I am an experienced guitar player, but I want to learn how to play bass, and I am pretty serious about it. I feel like the grooves I hear in my head are more suited for bass.

I am looking for used basses, and I have a good idea of what I want. I really like some of the Ibanez Soundgear basses. I am also interested in J basses.

Is there some kind of rule that says you have to start out with a standard 4 stringer? Or should I jump at good deals on 5 or 6 string basses?

As always, thanks for the advice.
Ibanez SR1200E
Get whatever you want really. Extended range is only difficult for people who are used to 4 strings.

Try some basses in a shop, see what feels right. Make sure you try out a Squier Bass VI.
Wood doesn't affect tone, leave the rainforest alone..
Unless you are certain that you are going to get heavily into six-string bass playing, start with either a four-string or a five-string. The type of music you want to play should dictate where you start. If you are into classic stuff, a four-string is what you want. If you are into the more recent, heavy (or down-tuned) stuff, then take a look at some five-strings.

The Ibanez Soundgear basses are very nice, and would make a fine first choice. And of course, you cannot go wrong with a classic Fender Precision or Jazz bass.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
I got into bass about half a year ago myself and I just decided to start learning on a 4 string.

I can say that I'd definitely wanted to start with a 5 or 6 string more (don't exactly need 6, but it would still be nice). Don't think it would hinder my learning at all, in fact since it's what I eventually want to play I'd prefer to start with it rather than getting used to 4. It's basically because the stuff I like to play is on Baritone/7string. I really want that lower range when playing along to a low tuned guitar and when you can't get to the octave below it's not the same, loses its sound function a bit. So it comes down to what you're looking to play longer term.
As you haven't started bass, you have no real frame of reference, which is awesome for you- it's a blank slate. Yeah, you won't find as many exercises for ERBs, as most will be written for four strings, but applying thise exercises to an ERB will be more beneficial, as you're reinforcing knowledge by thinking about it. Don't think about what genre you'll be playing most- you find 5/6ers in metal, rock, jazz, pop... all sorts.
I recently started playing bass. First bass was a used 4-string Fender Squier Skull P&J (Precision and Jazz bass pickups) and it was really cheap and it's surprisingly good. I'll keep and use that thing for a long time; the only drawbacks are that it's got a big old skull and crossbones graphic on the body (and a matching inlay at the 12th fret) that look a bit "chipmunk-ie." It gets some laughs if you pull it out for the worship band.

Second bass is an '89 Carvin LB-75 bass with active preamp, a jackson-style tilted pointy headstock, in Ferrari red. The previous owner thought it was a bit "rock and roll" for the tweed-jacket-with-elbow-patches style of jazz he plays now, so he went for something with more wood/earthtones.

The 5th string really isn't there for downtuning crap (this is usually a guitar player assumption, not one a bass player makes); you simply don't need it to play with a downtuned band, and besides, most bass amps have a hard time reproducing a fundamental off the bottom part of a fifth string. The fifth string is there largely to make it easier to stay in a position longer, particularly when you're doing complicated runs.

If you learn on a 4-string first (advised), you'll be able to walk into any situation with virtually any bass and play. If you ADD that fifth string later, you're simply extending things that you've already learned to do. Best advice I can give you is to start out using that fifth string (if you buy a 5) as a place to rest your thumb. Add the fifth string to your playing later.
I am yet to hear any decent argument as to why a four string is advised as the starting point. Is it historical? If so, then we should be playing 3 string instruments, or tune to fifths. Is it because 'most music only calls for a four string?' There are many examples of ERBs in all music styles, or extended bass through keyboards. Good four strings are cheaper? Potentially, but you can get fantastic fivers for not much more. 'Victor Wooten only needs a four string.' Maybe so, but he also tunes to ADGC for some songs.

Comfort is the ONLY good reason in my eyes, and that's not even limited to advising a four string- that just goes for choosing any bass. There's more than a few that buy a five string and leave off the low B because they prefer the wider neck. I can honestly only think of benefits with a five string (if we remove the comfort aspect, for the reason explained).

