Here’s why you are confused.
You’ve been made to believe that bass should have nothing more than 4 strings on, say, a 24″ scale.
But then you started noticing some 4, 5, 6, and even 7 stringers in the store down the street which the store owner tags bass guitars.
Is this some kind of joke or how many strings does a bass guitar have really?
In this article, I’ll clear your head out on that.
First thing first. Here’s why you are most likely to see a 4 stringer bass than you would any other.
Why Does Bass Guitars Have 4 Strings
As the need for bass is to support the lower end of the band, heavy metals, as they are fondly called, need to be thick in tone and voicing. And just because having too much thick voiced strings on an instrument could end you up with muddy music, heavy metals are, by reason, usually limited in the number of strings they bear. So you would more than often see a 4-stringer bass around. But that’s not all that there is.
In the next headers, I show you some more basses that break the 4-strings rule pretty well.
5 Strings; How We Got Here
In the ’70s bassists proceeded to compete with the electric/acoustic players. The decision was based on the notion that bassists should be able to play solo music and not just be a part of a band, unlike their acoustic player counterparts.
To achieve this, more strings needed to be added to add more ranges so lower-pitched notes and higher-pitched notes could be accessible to the ’70s players like Jeff Berlin and Stanley Clarke. And this was what led to the invention of 5 strings players.
Today, Ibanez, Fender, and Yamaha are some of the leading manufacturers of the best jazz bass and ordinary bass in the 5 strings category.
But is a 5 strings bass worth it?
Well, it depends on you.
For a beginner, you should rather stick to a standard B E A D tuning bass before going ahead to add a lower B. Remember, the more strings you have under your fingers, the more tuning work you have to do.
On the flip side, if you’re a seasoned and an expert heavy metal player, then one more string will offer 5 more tones to what you’ll get from a 4-stringer.
6 Strings Bass? Seriously?
If you’ve been hearing terms like 6 string fretless bass or custom 6-string bass guitars of late, here’s what that means.
Back in the ’80s, there was a huge shift from bassists to computers. The invention of effects processors like the bass stomp boxed gave musical producers more tonal options than they could obtain from human bassists.
In reaction to this, one more string was added to beat the competition set by these imitator stompboxes. But did it really end there? No.
7 Strings And ERBs
Tom Peterson, John Paul Jones, and Greg Lake. These are some of the prominent 8, 12 strings players who have made bass a unique niche in its own right. Basses in this category are called ERBs. That is the extended range basses.
These basses are highly dynamic. They drill into the deepest core of bass, revealing all the hidden bass tones yet to be discovered. And making the heavy metal players more equipped and unmatched by the best stompboxes or computers.
But while the advantages may turn out to be tremendous, the extended range basses do come with their own downsides. First off, they are super-expensive. Then again, they get you busier, choking you with multiple tuning machines to control as you play. Another snag is that these basses hardly stay in tune longer than the basic 4-strings bass.
So…how many strings are best for you?
How Many Strings Should You Get?
There’s no hard and fast rule about this, really. The number of strings you should play is determined by the number of strings you can play skillfully without getting overwhelmed. But here’s my verdict.
If you’re an expert, someone who performs on the stage, an ERB will go a long way to make you more creative in your performances as long as you can skillfully handle the control. One thing to note, however, is that your ERB of choice should be such that stays in tune longer to avoid frustrations. You may want to check Fender’s line out. They do have some of the best ERBs on the market.
Otherwise, if you’re a beginner, a 2, 3, or 4 stringer is the best choice to hone in on your skills and develop your talent more comfortably.
There’s more to bass than 4 strings. You can always add more strings to your scale as you get better.