I know there’s video after video saying don’t get a 5 string until you need a 5 string. Well that kind of talk just makes me want one more.
So I’ve been playing around with 5 string basses a lot lately. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I trying playing them, the muscle memory for songs I already know takes a flying leap out of the nearest window. That low B, though. I love how it rattles windows.
Today, however, something unexpected happened. The store had a fretless 4 string. I’ve always seen the fretless basses as a “virtuoso” type of instrument; reserved for the likes of Charles Berthoud and such. Also, I had never seen a fretless at any of my local stores before. Of course I had to try it….
So try it I did and I surprised the heck out of myself. Not only could I play it but I could play it as well as I can play my normal 4 string (granted, that bar is rather low but still). Not only that but it sounded and felt amazing.
Maybe it’s just the afterglow of trying something new but I can stop thinking of that fretless now.
So now, if someYouTuber came up to me and said “yo, I’m making a video for the views. Here is a 5 string bass and a fretless 4 string. You can have one.” I honestly don’t know which I would pick at this point.
Both have their pros and cons in my book. 5 string: lots more note options and that boom but possible strong difficultly switching between a 5 and my 4 strings. Fretless: would not want to try learning a song for the first time on it plus fewer options and price points available but hot dang it was fun to play.
So that’s my moral dilemma. Bass world problems I know but I need to come up with an answer because I know I’ll be getting a new bass for Father’s Day.
Or I could really shoot my self in the foot and get a 5 string fretless.
Which is why it is hard to just own one or two or three basses. We can argue forever on the exact number, but I would put it somewhere above 5 and below 10 'cause then you will have most options covered, one way or another. (You can find more extreme cases - to both sides - here as well, but let them stay out there at the fringes (of sanity) )
Also, eventually you WILL get both a 5-string and a fretless (and perhaps a 5-string fretless). You may not own them forever, you may not overly care for one or the other and sell one or all again, but it’s almost a given that you will own one of these at some point. Might as well get started
Welcome to the world of bass gear - see the GAS thread for, erm, advice
I recently had a similar experience with a Squier fretless at my local shop. Never played one before that but fell in love with it right away, went back a week later and bought it, still love playing it! So that’s my vote.
So glad it isn’t just me. Even though i got a 5 string just a few months ago, i ordered the esp ltd 204b fretless last week. Hopefully it should arrive at the music store this coming week.
I wish you all the best in resolving your dilemma-if i could offer any advice, it would be this-guitar racks are pretty cheap.
I have recently built a 5 string and a 4 string fretless.
I haven’t got into the 5 string very much but I haven’t put the fretless down much since I finished it, to the point that I picked up a fretted on to play something but went straight back to the fretless.
It’s usually the when. I was a diehard 5ver then covid happened then 4 string it is. Then Fretless, then 5 strings. In the middle of it all, there’s also Jazz bass, P bass and musicman string spacing, 35” scale and 32” scale and 30” scale. Definitely don’t want to talk about strings, lol.
I had this same experience- was waiting for a salesman in a music store one day and picked up an Ibanez while waiting. I didn’t even notice it was fretless until 15 minutes later when the salesman said - “Nice - you do really well with that fretless!” The Ibanez was so light and ergonomic in my hands, the price was right, I put flats on it, played about a month till my band mates told me to lose the fretless - it didn’t fit our sound. Haven’t played it much since. It’s still light and ergonomic and lovely - just not useful for my development at this stage.
Yep, 100% been there. My last 2 basses were 5 strings. I was sitting in a guitar shop and caught myself with a 4 string and thinking “It’s been so long… have I forgotten how to play a 4 string?” Then I noticed it was a short scale! Next thing I knew…
If you have good fretting technique, going from 4st fretted to 4st fretless is pretty easy. I found 5 string relatively easy too, 5 string is definitely the hardest if you play 4 string most of the time… my bass also has a 17.5mm string spacing which is another thing to get used to. One thing you can do is choose to have a high C instead of a low B which gives a nice range for melodic playing.
None of it’s hard, it’s just whatever you get used to. I played only fretless bass for a couple of months, I found that it was more difficult going back to fretted bass after than it was going to fretless in the first place
I play more 5st songs than i do “fretless” songs but if you just want to play everything on it and you don’t specifically have a need for a 5st, I think a 4 st fretless is more practical.