What makes a great 5'er? What are the 'best' 5ers (if that is a thing)?

I don’t really know much about 5 strings.
Early on in my BassBuzz journey, a 5 string was my second bass purchase.
I know why I wanted one (that low B string) but didn’t know one from the other.
I bought a Yamaha TRBX305 for 3 reasons…

  1. I wanted a 5 string
  2. Josh reco’ed the TRBX 3 series
  3. It was cheap

As I window/screen shop for a ‘future fiver’, I realize I really don’t know one thing from another. I know that string spacing is a big consideration, but other than that…
What does one look for in a 5 string?

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Interesting thread, because as a non 5-string player, I’d assume what you look for in a 5-string is the same thing you look for in a 4-string. I could easily be wrong though. :slight_smile:

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I bought a 5 string and was going to use the whole pretend the b string isn’t there approach. I couldn’t pretend. I returned it.

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Did you take the B-String off? Maybe that would have helped. :upside_down_face:

In all seriousness, I’ve heard that on a 5-string the normal 4-strings are closer together, so it can actually be easier to play those 4-strings than on a normal 4-string? Did you feel that way?

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:joy: I just kept getting confused and hitting the wrong string. probably could have eventually figured it out, but didn’t have enough interest.

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I honestly haven’t spent enough time with mine to sort out what is what but I have no bearing on what are key attributes to look for.

I think if I had enough time I could sort out the B string issue, as I am getting very solid and comfortable on 4.

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The key attribute is one extra string. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I personally am happy with 4 strings, but am interested in what others say. I know that I see a lot of 5-string Stingrays, but maybe that is just by chance.

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Owned a 5 for a few months. Wasn’t for me. Loved the B string, hated the string spacing, even after I widened them.

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I have had my 5ver for more than 15 years, never really like it until i was forced to use it to do my cover of “you belong to the city”
I got to really enjoy it, the one thing it did do for me was it allowed me to enjoy my J-Bass due to the closer string spacing’s on them both.
That said i haven’t had it in my hands for a while now, although i do have another song in the pipeline that requires me to use it again.
It does have some good advantages, you just have to persevere with them in order to appreciate :sunglasses:
Cheers Brian

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Im interested to hear what people who have and play them have to say about them.

Even tho most of tracks I enjoy, Nathan East, are originally played with 5er or more, I feel it would be too much for me right now considering muting, plucking and fretting should be approached with different mindset.

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As @JT pointed out, you pick the bass you want, then purchase the 5 string version of it.
I learned to play bass on a 5er , and went though B2B on a Yamaha BB235 (the 5 string version of the BB234). I later upgraded to the BB735 (the 5 string version of the BB734).
It ultimately boils down to which bass you want, and then get the 5 string version of it.

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That’s a good point. While I am sure there are bad 5-strings, I am willing to bet that in those cases the 4-string version is equally bad.

Aside from raw quality, if I were to consider one again, here’s some attributes I would look for in a 5:

  • Light weight. 5’s are heavier. Mitigating that is big. As close to 4kg or less if possible.
  • As large a neck radius as possible. 500mm minimum, 600mm way better. You want that fingerboard flat for the reach.
  • As close to 19mm string spacing as possible. Most 5’s I’ve tried are closer to 17.5-18mm. Only one mm doesn’t souund like much but this makes a big difference to me. The B string would be a harder reach but the rest would feel much better.
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I’m just realizing that with my compound radius neck, @howard . . :slight_smile:

Thanks
Joe

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So oddly enough Constantine posted a Culture Club cover yesterday Time (Clock of the Heart) that uses a 5 string. A happy coinsidence indeed.
So last night I got mine out and learned the tune (very easy and fun btw).

WOW, I can tell you that I have learned a lot about what I like in basses along the way from buying that bass ‘just to have a 5er’.

Tone - I actually think this might be #1 for me - if you can’t get the tone/tones you want, then string spacing, etc doesn’t matter. Tone did not really matter to me at first but since I have been diving down that rabbit hole of late, it was obvious what tones the TRBX305 can make, and which ones it can’t. I did like the lower end, but not the upper end, no matter how I adjusted pickups and tone controls. I will need to try different amp/cab sims but at first blush I wasn’t pleased.

String spacing - yup, super important, a bit too narrow for me, workable, but if I was shopping for an upgrade this would be a big factor, as I and others have already noted.

Neck - Neck shape doesn’t seem to matter much to me, or at least yet, or at least the TRBX305 did not bother me. I am certainly partial to the unglossed necks, and considering sanding the back of the neck on my Squire Jazz as it is quickly becoming the only thing I don’t love about it. Of course, this is not related to 5ers specifically, but something I am learning in general.

Lay of bass on body and in lap - this again is a more general statement. I generally sit when playing, but also stand and note how a bass lays against me, where the neck ends up, how the strap holds it, etc. At the moment its more about where it lays on my lap and what that means to neck access. Same goes for standing but differnt variables at play of course.

I really like the notion of ‘get a 5 string in a 4 string you love’.
Net/net, this will need to be a ‘go and play it’ before taking a chance on a more $$$ 5er for sure. I see buying a better 5er as perhaps the longer journey of picking a new bass, at least for me, as there are a lot more variables. I like a lot of basses already, so picking the 5 version of the 4 your like doesn’t narrow it down as much as needed.

