5 Reasons Why You Should Play a 5-String Bass & 4 Reasons Why You Should NOT

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5 Reasons Why You Should Play a 5-String Bass & 4 Reasons Why You Should NOT

Mr. Scott Devine from Scott's Bass Lesson shared an interesting clip featuring what he sees as five reasons for and 4 reasons against playing a five-string bass.

You can check out the lists below, watch the video for detailed explanation.

5 reasons why you should play a 5-string bass

1. Extended range
2. Some gigs simply need a 5-string
3. Efficient shifting
4. You don't have to alter your tuning
5. Great for transposing riffs

4 reasons why you should NOT play a 5-string bass

1. Just because you're advancing as a bassist doesn't mean you need to play a 5-string
2. Getting your muting together is going to take practice
3. Don't play a 5-string if you've got no intention of using the B string
4. There's going to be a learning curve

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14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I'm calling bullshit on 3 of the 4 reasons not to. I recently picked up a 5 string, after 20+ years of 4 string exclusively.  Muting isn't even an issue for me - I basically reach over the strings I'm not playing. Learning curve also wasn't an issue, but I'm mostly playing above the 5th fret. I got it so I can play lower notes at higher positions. Yes, I use the low B string. Not just to hit the lowest notes either.
    I think this is aimed more at newbies rather than people like yourself who have 20+ years of experience. A lot of guitarists these days want 7 and 8 string guitars because it's trendy, without realising that it takes a fair bit of practice and a significant revamping of technique in order to play an 8-string properly. I'm sure a lot of young bassists look at 5-string basses as "cool" basses rather than basses with specific functions, capabilities and requirements and end up just using the 4 strings because 99% of the time that's all they need and are comfortable with. I knew a guy whose first bass (he had learned how to play guitar already, but this was the first bass he owned) was a 5 string and he knew nothing about it and ended up tuning it to EADGB rather than BEADG and then complained about the tension on the strings until I put him straight.
    Just tune to BEAD
    Alright, let's buy brand new strings just for one tuning. Yeah, I wont buy expensive strings just to have one tuning. Most bass players don't don't go lower than D Standard. I'd rather buy a 5 string and just tune the normal 4 strings to D if I don't need the Low B
    Theres no point even having the highest notes on the G string, and you might as well get the lower notes on the B string. 
    Well that would be true if the notes you fret on the G string sounded 100% sonically identical to the same notes fretted on the D string, but that's not the case is it? Completely different timbre, those G string notes are gonna pop out in a different way than they ever would on the D string. 
    For me the 5th string just gets in the way, especially if I wanna slap and pop. I've only used my mate's 5 string bass, I don't own one myself so it could just be getting to know the instrument that I'm missing. That it's just unfamiliar I'm happy with four strings tho'.
    Next up:  10 reasons why you should replace your drummer with a drum machine
    I'm using a 4,5,6 or 7 depending on what I need it for. Seems a little silly to discuss. Some people like to explore different ranges and build on their own chops anyone who switches around like this knows exactly what I'm talking about.
    Reason *not* to use a 5-string:  I play "Let There Be Rock" at most of my shows, and it's 5 steady minutes of fast grinding on the E-string.  And you know what else is grinding?  The side of my thumb knuckle against the low B-string.  Skinned myself down to bleeding after only two minutes in.  Learned then to play the bass you need for the right music. Other times though, I'm also playing the 5-string down a whole step and can attest how amazing the DDT strings are for retaining full tension while being turned down, and not having to increase the gauge.