4 string vs 5 string bass for beginners
Do I need a 5 string bass?
For all intensive purposes, a four string bass will perform just fine without a fifth string. Beginners will ask whether they need a five string bass at the start of their journey. The answer is no. You don’t need one. Five string basses are a “nice to have”. Comparing a 4 string vs 5 string bass is mostly about the preference of the musician and the style they play.
The 5 string bass’ main benefit is that the extra string provides an extended range without your hands changing position very much. It also has the lower dynamic range than you would have with a four string.
5 string basses in today’s music
Contemporary music and popular music genres are increasingly using more digital methods to create their tunes. In doing so, some of the sampling and keyboard chords are in a lower register that would be less comfortable on a four string bass. 5 string basses will offer more versatility in this situation and help match the bottom end dynamics.
Ideal genres for 5 string basses
The genres of music that do benefit very well from an additional bass string is Metal genres. Many sub genres of Metal will use a 5 string bass. The reason being is that Metal bands tune down their instruments to lower keys. Anything from Eb (E flat) all the way down to C. Four string basses suffer tremendously in these groups. Lowering the tuning will remove the tension from the string and this results in a lack of clarity, poor articulation and a wall of muffled noise. 5 String basses provide the extra dynamic range in terms of notes to be played, volume and intricacy.
Smooth as Jazz
Delicate genres like Jazz, Motown or Disco would naturally benefit from the lower register as the low bass tones are not to dissimilar from a double bass from way back when. The five string is typically well received being a pleasantly sounding musical foundation.
Five must play – 5 string basses
If you’re in the market for a 5 string bass, these are the top instruments that you must get your hands on. Only by playing will you know for certain if this type of bass if for your and your style. These are some of the best 5 string basses to try before moving onto more expensive models.
5 of the best 5 string basses
Listed left to right;
- Fender Jazz 5 string – A classic versatile instrument for all genres
- Lexington 5 string – Beginners choice for a 5 string bass guitar
- Music Man StingRay 5 string – Iconic warm tone in 5 string form
- Dean John Entwistle 5 String Bass (The Who) – Punchy and powerful tone perfect for Classic Hard rock style
- Warwick Rockbass 5 string – Beautiful response from Warwick with the added bottom string.
In summary of 4 string vs 5 string bass
If you are new to bass and thinking of getting a 5 string first, after some practising you’ll find the 5 string a pleasant instrument to play, most satisfying with its low tones but a little cumbersome for faster music like Punk/Punk-Rock. You will find however, switching from a 5 string to a 4 is like having training wheels removed and being put on a motorbike. The noticeable agility and fretting technique makes you feel unstoppable. Especially on basses like the Jazz which has a tiny neck width.
For more information about string types have a look at the Bass guitar strings guide.