Five String Bass Benefits & Challenges

How can we cover Our Guide To Bass Guitar, without getting that five string out? That’s right we can’t. Tracing back the lineage of the five-string bass, one discovers a pivotal moment in 1965. Fender unveiled the pioneering five-string bass guitar, christened the Fender Bass V. Yet, this wasn’t quite the five-string bass modern aficionados might imagine. Instead of featuring a low B, it sported a high C. Intriguingly, while the Bass V housed only fifteen frets, its overall range was congruent with a twenty-fret four-string Fender bass.

5 Reasons to Own a Five-String Bass

The five string bass is appealing for so many reasons. Especially if you like playing the heavier stuff. As you will see from our extended sonic range frequency chart below, if walking the bass is your style five string lets you walk a mile more.

An Expanded Sonic Range:
At the heart of the five-string bass’s appeal lies its extended range. With the addition of a low B string, bassists gain access to deeper tones, enriching the overall sound.

From jazz to progressive metal, the five-string bass seamlessly fits into diverse genres, making it a go-to instrument for those looking to explore beyond conventional bass lines. When you slap a five string in brings a world of hurt as well. You can find out more about slap bass and its origins here.

Fewer Position Shifts:
With an extended range on the neck, bassists can play more notes in one position, making intricate compositions more accessible and reducing frequent hand movements.

Innovation and Exploration:
The five-string bass is not just about added depth; it’s about exploring new techniques and redefining bass playing boundaries. More scales!

Stand Out in the Crowd:
I know this one seems a little lame. But, in a world dominated by four-string basses, owning a five-string bass gives players a unique edge, making them stand out in ensemble settings.

Common Challenges for Five-String Bass Players

While five string bass guitars can be amazing to play and have that added depth of sound. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, it can be for some one of the hardest instruments to play just from its sheer size. Here are our list of common challenges for those looking to five string it up.

Handling the Wider Neck:
Throughout my bass-playing journey, one of the first obstacles I encountered with a five-string bass was its noticeably wider neck. This enhanced girth (keep your mind out of the gutter) can be quite intimidating at first, especially if you, like me, don’t have the luxury of large hands. It demands a renewed understanding of finger placement and positioning, and there’s a certain stretch your fingers need to get accustomed to.

Muting Difficulties:
Ah, the challenges of muting! When I transitioned to the five-string bass, I quickly realized that the additional string brought along an added layer of responsibility. While playing, it’s imperative that the unused strings remain muted. Mastering the technique of keeping them silent, especially when you’re deep into a groove, can feel like you’re sculpting a piece of art. There’s a finesse to it, a balance between holding down and letting go.

Adjustment Period:
Switching from a four-string to a five-string is not just about handling an extra string. It’s an entire shift in mindset and muscle memory. I recall the days when I had to recalibrate both my cognitive understanding and physical technique. It wasn’t just about playing; it was about re-learning to play. Embrace the process with patience, because it’s not just about adding a string, but about broadening your musical horizons.

Weight Concerns:
During my initial days with the five-string bass, its weight was something that took me by surprise. It’s common for five-string basses to be slightly on the heavier side. This difference, subtle as it might seem, becomes increasingly noticeable, especially during those marathon jam sessions or extended gigs. Ensuring proper posture and using a supportive strap became essential for me to handle this gracefully.

Overwhelming Choices:
The expanded range of the five-string bass is both its strength and its paradox. With so many notes at your disposal, the world feels like your oyster. But there were times, especially during live performances, when the sheer choice felt a tad overwhelming. It’s like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet with countless delectable options. The key is to remember that versatility is a tool, and with experience, you’ll learn to harness its potential to your advantage.

guitar player with five string bass neck
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Ways To Tune A Five String Bass

Now we didnt add tuning as a challenge although it could be. The extra string means more choices in tuning as well as an added frustration when you are out of tune. Here are a few variations on how to tune your five string bass.

Standard Tuning:

In my bass-playing journey, B-E-A-D-G became my anchor. It’s the standard tuning for a five-string bass and what many would consider the backbone. This tuning gives access to those richer, deeper notes thanks to the inclusion of the B string, and I found it offers a foundational palette from which to explore the instrument’s full resonance.

Up a Fourth:

On occasion, when I’ve felt the need for higher melodic textures, I’ve tuned my bass to E-A-D-G-C. This is essentially like adding an extension upwards, giving access to tones that mirror the higher register of a guitar. It’s great for tapping into a unique melodic space while still grounding your sound in the traditional bass realm.

