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5 String Bass For Beginners

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hi again mark here from talking bass net

this week after a whole load of requests

I'm going to give you a few quick tips

on moving over from four strings to five

string bass so here we have a standard

five string bass this is a squire

vintage modified jazz which I'll be

reviewing in a few weeks time and it's a

really great basic starting point for

anyone wanting to try out a five because

it's quite cheap and it's incredibly

good value for money but I'll talk about

that more in the review so let's start

by looking at the main differences

between a five string and a four string

so obviously the main difference is the

number of strings we have five instead

of four but it's also worth mentioning

that five string basses are likely to be

a bit heavier than the average four

string because of that increase in the

body size you can get some fairly like

fives that are whiter than a heavy four

but on average the five is going to be

heavier than the four string another

noticeable difference is the string

spacing for string versus usually have a

wider string spacing than five strings

this Squire is roughly around seventeen

millimeters between each string at the

bridge whereas forcing basses are often

19 millimeters or even wider again it's

not the case for absolutely every bass

because you can have four string basses

with pretty tight spacing it's just the

general average now what this means in

real practical terms is that it can

affect how you play and how the bass

feel for some people a tighter string

spacing can be great and you know it can

help with moving across the strings

because there's a less room to travel

but for others it can take a while to

get used to because the restricted area

between the strings means more chance of

highlighting some deficiencies maybe in

your technique or accuracy and it's much

much easier to knock or graze the other

strings when playing more aggressively

so you have to be a little more careful

and that's why some players prefer four

strings for slapping so let's quickly

look at the tuning of a five string bass

now there are two main tunings and one

is much more popular than the other the

first the most popular is where we make

use of a low B string so that gives us

the tuning B

II the G from low to high so exactly the

same tuning is a four-string ei eg but

with that extra little B on the bottom

and that low beam gives us a nice set of

low notes down here B flat D D flat C

and B we still tune the bass in exactly

the same way as a four string so we're

tuning fourths so no matter what the

method of tuning that you're going to

use be it open strings or with harmonics

you know either way it's still going to

work on a five string the other common

tuning is where we make use of a high C

string which gives us the tuning e a D G

C from low to high so this is the same

as a 4-string bass EA d g but with the

added C string on the top and that gives

us some higher notes to play with in

each position which can be really cool

for getting different chord voicings

melody playing and soloing and if you

want to check out some really amazing

high C players check out Yannick with

dollar Matt garrison and Hadrian for row

I have a low B string on my bass I'll be

concentrating more on low B tunings so

let's have a look at some of the issues

that you're likely to face when you

first start on a five string now the

first problem is usually going to be

simply getting used to that added string

just being there now if you pledge for

string for any amount of time you'll

have a certain amount of muscle memory

built up and you'll instinctively move

to certain positions with the hands when

playing certain things when you add that

fifth string in there it can just throw

all of that out of the window all of a

sudden what was the position for a low F

1st fret of the E string on the 4th

string is now a low C on that B string

and that kind of thing happens in all

the areas on the bass this extra string

situation also causes problems with

moving across and jumping strings you

develop a sense of distance over time on

4th string so you can easily jump 2 or 3

strings with the right hand without even

thinking about it but with a 5 string

you have more strings to cope with and

that distancing autopilot gets all

messed up so factor the spinner string

spacing in there and it can give you a

bit of a headache

I started playing five strings because I

needed to a lot of my gigs involved

reading in shows and other theatre style

gigs where

musics often written for a bass with a

low bass string you get a lot of lower

notes in there that sometimes imitating

synth bass lines or some Jews might be

transposed to fit into medleys or to

accommodate different instrumental or

vocal ranges so even though I prefer

fostering and I'm fostering playwright

have I really needed to have a five

string in my arsenal of basis for the

gigs that I was likely to take and this

is a point worth considering because

people often ask why players want to

ship to five string for some it's an

artistic decision you know you could be

in a metal band you might be wanting to

get that little detuned vibe or you

might be a jazz player that likes upper

register sax type kind of lines but for

some it's actually a career based

decision if you want to be a

professional musician and be able to

accept any gigs that come your way a

five string gives you that ability to

play anything that's likely to pop up

yes you can use hip shot D tuners or

tune differently if you want to but a

