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5-string bass. When ? Why?

Roger the Skiffler 29 May 11 - 11:10 AM
Will Fly 29 May 11 - 11:20 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 29 May 11 - 11:23 AM
Roger the Skiffler 29 May 11 - 01:59 PM
josepp 29 May 11 - 02:24 PM
GUEST,Grishka 29 May 11 - 04:09 PM
Jeremiah McCaw 30 May 11 - 04:48 AM
Will Fly 30 May 11 - 05:26 AM
Jeremiah McCaw 30 May 11 - 02:40 PM
Mooh 31 May 11 - 10:10 AM
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Subject: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 29 May 11 - 11:10 AM

The first time I remember seeing a 5-string upright bass was Harvey Weston with the Alex Welsh band around 1969. He also played 5-string bass guitar. I remember him lending his upright to the bass player in a support band whose bridge had collapsed and said player had clearly never seen a 5-string upright before. When did these come in? Presumably, there was a musical advantage, although classical players manage with 4. In the ensuing years, more and more jazz and blues players have 5 string upright and particularly, bass guitarists, seem to play one, and often also have a 4-string for some numbers.
I ask as a naive non-musical washboard & kazoo player so don't waste time flaming me for my ignorance.

RtS


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 29 May 11 - 11:20 AM

5-string basses were popular in Vienna in the mid 18th century, and the first orchestral instruments started to appear around 1880. So they've been around in Europe for quite some time.

Quite why it took so long for them to spread to jazz, and then to electric basses, I've no idea. However, in both cases, the 5th string was there simply to extend the playable range.


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 29 May 11 - 11:23 AM

Dunno about stand up acoustic, but 5 string electric Bass extends the lower register of available notes
down from E to B [or lower if detuning];
and provides easy access playing patterns further up the neck
where finger stretching is much easier for smaller hands...


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Roger the Skiffler
Date: 29 May 11 - 01:59 PM

Thanks, guys, I think I understand. Interesting that orchestral basses were earlier.

RtS


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: josepp
Date: 29 May 11 - 02:24 PM

Some double basses also have a neck extension on the E that can tune it as low as a C. It has stops on it so the player can push, say, the D stop and the string now plays in low D. He can do it on the fly so it's useful.

I have a 5-string active bass guitar and plan to get a 6-string at some unspecified point in the future. When you hear a skilled bassist play one, you won't ask what is the point. My bass instructor plays the most beautiful full chords I've ever heard with his 6-string--very jazzy and cool. A lot of metal guys play 4-strings that are tuned BEAD rather than EADG because they want that low B and don't care about the G which isn't all that useful in metal. Prior to the 20th century MOST double basses were 3-stringed--just EAD. So it's all about musical vocabulary and taste.


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 29 May 11 - 04:09 PM

Will Fly got it right (as usually), so I may just add that 18th century composers used to write a single part for "bassi" reaching down to the lowest C of the 'cellos. The double bass was expected to play one octave lower whenever possible, so a string lower than E was felt to be desirable. The problem was the material, guts of various animals. The Viennese were the first to invent an acceptable B string, still producing ill-defined pitches - leaving the exact definition to the 'cellos.

Players being conservative, other countries were slow to adopt the invention, even after good steel strings were available. A 5-string bridge has less curvature, so the instrument requires a special training, particularly for bowing. Since the 19th century, composers write separate db parts anyway.


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 30 May 11 - 04:48 AM

With bass guitars, scale length becomes an issue. The shorter the scale, the harder it is to have a low 'B' with any definition. 34" scale, not much of a problem. Short scale (30.5", which I play), a low 'B' can sound very muddy. (George Furlanetto - http://www.fbass.com/index.php - has built a 29"-scale 5-string with a low 'B').

Acoustic bass guitars are another issue altogether - VERY difficult to do a low 'B' and have it sound any good acoustically; in fact the 5th string on these is more likely to be a high 'C'.

"punkfolkrocker" above probably had the best capsule description of 'why'.


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Will Fly
Date: 30 May 11 - 05:26 AM

Acoustic bass guitars are another issue altogether

Very true, unfortunately. I have a standard 4-string acoustic and it makes very little noise compared with a standard guitar. It really needs to be amplified in, say, a session - which really negates the purpose of an acoustic session! It does have a nice amplified sound, though.

It certainly wouldn't take a low 5th string, IMO.


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Jeremiah McCaw
Date: 30 May 11 - 02:40 PM

Agreed, Will. They're best suited to practice, solo or with perhaps one other player.

The Taylor Acoustic Bass Guitar with its unique design, and the Martin are among the best. Guild made a B-40, if you can still find one, that had unusually good projection.

I have a custom-built one from Glen Reid that has more volume than almost anything else on the market.


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Subject: RE: 5-string bass. When ? Why?
From: Mooh
Date: 31 May 11 - 10:10 AM

Several years ago I made the switch to 5 strings, first a fretted OLP/Musicman then a Godin fretless. For the singer-songwriter stuff we were playing at the time, much of it in C, C#, D, Eb, and their relative minors, the extra low tonic notes were helpful. When the band grew to include more instruments, including some brass, just being able to get down under and out of the way was nice. These days I'm using those same basses in a piano/drums/bass trio and it surprises me how often I go low...maybe it's the pianist's left hand.

I like being able to get low notes higher on the neck too (eg, G on string five fret 8 as opposed to string 4 fret 3) as it may mean fewer position changes, particularly on the fretless where intonation when I move might be an issue. A two octave reach is easier.

Peace, Mooh.


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