5-string vs 4-string bass

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Re: 5-string vs 4-string bass

Postby Mark Wybierala » Mon Sep 24, 2018 11:06 am

I enjoy short scale basses (30") when they work. Some do and some not so well. I've even done a number of guitar conversions using a 25.5" scale for the children of friends with moderate success. I wouldn't advise a low B on any build under 34". A few years ago I built a pair of basses for myself (fretted and fretless) with ash bodies in a telecaster guitar pattern. I purchased a pair of baritone conversion necks from Warmoth and had them made without holes for tuners and without fretslots or markers. Unfortunately, they got the order wrong and I received them with the headstocks drilled for six tuning machines and had to send them back -- no hassle, just a delay. By mounting the bridge far toward the bottom of the body, I was able to achieve a 33" scale. I re-profiled the length of both necks narrowing the width at the nut by almost 1/4" in total width putting the string spacing at the nut to more like that of a guitar. I used the fret calculator at stewmac to determine fret positions. I find that the 33" scale fretless is far easier play than any 34" scale fretless I've encountered and like you, I've never done formal bass lessons. The focus of this project was to have fun and end up with a unique pair of basses that would be just for me. This was a really fun and rewarding adventure and I play out with these when ever I can. I'd just recommend that you write down your priorities of what you want to accomplish and go for it.
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Re: 5-string vs 4-string bass

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Sep 24, 2018 9:25 pm

Thanks, Mark. Interesting builds!

My first priority is playability with the option for playing with my fingers, which I can't do with my bass VI. Thus I think I'm going to do a 30" 4-string. I'm going to probably do a 34" build at some future date, and make that a 5-string. It seems that the consensus is, as you suggest, 30" is just too short to support a low B string.
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Re: 5-string vs 4-string bass

Postby Mark Wybierala » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:41 pm

Actually, looking closer at what you describe, You might actually be able to get your Bass VI to be a little more friendly by replacing the nut and the bridge. Look into a bridge replacement with adjustable string spread saddles. You might find a direct replacement that allows you to bring the string spacing closer together for your right hand. The same thing can very easily be done at the nut and that would be no problem at all.
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Re: 5-string vs 4-string bass

Postby Beate Ritzert » Tue Sep 25, 2018 3:06 pm

Playing a Bass VI with the fingers is indeed a bit tricky and not much fun. But the strength of these instruments is their ability to switch seamlessly between guitar and bass playing making guitarists obsolete ;-) I usually play mine with a pick and with the thumb.
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Re: 5-string vs 4-string bass

Postby Steve Sawyer » Tue Sep 25, 2018 4:50 pm

Mark Wybierala wrote:Actually, looking closer at what you describe, You might actually be able to get your Bass VI to be a little more friendly by replacing the nut and the bridge.


I think I may have misled you, Mark. My bass VI plays fine (and one of the first things I did was replace the bridge. The originals have some intonation problems). As Beate explains, because the string spacing is so close you can really only play a bass VI with a pick. Nothing wrong with that, but I'd like to also have a bass that I can play with my fingers, and develop some right-hand techniques.
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