4-string vs. 5-string Bass Guitar

Bass guitar works with the depth of the music. The extra string allows playing notes very easily. Its job is to create indirect toning. This secondary toning difference will be evident only when you have experienced both 4-string and 5-string guitars.

We will check out the major and minor differences between both of the types, later in this article.

Comparison between 4-string and 5-string Bass Guitar

A 4-string guitar has the strings named E, A, D, G. And a 5-string has an extra low B string. Of course, it gives you an extended range that will help you cover more varieties of music. Let’s see what the basic sides are that differ between a four and a five-string bass guitar.

Frequency and Note

A 5-string bass guitar delivers a lower frequency note than a 4-string. It produces clearer sound in certain chords. That is one side to prefer.

You can play chords of a lower string with a 5-string guitar. It is not possible in the case of 4 strings.

Suitable Atmosphere

A 5-string guitar is more suitable for wider spaces. The guitar needs a bigger area to offer the best sound with the low frequency it has.

We will not recommend getting a 5-string guitar for very small rooms. 5 strings produce lower frequency. It needs an open place for the best output. It is because lower frequency tones take a longer area to complete their wavelength.

However, a 4-string guitar is not efficient for large areas. But it produces enough bass and audio output for small areas. It is perfect for playing inside your house.

Functions

A 5-string bass guitar clearly gives you access to an increased range of functions. You will need 5-string bass in certain chords. So, as it stands, a 5-string bass guitar is more suitable for some precise tones.

On the other, a 4-string bass guitar gives you access to a lot of chords, but it doesn’t let you do some special chords. For example, the E flat notes. 5-string guitars enable you to tone particular music easily. To say simply, it gives you access to more varieties of music.

You can definitely sound the same notes in a 5-string as well as in a 4-string guitar. It just sounds unusual in a 4-string, or unnatural. You will become familiar with it after proper routine training.

Photo credit- Ibanez guitars

Structure

A five-string guitar will have a wider fret-board. That is because of that extra string. As a result, the guitar becomes a bit heavier. The neck becomes thicker too.

The next thing to compare is the handling. Despite the weight, what people actually nag at, is the wider structure it has. People with comparatively small hands will not like it.

Now, respond to that, there are 5-string bass guitars that have the same structure as a four-string guitar. They have low string spacing. That means the space between the strings is smaller.

We will not consider this as a drawback of 5-string guitars. It is just the design of the instrument. You just need more practice to be better and more accurate in this.

Handling

The next thing that comes is hand positioning. When playing a 4-string bass guitar, you have to move around your left hand a lot more (If you are playing a regular right-handed guitar) for certain chords.

It is easier in a 5-string guitar. It simplifies the job. You can get the chord easily with a 5-string guitar. Once you become familiar with the functions, you will have proper control of any chord.

The handling and structure of 5-string guitars may not be agreeable with everyone’s interest. You may consider it a disadvantage of 5 strings, but we can show you how to overcome it. It is only about practicing.

Before Switching to a 5-string Bass Guitar

Suppose you are used to playing a 4-string guitar. Now you want to switch to a 5-string. Surely you will need significant time to adapt to it, to be comfortable with it. Also, you have to consider some relevant sides.

Bass Guitar

Photo credit- teahub.io

Amplifier and Speaker

Before switching to a 5-string guitar, you should take a look at your amplifier or the speaker you are using. Almost all amplifiers work perfectly with a 4-string bass guitar. But not all amplifiers catch the low B tunes.

Your main objective with a 5-string guitar is tuning that lower frequency music. All the speakers will not be able to amplify lower frequencies. So, when you switch, you should get a speaker that complies with the lower frequency output.

That means you have to buy a high-performance speaker.

Reason of switching

To be honest, the number of strings doesn’t impact if you want to learn the bass guitar. It is not the number of strings; the important thing is how you use the strings.

Let’s say you are used to playing a 4-string guitar. Now you want to switch to a five or six or a seven-string guitar. You may think professionals have to know how to play every guitar, but it does not work like that.

There are some amazing bass players who found 4-string guitar acceptable with their interest. Guitarists like Stanley Clarke, Billy Sheehan, Marcus Miller, and so on, remained attached to four-string guitars. It worked out great for them.

As we told you earlier, 4 strings sound better in smaller rooms. That means, if you are practicing, to listen to your own output, you may want to get a 4-string guitar.

So, if you want to keep up with 4 strings, it will be sufficient. You can learn to play 5 strings if you have passion. If you are not planning to use the B string for functioned chords, do not consider getting a 5-string guitar.

Price Comparison

As you can anticipate, you have to spend more if you want to have a guitar with more string. Getting a guitar for your collection will not be bad! What we suggest you is to get a speaker capable of producing superior audio output. Make sure it complies with both four and five-string bass guitars; maybe an option for the future.

So, don’t just switch to 5 strings just because it provides low-frequency output. Research a bit about the handling of the guitar. Switching requires enormous practice. What you need is the passion for that.

Why Should You Play a 5-string Bass Guitar?

Are you finding the cons of 5 strings troublesome? It may come as a disadvantage to you. You will find it difficult at first. As there are varieties of functions, you need more detailed practice sessions.

Varieties of Functions

A 5-string guitar lets you tune some chords that are hard to do in 4 strings. For example, you can go to low E at ease, or you can go to low D without coming back to drop D.

Well, once you get a hold of the 5 strings, you will get the amazing functions it offers. You will find how easy it is to get the chord that was hard in 4 strings. It is great to have this incredible option of the low B string.

Perfect for Professionals

If you want to drift towards a professional career, consider going with a 5-string. It covers everything you need to be a bass guitar player; ease of control, varieties of functions.

If you are doing professional music recordings, you may think if you should get a five-string guitar. Well, five-string guitars are good for in-depth recordings or playing gigs. And it has an advantage over four strings if you are planning to drift towards experiencing more with the instruments.

While playing 5 strings, you will learn many things apart from handling. Muting is a thing to practice very much when you play a 5-string guitar. The five-string guitar offers heavier vibration with the strings. So, you will automatically learn to mute. It is a bonus learning in your career.

Again, that does not necessarily mean you cannot do the recording with your four-string guitar. If you are already comfortable with your 4-string, you don’t need to switch at all.

The first and the last thing to consider is comfort. Look for comfort in the overall handling and everything. Some songs are easier with a 5-string, that is the bottom line. If you are starting your bass career, the 4-string guitar is a logical choice. If you want to switch to another, it requires only practice.

Bottom Line

There is a simpler answer to which one is suitable for beginners. Do you plan for immediate improvement results? Go for 4-strings!

You need long-term practice when you choose 5 strings. It has easy functions; it complies with any music. Although nothing is comfortable at first, you will find guitars agreeable only with long practice. There is no shortcut.

You may also like to read: Best‌ 7 Strings Guitar‌

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