In the end, I guess all the same considerations apply to a 5er as a 4 string, with the added complexity of string spacing.

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I don’t have personal experience with 5ers but when I was thinking to get one this video convinced me otherwise…

Scot was here suggesting, “if you are going for 5ers, you better really go for it otherwise it becomes a very long thumb rest” “you should put away your 4er for a while”

If I ever get the hypes for that B string I will just go BEAD tuning

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Funny thing is, in the year and a half I played 5 string exclusively, I very rarely played an open B or even the low C on the B string. I played on the B string mainly for convenience and efficiency of the D, D#, E, F, F#, and G on the B string.
Now that I’m playing 4 string, I can safely say the 5 string is not really necessary, and in some ways can be a hindrance to your playing.
I’m glad I had the experience of a 5 string though, so I can talk about it first hand and not parrot someone else’s opinion.

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I don’t agree with Scott here (or most other places either quite frankly). I think he misses one important point.
I get that you can voice songs differently on a 5er and the usefulness of that, but that is not what I am after. I just want to play songs that need the notes on the B string, not all his deeper technical reasons. By the time I am good enough to figure out how to transpose a song for a singer, I don’t think 5 vs. 4 will matter much.

I feel like I am comfortable enough with a 4 string to venture to the 5er here and there as a song calls for it.
I think if you are looking to get crazy proficient at a 5 string that is one thing maybe, but we are essentially hobbyists here. He is really telling you to get proficient at one or the other.

In the saxophone world, they tell you “pick one and stick with it” meaning alto, tenor, baritone, etc. Generally alto or tenor is where you start as the upper and lower register instruments are a bit trickier for various reasons (kinda like a 5er). I started on bari and play bari, tenor, c melody, alto, soprano and sopranino. I am by no means a virtuoso on any of them, but I can play them all and depending on the song and the voicing I want. And since I am not aspiring to be the next John Coltrane or go on tour with Tower of Power, I think I am ok.
YMMV of course, this is just my warped view of the world.

As noted above, Constantine’s cover (below, he includes tab) was posted recently and I was able to pick up the 5er and learn the song in about an hour. What I like about this song (might not be your cup of musical tea, but…) is that it uses a lot of notes on the B string and gets you up on most all the other strings, is slow enough and simple enough that it makes for a good warmup or practice or intro to a 5 string song, vs. some songs that just occasionally hit 1 or 2 B string notes for emphasis.

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I had to sleep over this to digest it a bit but came back it eventually hoping that there might be a learning for open hearted constructive conversation. Even online! Where we miss the opportunity to sit down in the same room and have this conversation after a 2 hour jam…

I don’t know why we would be talking and not playing some more though!

I am happy for you @PamPurrs that you had all this time and investment on the subject to talk about it from first hand experience and relieved to hear that more or less you had the same ideas that I suspected about the subject…

I would almost buy a 5er myself this month and all I had was other people’s opinions (including my instructor) since I cannot afford to simply buy a 850€ instrument just to get unsatisfied about it later or buy a cheapo 5er just to satisfy a curiosity… Trying them at the music store worth so little as well!

So what I did back there was sharing what was the turning point that convinced me personally not to buy a 5er and in a way that is a sharing of my personal experience on the subject…

So I don’t see myself as a parrot here but maybe like an Asian palm civet who digest the coffee cherries from some other tree and poops out really delicious coffee beans

P.S. : If you haven’t been calling me a parrot on this particular subject, I thank you even more for this opportunity…

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I think it was just a general statement meaning that once you have experienced something yourself, you no longer have to say what other people are saying. Effectively, you form your own opinion, based on first-hand experience. If you don’t have first-hand experience and people ask you your opinion on it, you will probably go with information you’ve gathered from others, whom have had that first-hand experience and may or may not be deemed subject matter experts on it. And even if another person has had first-hand experience, their experience may differ from yours. We are all unique and what might work for others, won’t work for some. This is especially true in music. The only real way to know if something is right for you is to try it yourself. That being said, all opinions are useful regardless as it adds to the discussion and we can’t all have experience in everything.

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I have only ever played 5 string basses except for a 4 string acoustic I use to accompany friends with acoustic guitars whilst camping. Being that I started on the 5, I never have felt any of the draw backs of using one, it just feels normal.

You get 5 extra notes to play with… which is nice. You don’t have to fiddle with tuning for that (quite common) low D…which is nice.

The 5 string bass is also symmetrical instrument so all of the patterns you know work for incorporating the 5th string as well… which is nice.

I totally agree that a great way to find a 5 that sounds nice to you, you can just try the 5 version of a 4 you like.

Also a consideration when buying a 5 as opposed to a 4 is to maybe choose (or try at least) the 35" scale version for a slightly better sounding B string. Some say my last point is to the detriment of the sound of the G string but I don’t know… The G string on my 35 sounds ok to me and I kind of think that the G string sound is not quite as important as the B string sound as we are playing the “Bass” where, obviously, bottom end is king…which is nice :wink:
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