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.

  • http://www.myspace.com/nicolasojeda Nico

    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 watambú, grapia, lapacho and biraró 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!

  • http://www.garywillis.com GW

    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.

  • http://www.myspace.com/nicolasojeda Nico

    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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