your hands compared to four-string basses. For starters, some five-string bass deindicators count on a 35-inch scale size to keep that low-B string anxiety taut (an inch longer than the 34-inch standard found on many four-string basses). But you’re even more likely to notice that a five-string will certainly either have narrower string-to-string spacing or a wider fretboard (specifically as you relocate up the neck) to accommodate the B string. This likewise suggests that neck’s profile (its curvature and also thickness measured from the exposed face of the fretboard to the ago of the neck) might have various contours, may be slightly thicker, and also may feel heftier. Depending on your individual taste and also the bass in question, these nuances can be subtle or extensive, yet these are all deviations from the standard four-string design that may require you to make frustrating refinements to your playing approach, particularly if you’re a slapper. It all boils down to what you’re provided to and also just how comfortable you are adapting your playing to acquire what you want.

The a lot of necessary thing to remember is that this doesn’t need to be an either/or decision: In a human being wbelow tbelow are so many great four- and five-string basses to pick from, you deserve to have among each!

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