five string makes all of that a lot

easier so I'm going to give you three

main tips that might help with these in

that transition from four to five

strings and all of the tips and examples

are going to be relative to a bass

string with a low B string so for the

first tip I would say try to starting

out by playing a five string like a four

string for a while ignore that fifth

string and just use it like a thumb rest

so where you used to play with the thumb

on the pickup now use the B string for

resting on and just play anything that

you played on four on five after a while

you can start to introduce those lower

notes slowly one temptation when you buy

a five string is to just start hammering

those little seeds and B's because

they're there but that might not work so

well for the music so try to be a little

more sparing with that extended low

register play bass just like I did

before and then just bring in those

extra notes when you need them for a

little more depth so here's a really

simple groove just over a g7 so we're on

a gene

okay so you can see there I've got the

film just on the B string so that was on

a four string a definite them on the

pickle here I'm just letting it sit

there on that B string and then after a

while I can start to introduce some of

the lower notes so okay so you can hear

how just adding them in there you know

quite sparingly has a little bit more

effect my second tip is to get to know

those notes on the low B string as soon

as possible now this is one of those

things that just seems like a no-brainer

but it's surprising how many people

ignore the note names and just plow into

playing from a pattern perspective is

obviously essential if you're going to

be reading but even if you're not you

really need to know where you are just

to keep your bearings on things like

route notes especially in that lower

area so the cool thing is that there's a

really simple pattern that you can use

when it comes to learning the natural

notes in that first area there and

that's just to learn a basic C major

scale now most of you probably know a C

major scale by now on a four string you

know I might even know the extra notes

down there

below on the five string we can start at

the first fret of the B string because

that's our C and then just work all the

way up to that high C of the fifth fret

of the g string so we have C there's the

spread of the B string then we move to

the D there that's the third fret of the

B string and then the e 5th fret of the

B string so we're pretty much following

the fret markers so we've got the third

fret marker at the fifth fret marker

there and often you'll have the marker

at the first fret there I've got a

threat marker at the first fret so

that's all we're doing just following

the fret markers so C D E then we carry

on on to the E string F G a so that's

first fret third fret fifth fret again

then we move up onto the a string

have b c d so that's second fret third

fret fifth fret then we move on to the d

string we have msg so that's second fret

third fret fifth fret again then we move

on to the yacht's of a string up onto

the g string we have me Beansie sending

friend or friend different so from the

first spread there all the way up to us

see there we've just got a C major scale


okay and then you just add the little

open B there into the on well on to the

B string and that's all of the natural

notes in that first area so don't worry

too much about learning it as a scale

necessarily all you're thinking about is

the actual natural notes there because

once you've got the natural notes under

your fingers

you know those without sharps and flats

we can have the sharps and flats in

afterwards and the good thing on the B

string is that there's only two of them

in that position so we've got the fourth

fret there which is the E flat obviously

fret down from the E and then we've got

the D flat there or C sharp on the

second fret so it's only the fourth fret

in the second fret that have any sharps

or flats the rest of them b c d e are

all natural so that's one quick way of

learning your notes down they just give

you thing where the natural notes are

first and then you can put these sharps

and flats in later my third tip is from

a technique standpoint and it's the

thing things we'll probably discuss the

most when talking about playing a five

string so I'm talking about muting and

the right hand thumb position to keep a

good clean sound and you know nice

technique we want to mute the on new

strings as much as possible to avoid any

residual noise when we play a four

string Newton those are new strings it's

pretty easy we just use a combination of

right and left hand muting some of the

right hand that takes the strings below

the one that we're playing and this left

hand that mutes the strings above the

one that we're playing so when you're

playing on the E string let's say on the

on a 4-string bass you can put the thumb

on the pickup and then this hand commute

the a D and g strings and then as you

move across you just

move the thumb along with it now that

doesn't work particularly well with the

five-string because once you get beyond

a certain point the B string isn't going

to be muted anymore and then if you keep

the thumb down here let's say on the E

string then the D string is going to

start ringing out so either way if you

start moving across with the standard

anchor then at some point one of those

strings is going to start giving you

residual knife and you might not notice

it so much at home you know playing to a

quiet sound but when you get you know

live on a loud stage you're gonna start

hearing it all it'll be more of a feel

