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What About Five?

Hey Willis, I play a Fender four-string fretless jazz bass and like you I love the expressive possibilities and nuances I can obtain. What about the five-string bass? Does the low B string solve a particular problem: e.g. playing in D, or being able to reach down for the fifth while in G? Do you have to mute the B string constantly with your thumb when playing on the upper 4 strings? Thanks, Dean

Hey Dean,
Yes, Yes and Yes. The move to a 5 was very natural for me because when I played on a 4 I always played as low as possible. I always found myself on the E string when grooving in G or F. It makes the band and sonic spectrum sound bigger. When I first got a 5, the new available register was like an effect, or toy but eventually I tried to seamlessly incorporate it into my playing. There are plenty more benefits – grooves that used to have to be played on the A string – even in C or Bb – sound much bigger and beefier on the E string while still including notes that you would have used with a 4. Dead notes coming from the string below sound much thicker when played off the B string. It took me a few weeks to get a handle on how to keep the B string quiet when playing on the D & G. On a 4, if you never move your thumb off the pickup or E string then your A string will ring when you play in the D & G. If you solve this problem by shifting, then it’s no big deal to add one more shift to your technique to keep more strings quiet.

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