What About Five?

What About Five?

Hey Willis, I play a Fender four-string fretless jazz bass and like you I love the expressive possibilities and nuances I can obtain. What about the five-string bass? Does the low B string solve a particular problem: e.g. playing in D, or being able to reach down for the fifth while in G? Do you have to mute the B string constantly with your thumb when playing on the upper 4 strings? Thanks, Dean

Hey Dean,
Yes, Yes and Yes. The move to a 5 was very natural for me because when I played on a 4 I always played as low as possible. I always found myself on the E string when grooving in G or F. It makes the band and sonic spectrum sound bigger. When I first got a 5, the new available register was like an effect, or toy but eventually I tried to seamlessly incorporate it into my playing. There are plenty more benefits – grooves that used to have to be played on the A string – even in C or Bb – sound much bigger and beefier on the E string while still including notes that you would have used with a 4. Dead notes coming from the string below sound much thicker when played off the B string. It took me a few weeks to get a handle on how to keep the B string quiet when playing on the D & G. On a 4, if you never move your thumb off the pickup or E string then your A string will ring when you play in the D & G. If you solve this problem by shifting, then it’s no big deal to add one more shift to your technique to keep more strings quiet.

3 Responsesto “What About Five?”

  1. Nico says:

    Hi Willis, this item is interesting to me ‘cose I’m almost all the time more of a 4 string man than 5, but that’s more because I don’t get the right funky attack and definition in my 5 string fretless that I got in my jazzbass (fretted) I would love to have your groovy sound in my fretless but I don’t get it… :(
    I don’t play soft neither… I know… I know that you recommended this, but I’m lazy in starting all over again… plus I play upright so I’m very rough…
    That’s a 5 string fretless issue or is just mine??…
    I got a very nice hand-made instrument neck-thru body with various local hard woods (lapacho body and watamb├║, grapia, lapacho and birar├│ neck) and an ebony fingerboard with bartolini passive pickups sounds great but is more for melodic or softer things to me.
    Hugs man! you rock!

  2. GW says:

    Actually, the construction you’ve listed (hardwoods, neck-thru, etc.) is not how I would construct a bass in order to get more dynamics (attack, etc). Of course, technique can make all the difference, but if you’re starting out with a bass that tends to compress dynamics instead of reinforce them, then you’ll end up with the symptoms you’ve mentioned.

  3. Nico says:

    mmm okey.. so I will get rid of my fancy/good looking bass and get a regular jazzbass and pull the frets off…. and then I’ll get the sound that I love… thanks Gary! your like a wise tibetan monk of the bass ;)

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