thing sometimes but you know if you stop

playing you'll just get that you know

the low hum in there so it's something

that you really need to think about on a

five string so one great way to approach

this problem is by using something

called floating thumb technique now if

you want to really look into this method

then I suggest checking out the great

player and educator Todd Johnson he's

really popularized and perfected this

way of playing and he obviously

describes it way better than I ever

could but I'll just run through the

basics of it to give you an introduction

so it's floating from technique we don't

really anchor in the same way as with

regular finger picking the most common

finger picking method has the thumb

anchored on the string or the pickup

kind of like this so the thumb kind of

sticks out so see there it's kind of

sticking out with flossing some

technique that some rests up alongside

the alongside the fingers or / against

the strings like this so we would get

something more like this


okay so you can see the difference there

and the normal anchor and then forcing

film okay so it's more laid up against

the strings forcing film has a few

advantages over regular anchored


one is the muting because we get to mute

all of the strings evenly below the

string that we're really using so if I'm

playing on the g string here the thumb

rest along the Dae and B strings so all

of those strings are muted and I don't

have to worry about trying to contort

the hands trying to cover certain

hard-to-reach strings the other

advantage is in the hands and wrists


floating film is really good for your

hands in that you keep a straight wrist

with no unnecessary bending or attention

it's a really really relaxed position so

to get you started with this technique I

just want you to lay the film across all

of the strings like this okay it's the

side edge of the thumb that we're using

and the hand is probably going to come

in at a slight angle for the thumb comes

across the strings diagonally so we're

not turned over this way or that way

just in a relaxed position like this

okay so just lay that film across all of

the strings like that next we're just

going to use the arm to move backwards

and forwards along the strings so get

back into that position and then just

pull back a little and when the thumb

comes back to the D string the fingers

will be there ready to plug the g string

then we pull back a little bit more and

we're there ready for the D okay so the

Sun is consistently on the string below

the one that we're playing so even

though we've not played anything just

yet you just want to get used to moving

that hand backwards and forwards with

the arm to cover certain strings so

start there covering all the strings

then just move back so that the

filming's at the D string move back

again to the we're at the a string back

at the E string and then we're great you

know we're back at the B string and then

on to the on to the pickup there now

let's try some notes so we'll stick up

here on the a D and g strings and we'll

just play a basic C major scale okay so

we're going to start with the C their

third fret of

a string and then we just woke up C D

plus third fret fifth but then we move

on to the D string ng so that second

thread close friends in red and then on

to the g string in vz+ second friends or

friends lift right okay so we just play

up and back down so if we try applying

the floating thumb technique to it if we

start there on the on the third fret of

the a string we've got the thumb here

over the B and the E string okay so we

where the two notes so try to think of

it as being very similar to the normal

anchor you know the fully still pushing

there into that East ring but it's just

that it's a laid-back across this B

string so then we make the move across

the D string so then we move across to

the thumb comes to the D string little

you string so okay so you can move the

arm to push and pull this kind of bar as

we move across so if you watch how I

play that so the Army is moving down and

then I just pull back as I come back

down okay

so that's a good little exercise for

just getting used to this floating stone

technique so one thing to be aware of is

that once we get across there to the

edge of the D string when the key of G

it is possible to just stay there with

the floating stone and then we're doing

a mule on the top because the fingers

the rest stroke their moving ring back

the wrist on that D string that kind of

mute stuff so don't worry too much about

getting all the way up there with the

thumb you know and keeping it there all

the time when you've got

then first move you can annually stay

there sometimes you might want to move

them all the way up it depends on how

you're feeling now what I tend to do is

use a bit of a mix of floating storm and

normal anchor song because I was late

coming to this floating boom party I

always feel a little bit weird floating

on that low B and E string so I tend to

switch into floor ting-tong as I move

across to the ad and g-strings it

doesn't really matter that much because

I'm still muting okay now if you want to

go for it with that floating song

technique check out sod Johnson he's got

lessons on YouTube showing you how to

master this technique and you also have

some master classes over at the SPL

Academy for any of you that are members

okay so that's just a few tips on making

the switch from four string to five

string bass remember to like this video

if it helped and subscribe to the

channel also go check out all of the

other lessons over talking bass next

there's a link in the info below okay

I'll see you later