We all know about four string bass guitars. We also know a lot of great musicians who made classic bass solos using this time-tested instrument. But overtime, four string guitars became inadequate for the ever-changing musical style of various musicians, which is why the need for a five string bass
guitar became famous. In 1964, Fender produced the first ever five string bass guitar. He called it Fender V. Unfortunately, it was such a failure that Fender decided to stop its production by 1970. In 1975, Jimmy Johnson created custom five strings for clients while working for Alembic and GHS.
The standard tuning for a five string is B-E-A-D-G. Notice that a five string still follows the standard tuning of a four string bass guitar. This arrangement allows the player to reach lower notes ideal for metal/rock bass lines. If you think that a low B string is too sloppy for your taste, you can correct this by opting for longer neck scale of 35". This should greatly stretch the strings and put a lot more clarity when you play the low notes. You can also choose to add a higher C string underneath the G-string for higher coverage; though most jazz players and bass solo artists tend to lean towards the higher C tuning.
If you choose to have a low B tuning change your string's gauge between.110" -.130". Some players can get through with a.105" though doing so can create a lot of tension on your strings. Also, consider the spacing between the strings. Are you comfortable switching from a more spacious four string fret board to a crowded five-strings? It takes a few days of practice to get used to five string bass but the benefits are amazing! On the flip side for being overcrowded, a five string can give your fretting hand a more relaxed form. Instead of reaching out near the headstock for a standard G chord, you can move further down to the 8th fret and make the same tone. You may also notice that with this arrangement you will able to use the lower B string for more clear and robust sound.
Listen to "Got the Life" by Korn, "Seek and Destroy" by Metallica and any song from Porcupine Tree. Notice that most of the modern adherents of five string bass guitars came from the late 70' and early 80's. A five string guitar can give you a range of possibilities and versatility. Decide what kind of music style you wanted to play. Because even though five strings are so common today, bass artists like Flea, Les Claypool, Victor Woten and Stu Hamm stuck with four string bass guitars. In the end, it all depends on your musical taste, dedication to learn and budget.
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