4-String vs. 5-String Bass

Bass
Which one is right for you?

It's a personal choice so rather than tell you what you should do, I'm just going to list a few benefits of each. Brief note to beginners: a 5-string is the same as a 4 but it has an extra string on the low end that drops to a B note.

The 5-String

1. The clear advantage of a 5-string is the expanded range. That low B string really adds some bottom. It also helps you get beneath a keyboardist who is playing heavily in the mid to low range. There's nothing worse than a keyboard player trampling all over your notes.

2. More is, well...more. If you feel comfortable on a 4-string it makes sense to expand to 5. It just gives you more options and options are good when you know what to do with them.

3. The tension on the strings of a 5-string actually affects the sound. Whether you consider that a positive or negative is up to you. Of course, you never want to purchase a bass without playing it first.

The 4-String

1. Keep it simple. A five string can give you more options than you are ready for causing you to muddy up the mix or simply play too busily. Beginner and intermediate players can really benefit from sticking to a four string for this reason alone. If you are focusing on modern worship, you'll have rare moments when you miss out.

2. Having only four strings encourages creativity. What do you do when you can't hit that low B? Fewer options can force you to think outside the box and grow your mastery of the bass.

3. It was good enough for The Police, Motown, and U2. Enough said.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, it's all about preference. If you are just starting out, I'd stick with the 4-string. Even after a lifetime of playing I still prefer it and in lessons that have a 5-string bass, I will still show you what to do it on a 4 so you'll never be out of luck. If you haven't signed up for bass lessons on Worship Artistry yet, you should. Sign up here. Now a question to you: what do you prefer and why?

Try out your new 5 string on these lessons

Dance

A dubstep breakdown? No problem.
Put your seatbelt on and hang on!!
Get ready for some crazy fun.
Synthmania!!!
Album: 
Endless Praise
Song Key: 
E
BPM: 
130

Spirit Of The Living God

We added a tasteful acoustic part and really worked the dynamics
Fun tune with a great vibe!
5 string joy. If you have a 4 you can rock it too.
Simplicity is beautiful.
Album: 
Church Songs
Song Key: 
D

Overwhelmed

Simple finger picking throughout and a fully added lead part with bonus content.
Let's learn some 6/8!!
5 string stuff! (You can do it on 4)
A pump organ in 6/8!
Song Key: 
C
BPM: 
74

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Comments

4 string vs 5 string

I have played 5 and 4 strings. I am getting the best of both guitars by tuning my bass to D-Standard (D-G-C-F). I get the comfort and weight advantage of a 4 string and I get extended range. I can tune down to Drop-C or even to B if I use 110 gauge for the low string. A good octave pedal is another option for those few times you need to get really low or when you want to thicken your sound some.

5 string

I purchased my first bass a few months back and my worship leader suggested considering a 5 string. Up until then, I had only played 4 strings. I rented a 5 string for a while to see how I would like it and I found the flexibility of having that extra string to be quite valuable. It wasn't that much more difficult to play and opens up many possibilities. I decided to get the 5 string and have been quite happy with it ever since.

5

I like the extended range the 5th string gives me. There are a few songs that we play where we change the key and a low D, C, or B just fit the song so much better, giving the song more depth. Also, for a low E, I like going to the 5th fret better than playing an open string.

My upgrade failed and I want to cancel the upgrade.

I tried to upgrade my plan from individual to medium and it failed because of having to get a replacement card. It is stuck in individual plan with a pending charge in 8 months. I want to cancel the upgrade because the need to upgrade is no longer needed.

Do I need to totally cancel everything and give up on Worship Artristy? The sight has great info but the support is bad. I tried contacting support and one of the email contacts but didn't get any response :-(

I'm not expecting any response but hoping.

THERES A GLITCH IN THE MATRIX!

Hi Cathy. Thanks for reaching out here. Something has obviously gone wrong because our support guru, Bethany is amazing. She will reach out to you first thing in Monday morning. I'm very sorry you've had a poor experience and I promise you we'll get it right. Thank you for your patience.

Last year, I purchased a five

Last year, I purchased a five string. I had been playing on a four string since high school but it was a rock concert a few years ago in which the bass player for Eowyn was playing on a five. It had got me thinking of what I can do with a five string vs. a four string. I have played on worship teams at various churches and with a praise and worship band. Recently did a worship night with my band and chose to use the five string for Revelation Song. I got the effect that I was hoping for. But here is my dilemma, my four string has active pickups, where my five string doesn't. My volume knobs are all the way up on my five string where my four string is a quarter of the way. I leave everything on my amp set the same. Any suggestions?

