Let’s examine how many strings are on the bass guitar. We will also analyze why you may like to play one of these variations. And why the majority of bassists are best served by the traditional 4-string model.
Table of content
1. How many strings are on a bass?
2. The most common number of bass guitar strings
- 4-String Bass Instruments
- 5-String Bass Instruments
- 6-String Bass Instruments
3. Chords Of Strings On Bass Guitars
4. Chapman Stick
5. Having More Or Fewer Strings On A Bass Guitar: Pro&Cons
How many strings are on a bass?
The bass guitar is a relatively new instrument compared to the guitar. It was based on the conventional double bass (also called the upright bass). Prior to the invention of the bass guitar, there were no guitar-like variants of the double bass that could be carried and played horizontally.
The first bass guitars were created as 4-string instruments in the 1930s, and they gained greater popularity and commercial success in the 1950s. From lowest to highest string, the tuning was identical to that of ordinary double basses used in classical or jazz music: E1, A1, D2, and G2.
In addition to solid-body electric basses, we also had acoustic bass guitars with 4-string. There have been several different variations, both electric and acoustic.
Moreover, although hollow-body bass guitars with varying numbers of strings are less frequent, there are some excellent specimens.
With this in mind, let’s examine the various styles of bass guitars in further detail.
The most common number of bass guitar strings
4-String Bass Instruments
The ordinary conventional bass guitar is a 4-string instrument with a solid body and at least one magnetic pickup. Almost all acoustic bass guitars also have 4-string, but they either lack pickups or are equipped with a piezo sensor, which is typically paired with an active preamp.
You may question why a conventional bass guitar has 4-string. The primary reason is that bass guitars evolved from double basses. In addition, being an accompanying instrument, it seldom needs additional strings in the higher register, which are often reserved for lead instruments.
However, as the years passed, a number of novel varieties emerged. During the 1970s, more development began.
Although these versions were commercially accessible during the 1970s and 1980s, it wasn’t until the 1990s and 2000s that they gained popularity. In addition, as their costs grew more attainable, they were no longer as elite.
5-String Bass Instruments
The 5-string bass guitar was among the earliest commercially accessible versions. During the growth of rock music and other contemporary genres, the need for instruments with an enlarged range increased significantly.
This was a terrific alternative for some session bass guitarists to the numerous tuning changes required by the artists and bands for whom they recorded.
These 5-string basses included an added bass string. This was the B0 note in standard tuning, which is one perfect fourth below the E1 note.
This was just enough to cover regions that are an octave below any of the common alternative tunings of the time. One of the most acclaimed 5-string basses is Fender’s rendition of their iconic Precision Bass.
With the development of nu metal and other alternative rock subgenres, the popularity of 5-string basses increased. In addition, they became more inexpensive and commercially accessible to a larger audience.
Korn was one of the earliest groups to adopt extended-range bass guitars and extended-range guitars. Even the lowest bass string was tuned one-half step lower, to A0. Absolutely avoid using a guitar amp for a bass player at this low volume. There have been numerous bands similar to Korn subsequently, but few have replicated their sound.
6-String Bass Instruments
6-string bass guitars were created about the same time as their 5-string counterparts, possibly during the first half of the 1970s. The initial goal was to put a C3-tuned string above the high G string.
However, if we want to discuss the original notion of a 6-string bass guitar, we must go all the way back to the mid-1950s and the first Danelectro model.
It was technically a 6-string guitar with a slightly longer scale length (the distance between the nut and the bridge) and a tuning that was exactly one octave below the usual E tuning.
Fender subsequently introduced the Fender Bass VI in the early 1960s. Midway through the 1960s, Fender also launched the Bass V, which had an extra string tuned to C3.
Technically speaking, these instruments were not bass guitars as we know them today; rather, they were baritone guitars from a modern perspective.
According to popular belief, luthier Carl Thompson created the first 5-string and 6-string bass versions for session musician Anthony Jackson. Being a very creative bass guitarist, he conceived these two ideas, making him a genuine pioneer of extended-range basses. These 6-string basses had an extra B0 string and a C3 string at the top.
These basses are mostly favored by fusion jazz and progressive metal players, as the tuning is essentially the same as it has been for centuries.
Chords Of Strings On Bass Guitars
There are even extreme versions, like nine-string basses with an extra bottom F#0 string and high E2 and A2 strings.
However, basses with string choruses are a more unique and uncommon form that is more fascinating. These bass guitars have two strings, with the second string being an octave higher than the first.
David Ellefson’s ten-string handcrafted bass serves as an excellent example. The famed Megadeth musician collaborated with Jackson to create this monstrous instrument.
It is based on his CBX V model, and each of its 5 extra strings doubles the original string.
It is evident that they are an octave higher, and the tuning devices on the headstock are substantially smaller to accommodate them.
However, this specific design is rather uncommon and is only available in a few custom-built varieties, not as a standard commercial model.
Emmett Chapman created the Chapman stick sometime around the early 1970s. Although technically not a bass guitar, when connected to a bass guitar amplifier, it may fulfill this role. It is primarily designed to be played using the tapping method and has a very unusual approach.
The lowest string is really located in the middle, while higher ones are placed above and below it. It might contain eight, ten, or twelve strings, depending on the version.
The Chapman stick has a very simple body shape, while the neck is somewhat broad. Tony Levin, primarily known for his work with King Crimson and Liquid Tension Experiment, is one of the most prominent bassists who use a Chapman stick.
Having More Or Fewer Strings On A Bass Guitar: Pro&Cons
Extended-range basses have exploded in popularity among artists who want to play in deeper territory without having to detune.
At this moment, 5-string bass guitars are prevalent in virtually every musical genre, with Fender’s Precision 5-string bass model being one of the most flexible available. Whether you play pop or metal, it’s likely that you will occasionally require the lowest B string.
One downside of extended-range basses is that they can be somewhat more difficult to play, particularly for people with tiny hands.
In addition, a large number of bassists never need a lower or higher string on their instrument and can perform adequately with any of the basic 4-string basses. All of these tracks with excellent bass guitar riffs are performed on a 4-string instrument.
Furthermore, simplicity and accessibility are the primary benefits of 4-string basses. For bassists, a normal, slimmer neck profile and a conventional (or shorter) scale length make life considerably easier.
Is a 4 or 5-string bass superior?
A 4-string bass features a slimmer neck and broader string spacing, making it simpler to play. Compared to a 4-string bass, a 5-string bass has an additional string that allows for an expanded lower range to play notes in lower keys and a greater variety of scales, chords, and arpeggios but has a broader neck and is heavier. Noting that there are no superior or worse variations is crucial. It all boils down to personal preference.
What are 6-string basses?
Commonly, 6-string basses include a low B and a high C, expanding the range on the low end and in the upper register. There are basses with seven, eight, nine, or even fifteen strings, with necks that are unusually broad and specialized pickups. Also classified as extended-range basses.
Can you strum a 5-string bass?
Despite having an additional low string, a 5-string bass may be slapped. Although there are minor distinctions between slapping a 5-string and 4-string bass, several professional bassists have employed 5-string basses for slapping. This being the case, bass guitars can have anything from four to an inconceivable number of strings.
If you’re interested in rock, blues, pop, funk, or any other popular musical genre, 4- or 5-string basses can accommodate you. 6-string basses are useful for highly skilled and accomplished professional musicians, who typically perform jazz fusion and progressive metal.
Regardless of your decision, you will always be required to practice and strive to become the greatest bass player you can be.
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