Drop Tuning:

Ah, the moodiness of the ‘drop A’ tuning (A-E-A-D-G)! There have been times, especially when I’ve collaborated with bands in heavier genres, where this tuning was almost obligatory. It lends an unmistakable weight and gravitas to the sound, creating an atmosphere that’s both intense and brooding.

Custom Tunings:

Of course, with any instrument, there’s always room for personal interpretation. I’ve seen (and heard) fellow bassists experiment with myriad tunings, crafting their unique sonic signatures. Whether it’s for a particular song that demands something different or a personal experiment, custom tunings have always been a testament to a bassist’s individuality and creativity. Remember if you custom tune everyones going to need to be on the same page. Use wisely.

The Best Strings for a Five-String Bass

five string bass guitar strings
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Okay so we covered tuning and challenges. But seriously one of the most common questions I hear all the time when it comes to five string basses is, whats the best string you can buy for a five string? Strings are lick picks for the most part its personal preference and we tell people to experiment from brand to brand.  But here’s some insight on what to look for.


Ah, the ever-reliable roundwound strings! I’ve spent countless hours playing with these, and they’ve never let me down. Recognized for their bright, punchy sound, roundwounds give that tactile feel under the fingers, ensuring a responsive touch. They’re incredibly versatile, making them an excellent fit for everything from funk to rock and jazz.


There’s something timeless about the flatwound strings. When I want to transport myself to an era of rich, vintage tones or produce jazz and R&B lines dripping with warmth, these are my trusty companions. They offer a silky-smooth feel, gliding under the fingers, and exude that classic muted charm that can instantly set a mood.


Sometimes, as a bassist, you find yourself at a crossroads – craving the brightness of roundwounds and the mellow nature of flatwounds. Enter halfwound strings. These beauties strike the right balance, providing a tone that sits comfortably in the middle. They’re my secret weapon when I need a sound that’s not too bright, not too mellow, but just right.

Material Matters:

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the nuances that different materials can bring to my bass sound. Nickel has been a favored choice, adding warmth and richness to my tones. On the other hand, stainless steel has an unmistakable bright and cutting presence, perfect for when I want my bass lines to pierce through a dense mix. It’s always a fascinating journey, choosing the right material, each with its distinctive character.

Maintenance Tips for Your Five-String Bass

maintenance kit for bass guitar
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The older I get the worse my OCD gets. The bass guitar is just like everything I own it’s got to be taken care of – unlike my early punk rock days when everything was covered in stickers with chipped necks and broken scratch plates. Here’s a few of our tips to keep that five string in great condition.

Regular Cleaning:

Oh, the difference a clean bass makes! I’ve found that a simple routine of wiping down my bass, particularly the strings, can work wonders. Not only does it help retain the instrument’s visual allure, but it’s also essential for preserving that crisp tonal clarity. A bit of care goes a long way in ensuring your bass sings with the same vibrancy every time.


There’s a certain magic to playing a bass right after it’s been restrung. The tones are brighter, the resonance richer. Based on my playing intensity, I’ve gotten into the habit of restringing my bass at regular intervals. It’s like offering your instrument a rejuvenating spa day – the renewed vitality is palpable.

Neck Adjustments:

The added tension from the fifth string has taught me the value of keeping an eye on the bass’s neck. Regular truss rod adjustments are crucial to maintain that straight neck alignment. Believe me, it makes a world of difference in playability and sound projection. A well-aligned neck is the foundation of a great bass experience.

Electronics Check:

A bass’s soul lies in its sound, and electronics play a pivotal role in this. I’ve learned to periodically inspect the electronics, doubly so if I’m dealing with a bass that boasts active pickups. Ensuring they’re in top-notch condition is paramount. After all, what’s a bass without its characteristic boom?

Store Safely:
Over the years, my basses have been more than just instruments; they’ve been trusted companions. And like any cherished ally, they deserve a safe haven. When my bass isn’t serenading the world, I ensure it’s safely nestled in a hard case, shielded from the whims of temperature and humidity. It’s a simple act that guarantees its longevity and performance.

A five string is a great addition to your bass guitar fleet. If you’re  enjoying our bass series be sure to check out our other articles. if there is something you think we should write about drop our team and email and let us know –


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