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#1
I've been getting back into playing bass and this is something I'm curious about, have been for a while really but now I'm back here I might as well ask. When it comes to playing metal songs on bass (all metal such genres really, right now I'm learning some Entombed, Mastodon, Mayhem), how necessary is a five a string bass? And if it is a necessity, are there any good ones available for fairly cheap (in £ rather than $ since I'm based in England)?

Cheers
#2
I'm not sure that a five-string is "necessary." It can be handy, however.

Probably more important is to have a system or amp that can reproduce what that five-string is putting out.
#3
Rather than the pitch of it - although that plays into this - the thing I'm curious about is playing five string songs without one. Like a lot of Cannibal Corpse songs - and Dream Theatre apparently, but I'm not that good yet - use them so does that make it a necessity for playing those songs or can a four string just be retuned to compensate for it?
#4
Don't retune your bass. There are a kajillion different tunings that guitarists use that bass players don't need to and shouldn't.
It's really a different instrument and should be treated that way.
#5
What I do is tune the highest four strings to EADG, and then the 5th string I either tune to A, B or C depending on what I am playing. This pretty much covers all bases for the stuff I want to play, although it does mean I need to transpose some parts.
#7
Quote by ArcherNeedsFood
Rather than the pitch of it - although that plays into this - the thing I'm curious about is playing five string songs without one. Like a lot of Cannibal Corpse songs - and Dream Theatre apparently, but I'm not that good yet - use them so does that make it a necessity for playing those songs or can a four string just be retuned to compensate for it?


most cannibal corpse songs are in Eb and john myung (DT) uses a 6 string most of the time

most 5+ strings have a longer scale (35" or more), so tuning down your 4 string just isn't gonna cut it most of the time. if that's what you're after, unless you really just don't plan on needing a G string, get a 5er, but like dspellman said you need a beefy rig to reproduce the low tones

just don't think it'll fix all your problems. one of my favorite bassists plays a 12 string and an 18 string - i'm just never going to be able to play stuff like that unless i have similar instruments. gotta learn to accept your limitations and work within what you can reasonably attain.
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#8
Quote by Hail
most cannibal corpse songs are in Eb


The first half of their discography was all in Eb but the second half was mainly in Bb with some guitarists playing baritones and some playing 7s. That being said, I'm pretty sure that Alex Webster had always used a 5 string tuned to Bb even when they were playing in Eb although. He did use the Bb string though it seemed mostly to be past the 5th fret since he was duplicating the guitar an octave down. I can't say why but maybe it was just easier to play riffs a few frets up on the low stringing due to from spacing or something. Either way I would imagine that most of their Eb tuning songs don't require the use of the Bb string since they probably don't go below Eb but there may very be the odd song where it does go lower.
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#9
The key benefit with a 5 string bass isn't the extended range. That's a damn nice bonus but lets be perfectly fair it's 5 extra notes. It isn't the end of the world if you don't have them, they exist an octave up in several other places on your bass. The real benefit of a five string bass is economy of motion. What I mean by that is that you have more notes in any given hand position so you have to run your hand up and down the neck less. I'm currently playing a 5 string tuned BEADG and in the past I've had 5 strings tuned up as well so EADGC but I very rarely stray outside the range of a four string bass.

It goes without saying that if the music your playing utilises these lower tones a 5 string is probably the way to go but don't feel that you have to do it because the song was recorded with one. You could quite comfortable move those notes an octave up and, unless they are a very prominent part of the track, easily get away with it. There's also something really satisfying about figuring out an alternative way of playing a track and it'll really help you improve your fretboard knowledge.
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#10
Quote by theogonia777
The first half of their discography was all in Eb but the second half was mainly in Bb


i prefer to think they broke up after tomb of the mutilated

wouldn't that have been nice
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#11
To echo Dan, if you have smaller hands the economy of motion benefit is huge. Its one of the reasons I bought a sixer and use it on occasion, esp since the band I'm currently in loves to move keys around for songs, sometimes in ways that make playing it on a 4 string bass a bit of an athletic endeavour
#12
You don't 'need' a 5 string 99% of the time, especially in metal. But it can make a lot of things easier: position changes, more tones per position, more options in general- at the cost of a wider neck (and string expenses)
If you want to do melodic or chord work, or you like to do more unconventional (virtuoso?) stuff, more is generally better.

