As a beginner, it’s quite confusing to see bass guitars with different string configurations. If you’re aiming to master the bass guitar, you should definitely clear all your doubts about bass guitar strings as they came across you.
In this guide, I will answer all the queries related to the number of bass strings and other popular string configurations.
So, How Many Strings Does a Bass Guitar Actually Have? The bass guitars typically have 4 strings, tuned to the tuning of E-A-D-G. Along with standard bass, 5-string and 6-string bass models are also becoming popular, as they provide you an extended range of tonal options to play with.
If the bass guitar has more strings, the more harder it becomes. Thus most of the standard bass guitars come with 4 strings. There are also some basses with a higher number of strings such as 5-strings(with one lower string) or 6-strings (with two extra strings).
Why Does Bass Only Have 4 Strings?
The basses are first designed according to the double basses which have 4 strings on them. The standard tuning in 4-string bass is E, A, D, G which provide a range of about 3 octaves which is enough to fulfill the need of most of the bass players. Almost all the music can be played using four strings only.
(Remember that the basses are always tuned in fourths)
The four-string bass guitars are quite straightforward, less complicated, and simple to use. The bass players usually play single lower notes to support the low end of the band. Also, there is much less need to play a lot of notes at once. Then it would be meaningless to add more strings on the bass.
This bass has a smaller and thinner neck size in comparison which makes it easy to handle and to learn. That’s why almost all beginners, as well as pro bass players, choose 4-string basses over higher strings basses. Thus, 4-string bass guitars are also known as standard bass guitars.
Is a 4 String or 5 String Bass Guitar Better?
For a beginner, it is recommended to go with the 4-string bass due to its ease of handling. But if you want to extend your tonal range, then 5-string bass can increase your versatility by adding one lower note. Now there are new tuning possibilities without going into drop tuning.
Difference Between 4 String and 5 String Bass
The 4-string bass guitar has a standard tuning of E, A, D, G, while the 5-string bass has B, E, A, D, G. The 5-string bass has one extra lower note than 4-string. Due to this, 5-string bass has an extended range.
Besides this, the 4-string bass has a thinner neck, and also the spacing between the two strings is quite more. These two things make this guitar easy to learn and smoother to play.
On the other side, 5-string bass has a wider neck and due to the addition of one extra string, the spacing between the strings gets lesser which may feel messy or confused. This is the main reason why most beginners choose 4-string basses over 5-string.
What is the Advantage of 5 String Bass?
The 5-string bass comes with an extended lower range and thus gets better voicing for chords without going into drop tuning. The addition of an extra string brings the notes closer together which helps the person with small fingers. Also, there are new tunning possibilities that prepare you for future opportunities.
In the 5-string bass one extra ‘B’ note is added to the lower end, thus the standard tuning in the 5-string bass guitar becomes B, E, A, D, G. And this lower note is quite important not only in musical theatre work but also in heavy modern music. Otherwise, these basses are very similar to the 4-string basses.
5-string makes chords easier and allows you to make the notes crisper. It adds more range to the bass and thus there are more strings under your fingers. It means that you are able to play lower or higher pitched notes without moving your hand.
In most 5-string basses the space between the strings is less than 4-string basses which makes these basses smoother and quicker to play. As there is no need to shift the fingers, the excess tension and movement are avoided.
Is It Harder to Play a 5 String Bass?
The 5-string bass means one extra string, 5 extra notes, and quite more effort to play. The fretboard of the 5-string bass is wider than the 4-string bass and also the strings are closer together. Thus 5-string bass offers less playability. But if you practice with it, then it is not that hard to play a 5-string bass.
The 5-string bass has one extra lower ‘B’ note and it may produce some unwanted noise. Due to the addition of one more string, it may add a little more maintenance. Due to less spacing between strings, it may become uncomfortable and messy at the first.
It’s not just an extra string that makes a 5-string bass guitar different than a 4-string. Along with this, it has a wider neck and higher weight than a 4-string bass guitar.
So, if you don’t have any music experience, then the 5-string bass may feel harder to play. But keep in mind that the more you practice, the more nice things are coming out and eventually your hands will learn to show their extraordinary magic.
Should I Start With 5 String Bass?
There is no disadvantage of starting with 5-string bass because it extends your tonal range and allows you to play lower notes up to ‘B’. But if you are an absolute beginner and want to keep things simple, then you can go with a traditional 4-string bass.
Nowadays the 5-string bass becoming popular and it’s a good idea to start with a 5-string bass.
In the early stage, if you find the 5-string bass quite difficult, you can use only the first 4 strings by simply ignoring the last one. To mute that last string you just need to put your thumb on it. This will not only help you to decrease the unnecessary noise but also help to improve your muting technique. When you get comfortable with 4-strings then you can use lower notes also.
In the 5-string bass, there is one string at the center and two strings on both sides. In the 4-string, there is no such center string. Thus if you start with a 4-string, then at first you may feel uncomfortable with a 5-string. This is because playing an even number of strings is much different than playing odd number strings.
At last, if you think you are able to manage the one extra note then you may consider 5-string bass first. But if you are not sure that you need one extra lower note in your music you can simply go with a 4-string bass.
Are There 6 String Basses?
There are many basses with 6-strings on them, but they are not as popular as standard 4-string basses. This bass contains two extra strings than the 4-string bass. This helps to extend the tonal range of the guitar, so anyone can hit the lower or higher notes with little movement of the fretboard.
There is only one issue about the 6-string bass guitar is string spacing. The strings are closer together. Also as a beginner, it is quite difficult to manage 6-strings at a time. Thus, most people use 6-string bass as a long-term goal and 4-string bass as a beginner.
What are the Strings on a 6 String Bass?
In 6-string bass guitar, two extra strings are added to 4-string bass, one is low ‘B’ and the other is high ‘C’. Thus standard tuning becomes B, E, A, D, G, C. The exact notes of these strings are B0–E1–A1–D2–G2–C3 where those numbers specify the particular octave being played.
If you want to read more about extended-range basses, you can visit Wikipedia through the link.
Final Thoughts On Bass Guitar Strings
No matter which type of bass guitar you are going to select, it will definitely require a lot of practice and dedication to master it. The more time you spend on the instrument, the better result you get. I hope I was able to solve all your questions related to a number of bass strings.
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