A clean boost pedal might be appropriate

I've got a custom electronics that I get up to 20db of volume boost. I play guitar but I don't see why it wouldn't work for bass. Maybe some bass players to can speak to this idea.

Big Thumbs Up

"It was good enough for The Police, Motown, and U2." More bass players should know who James Jamerson is!

Thank you Daniel. I really enjoy your work and attitude on WA.

Thanks so much!!

Hey thanks for the comment. I agree. Maybe I will do a greenroom post on James Jameson! What you think?

4 String vs 5 String

For me the 4 string bass is the right solution because I've only been playing bass a couple of year. With Daniel's fine instruction it would be easy to do the 5 string, but sometimes our team does songs that aren't in the Worship Artistry lessons, or sometimes our drummer just does his own thing. Then you have to fall back your knowledge of the bass itself, and there is a lot more instruction out there on 4 string than their is on 5 string. Learning a 5 string would be great, but for this moment in time -- for me anyway -- learning to get better on 4 string is more important.

4 vs 5

I've often thought about a 5 string but there has only been one occasion where I've needed to hit the notes on the "B" string. For that occasion I put a .125 on a spare bass, moved the strings up one and I was covered. The musicians on the worship I primarily play with have agreed that we all stay out of each others notes. Because of that agreement I seldom use notes on the D and G unless we are without a guitar player. The other reasons are pretty much what others have mentioned, heavier, plays like a 2x4 with strings and for me doesn't look right.

Holy Ground bass Tab

I noticed an error in the Holy Ground bass Tab. All the Eb/A's should be Eb/G's.
Video lesson is correct.

Thanks for pointing this out.

Its the actual Chart that is wrong. I will get them to sort it out. Thanks again
d

New Strings for a 5 string?

Daniel, I know you recommend the D'Addario EXP-160 Coated nickle for the 4 string bass. Was just curious as to what you would recommend for a 5 string? I recently purchased an older Yamaha RAX-5 and am in process of restoring it.
Thanks

Strings

Hey man, to some degree I think every bass sounds different. Some basses sound great with older less bright strings on them and some sound terrible. The best thing I would say would be to listen to the bass with whatever strings you had on originally and see if the tone is already real bright or if it sounds pretty wooly with what you have on. I know the string spacing is pretty close on the Yamaha RBX - 5's so don't get too heavy a gauge string. Go for mediums or lights. I know strings are expensive so I always suggest coated strings because they last so much longer. The nanoweb Elixers are good too. Here is an interesting article too https://www.elixirstrings.com/support/how-to-choose-best-bass-strings

4 vs 5 string perspective

I play both 4 and 5 although I spend 90 percent of my time on the 5er. One of the benefits of a 5 that I haven’t seen mentioned is the ability to maintain a consistent finger pattern by moving up 5 frets and down a string.

In spite of being a smaller church, we have quite few musicians and vocalists on the worship team and in rotation. At one point I remember having to play the same song in 4 different keys, in a 30 day window. We don’t have charts, music stands or, tablets on stage so all material is memorized. On a 4 string, the challenge for key changes occurs when you move down through arrangements where the are open string notes. Using a fiver allows you to retain the same finger pattern and easily move it to another key, without rethinking about scales/degrees/position.

The other potential opportunity, especially for bassists on smaller worship teams, is that you can fill some sonic space by playing the same note in a higher position on the neck, ie moving from C - 3rd fret A string, to C 8th fret E string. Depending on the bass, the notes usually sound a bit thicker/warmer.

Some things to think about, anyway.

How hard is it?

Hi,

I have been playing for about year and a half now, and only on four string basses. I have seen a lot of worshipsongs around that use the lower B-string. My question is two-fold, is it very hard to switch to a fiver in regard to muting etc, and how does drop-d work (not the actual tuning, but the playing). How do you actually use the drop-d?

Thanks in advance for the input!

Have Both

Great article thanks for posting. I started with a 4 string about 3 years ago and recently added a 5 string. I switch between the two based on the music we are playing (which bass is better for the selected songs) as well as what other instruments are going to play Sunday at the service. It's pretty easy to go back and forth between them and each offers its own challenges.