Personally I've only ever had 5 and 6 (and 7 lawl) string basses, but that's because I had a specific need for it. 4 will do for almost any situation.
#13
You could try to move all of your strings up and get rid of your G string. I can't think of any metal I've heard that sounded that high up. Like others have said, it's an economy of motion issue.
#14
In music, there is no such thing as "necessity".

If you want to learn material that uses more than 4 strings, having more than 4 strings is certainly an asset, though you could always just learn things in a different octave or experiment with tunings. On recordings, when I only had a 4 string bass but needed the range of 6, I experimented with string gauges and tuning (both up and down) to accommodate the range I needed.

On the other hand, there are benefits to having an extended range bass. I play in a wind ensemble on a semi-professional basis, and I exclusively play a 6-string fretless because my sheet music (which, more often than not, is not written for an electric bass but either for a cello, double bass, or tuba) often contains passages that are both too low and too high for my 4-string bass, and it is nice to be able to get those notes without much in the way of transposition.
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#15
I definitely recommend setting up your 4 string to be tuned BEAD instead of EADG if you don't feel comfortable moving to a 5 string. It is a more difficult transition for some folks. It doesn't take much more than filing your nut slots and redo-ing your intonation at the bridge, for the most part.
#17
Quote by travislausch
In music, there is no such thing as "necessity".


Well that really isn't true. Everything you do in music will have some sort of "necessity" for sure. Maybe you just have never done any real work in music, but if you apply for a gig, somebody will expect you to have something or other. You better have it if you want that gig or you're not getting it no matter how ridiculous and irrelevant the expectations are.

Even if you are not working for others and just doing music as a hobby there are things that you are going to need if you want to get certain results.
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#19
ArcherNeedsFood I found that a set of drop tuning strings made a pretty big difference for myself. I tuned my 4 string down and they didn't seem to flop around as much as a regular set of strings. They also stayed in tune a lot better and are way cheaper than a new bass. I was using the DR DDT's, I'd recommend those.
Last edited by scottr7 at Sep 2, 2016,
#21
4 String basses were being outplayed at the bottom end by the Moog Synths in the 70s hence the emergence of the 5 stringers, Fender actually made a 5 string bass in the 60s but it had a top C not a bottom B.
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#22
5-Strings are totally necessary now for most forms of music. The exceptions really just being pop and old school rock stuff. I even needed a 5-string for playing in jazz band for both high school and college.

Now a 6-string, which I actually own, is not really that necessary... I only use the high string for doing runs with the guitars, which is rare, as the tone of that string doesnt even sound good. It's basically just like a guitar tone, as opposed to that beefy bass tone.
#23
Quote by ciano16
5-Strings are totally necessary now for most forms of music.


I don't know about that. How do you figure?
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#25
I have a 4 string in Drop D and a 5-er in standard with the 5th in Drop A. That extra octave on the A is pretty crucial to the music I play and is good for variation I think. Get some good peddling on the A for a really nice thick end!
#26
I'm not too fussed about a 5th string. The bass I'm (still) building is a five string, but that's just because the body and neck I bought happened to be from a five string and were both up for sale at the same time from the same seller, so I knew they'd fit together. If a four string set had been up for sale at the time, I might have grabbed those instead. If I desperately need a lower or a higher note, I just retune.
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#28
Quote by dspellman
Don't retune your bass. There are a kajillion different tunings that guitarists use that bass players don't need to and shouldn't.
It's really a different instrument and should be treated that way.


Not only this, but it's also handy for playing lower notes in higher positions. I personally play 5 and 6 strings with my B dropped to A and haven't turned back in years.
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#29
Down tuned music will benefit from a 35" 5 String. No disagreements here on this.

The tonal girth of E String range played past the 5th position/Fret on the Low B brings more weight to the notes, and also allows for double stop pedaling on Open E position duplicated at the B 5th.

Fun stuff. Really huge.

I believe that they make the work easier.
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#30
Action can and will change by changing tuning.
G&L L2500
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass 5
Ashdown RPM pre-amp
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300 watt 15" powered cab
450 watt 15" powered sub bass cab
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#31
I'm not really a bass guy but I've heard a lot about them, especially 5-6 string basses from one of my buddies who happened to buy one. They're probably not necessary but if you're looking for a better sound and just better playing overall when playing lower I'd recommend having a 5 string. If I were you I'd take a look at what kind of basses you can find used online (Craigslist, eBay, etc). I personally like the Ibanez Soundgear basses because those are really nice. Ibanez are definitely worth taking a look at when considering getting something with extra strings but I'm sure there are other options you can explore too.
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#32
From my experience, it's pretty freaking convenient. My band plays in Drop D, Drop C, and drop B so I never have to retune my bass. When I first started to use 5 strings I had to learn our songs differently but it's nice that I am able to play anything at a moments notice.
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#33
Quote by Sliide90027
Down tuned music will benefit from a 35" 5 String. No disagreements here on this.