And 'add the fifth string to your playing later' is, I'm sorry, poor advice in my opinion. If it's there, why not use it from the off? You're learning something anyway, you may as well apply it across the board and use it!
Last edited by Deliriumbassist at Jun 18, 2014,
IMHO, start with the amount you are comfortable and lets just put out there that sometimes five and six strings are more comfortable since the fretboard is more efficient and eliminates the awkward reaches esp. in the lower frets (Play the bass line from Green Onions in the original key on a 4 and 5 and you will see what I mean).

If you want a 5 get a 5 or a 6 or whatever. But adding a string later is harder because as Ben said previously, you have a frame of reference at that point for what is your lowest string.
Thanks for all the advice guys, exactly what I was looking for. Nice to have some good thought-provoking discussion around here. I have a lot to think about now. I am leaning towards a 5 stringer for jazz purposes, if that makes sense. I want more tonal range right from the start. Main reason why I am leaning that way is that when I pick up guitar and start noodling around the sounds that come out are bluesy jazz.

I just can't get it out of my head that I may be a bass player at heart. Maybe there will be a NBD popping up here soon.
Ibanez SR1200E
Quote by pachap
I just can't get it out of my head that I may be a bass player at heart.

Don't try to fight it. Resistance is futile!

"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
I've been playing guitar for 29 years and just bought my first bass as well. I went with a 5 string as it fits some of the music I love and gives me a better range of notes in every hand position on the neck.

I'm glad I didn't get a 6 string because the necks are really wide and I'm getting enough of a workout trying to keep 5 strings muted properly.

Keeping the strings I'm not playing muted, so they don't vibrate, is the most challenging part of playing bass for me at this time. This has given me a whole new admiration for bass players.

I ended up getting a Yamaha TRBX305. I tried the Ibanez, which was nice, but the Yamaha just suits me better.
Last edited by DarrellM5 at Jun 19, 2014,
Put my new-to-me Genz Benz El Diablo on CL last night and it sold in about an hour. So NBD may be tomorrow. I will keep you guys posted.
Ibanez SR1200E
What is the general opinion here of the LTD basses? A shop about an hour drive away has a pretty good selection of them, so I may go take a look tomorrow.
Ibanez SR1200E
Nevermind the above question. Found a guy on CL with an Ibanez SR300M, pearl white with a maple fretboard, basically giving it away.

I am picking it up tomorrow, then shooting over to the local shop and going to pick up a Fender Rumble.
Ibanez SR1200E
Congratulations on joining the bass world! Welcome to the Low End, my friend!

And if you are really into strings, your next purchase can be a Warr Guitar!

"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
What in the hell is that stringed abomination? Is it righty or lefty?
Ibanez SR1200E
My "New Bass Rig" thread will be up soon. Check it out!
Ibanez SR1200E
Quote by pachap
What in the hell is that stringed abomination? Is it righty or lefty?

It is both; actually. The Warr Guitar is sort of an extension of the Chapman Stick idea: a bass and a guitar all in one, designed to be played by touch-fretting the notes rather than with fingers or a pick. It is a very esoteric instrument; definitely not a mainstream thing.
"Maybe this world is another planet's hell?" - Aldous Huxley
Quote by FatalGear41
It is both; actually. The Warr Guitar is sort of an extension of the Chapman Stick idea: a bass and a guitar all in one, designed to be played by touch-fretting the notes rather than with fingers or a pick. It is a very esoteric instrument; definitely not a mainstream thing.

Yeah I am familiar with a Chapman Stick, but honestly have never seen one up close. Closest I've ever seen one is watching Tony Levin tear one up with Liquid Tension Experiment.

I am envious of anyone who could use something like that Warr guitar or a Chapman Stick to it's full potential. That would take some serious talent.
Ibanez SR1200E