How Many Strings Should Your First Bass Have?

Choosing your first bass guitar can be tough. After all, there are so many choices to be made. In this article, we’re only going to focus on one important choice – the number of screens.

Many bassists (beginner and otherwise) have a hard time choosing how many strings their next bass guitar should have. There are so many options available – from the standard 4-string, all the way up to 12 strings or more. For most people (especially those choosing their first bass), it’s usually a tough choice between 4, or 5 strings.

So, should your first bass have 4 or 5 strings?

Let’s take some time now to help you decide. 

Before we begin, let’s cover the difference between a 4 and 5 string bass. Obviously, the 5-string bass has an extra string. This is almost always a low B string, giving you access to 5 extra notes below what your normal open E string would be capable of playing. The 5-string bass guitar was originally introduced when digital keyboards and pianos began replacing bass players due to their ability to reach a range lower than the bass guitar could. This was made up for by bassists by adding extra strings. When hobbyists and other non-professionals saw their idols using 5+ string bass guitars, others desired to do the same and the 5-string bass slowly began rising in popularity. Today, it’s more popular than ever before.

But which would be best for you? Well, you should take some time to analyze what sort of music you’re looking to play primarily. Then, you should look at the bassists that play that type of music. What do they use? Different basses will be better for different genres. Metal, and other heavier genres that would normally require you to play in drop D tuning will be more convenient with a five string. For most other genres, 4 strings will be enough to play almost anything you want to play. Again, the extra string only allows you access to five additional notes. If you’re not going to be using these notes, it’s a waste to have the extra low B string.

4 String vs 5 String Difficulty

One thing that’s certain is playing a 5 string bass is almost always more challenging to play than a similar 4-string bass. Not only do you have an extra string to worry about, but the strings are also closer together, meaning your picking and plucking will require a bit more precision and accuracy. It’ll also be a bit more difficult to keep all of the strings quiet and buzz-free.

Additionally, it should be noted that most tabs will be written for 4-string bass guitars, so beginners may have a harder time reading them at first. Because of all of this, most beginners will opt for 4-string bass guitars while starting out.

However, this shouldn’t discourage you completely from buying a 5-string bass. You can certainly do very well with a 5-string, even as a complete beginner. It just takes a bit longer to build up to the same skill level since you have more to worry about. If you’re aiming to become a good bass player, it’s not going to matter much in the long run because you’re going to become good at whichever bass you choose.

Planning For The Future

One thing about starting out with a 5-string is that it allows you to transition to a 4-string easily. Switching from a 5-string bass guitar to a 4-string bass guitar is a heck of a lot easier than switching from a 4 to a 5. Despite this, many feel it’s a better use of your time to learn how to play the 4-string bass first, and then upgrade to a 5-string later if you end up actually needing it. Most people won’t – and that’s exactly why the 4-string bass guitar is still the most common today.

What Will Your Choice Be?

I would personally buy a 4-string bass guitar first (particularly this one), and then buy a 5-string as my second or third bass. This will give you time to learn the bass guitar fairly well before stepping up the difficulty and adding some extra notes to your range. This is the course of action for many bassists and it has worked well.

Of course, you’re buying your bass guitar for you, and not for anyone else. Consider what you feel you need. Play around with some 4-string and some 5-string basses, and choose the one that feels and sounds the best to you. After all, the most important thing when playing bass is your enjoyment.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think you’ll end up purchasing a 4 or 5-string bass? Why? Let me know by leaving a comment down below!

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