The tonal girth of E String range played past the 5th position/Fret on the Low B brings more weight to the notes, and also allows for double stop pedaling on Open E position duplicated at the B 5th.

Fun stuff. Really huge.

I believe that they make the work easier.
Quote by Sliide90027
Down tuned music will benefit from a 35" 5 String. No disagreements here on this.

The tonal girth of E String range played past the 5th position/Fret on the Low B brings more weight to the notes, and also allows for double stop pedaling on Open E position duplicated at the B 5th.

Fun stuff. Really huge.

I believe that they make the work easier.

As you say much punchier played 5 frets up, I transferred much of my playing above the 5th fret, it cuts through much better.
G&L L2500
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass 5
Ashdown RPM pre-amp
Ashdown Little Giant 1000
300 watt 15" powered cab
450 watt 15" powered sub bass cab
2x10 + horn
1x15x10 + horn
#34
After 40+ years of playing fours, I decided to try a five (G&L USA L-2500).

It took over a month for my muscle-memory to be re-trained so I would not "forget" which string I was on.

It "clicked" all at once somehow.

It's not about the five lower semitones, though they can be handy on occasion. It's really about the economy of motion... the ability to play across the neck rather than up-and-down the neck. That's a real big deal. Really. I can't stress this enough. Yeah, Jaco only needed four, I know... I'm not Jaco.
#35
Quote by John Swift
As you say much punchier played 5 frets up, I transferred much of my playing above the 5th fret, it cuts through much better.


Yeah John.

It really pushes through like the bow of a loaded supertanker.
Ibanez BTB 1006 Fretless and 405 (no Barts)
456 & 455(w/Barts)
Genz Benz NeoX400 112T & NeoX 112T cab.
Digitech BP-8 (x2)
Yamaha PB-1
Boss: SYB-5, PS-2, OD-20, EQ-20, PH-3,BF-3, CE-20, DD-20
Morely A/B
#36
So, bassically, it's like having open e a d g and c (2nd octave) on the fifth fret. Pretty good advantage there. Most of the notes you'll use are within easy reach.
#37
Yes. Plus, i (and I know some others also), think a bass usually sounds bigger, more full and rich, above the fifth fret.
#38
You can always go 6-string bass.. note the bass will be heavier, neck thicker and wider fretboard radius.. no need to down tune the strings. It is a preference thing.. not necessary but with all the music now, you get greater flexibility with added string.
I have Washburn guitars 'Maverick Series' and bass 'Bantam Series' and a few pedals and amps, but man I wish to have more patience and drive practicing my playing, if it's equal to the modding itch, then I'm golden.
#39
After 37yrs of playing bass in 1999 My wife bought me a Stingray V and my beloved 1965 Fender Jazz was relegated to the wardrobe, that was 17yrs ago, I never went back to playing a four string.
G&L L2500
Squier Affinity Jazz Bass 5
Ashdown RPM pre-amp
Ashdown Little Giant 1000
300 watt 15" powered cab
450 watt 15" powered sub bass cab
2x10 + horn
1x15x10 + horn
#40
Quote by John Swift
After 37yrs of playing bass in 1999 My wife bought me a Stingray V and my beloved 1965 Fender Jazz was relegated to the wardrobe, that was 17yrs ago, I never went back to playing a four string.


I hear you. 44 years of playing here. I have a 1964 P, a "holy grail" of sorts, all original, that I barely touch anymore. I also kept one 1965 P because it's Lucerne Aqua Firemist... very rare on a Precision.

I sold a Pristine 1960 burst P, a 1962 Oly White Jazz, two stripped 1965 Ps, and a burst 1968 P, because they were worth more to others than they were to me.

Now my main players for basses are two G&L USA L2500s, two Ibanez sixers, and if I have to play a four, it's a 1941 Kay OM100B upright.

That's what works for me.
Last edited by wrs840 at Oct 28, 2016,
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