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From 4-String to 5-String – Some Tips on Making the Transition

Rogue LX205B Series II 5-string
I’ve had a few emails come in regarding challenges with transitioning to a 5-string bass from a 4-string, so here are some of my thoughts.

Anytime we make a transition to a new bass, whether more strings or a different make, there is some kind of adjustment period we need to allow ourselves. For many of us, this period can be frustrating and even discouraging to the point of not wanting to play this new instrument. However, I want you to remember this simple, yet profound quote from the German philosopher Goethe, “Everything is hard, before it is easy.” You and I must first go through the “hard” time of learning before the task will become easy, and believe me, it will become easy. How long will it take to get through the hard time? It depends on your ability, your discipline, and your patience.

Here are a few tips for getting used to your new 5-string:

Put your other bass in the case! If you want to learn a 5-string, then immerse yourself in it and commit to playing it until you got it.

Play songs. Enjoy getting to know the fifth string and how it relates to the other familiar four. Play some of the easiest songs you know, play some simple Blues lines, or even some familiar scales or arpeggios. Sometimes, it’s easy to make things hardJ Make learning your new instrument as much fun as you can.

Learn new songs. Learning a new song on your new bass is a great way to incorporate the new feel of that fifth

Overplay on the new fifth string. If it’s the low-B then, try to play a few songs with just root notes on the E and the B string, or the G and C if you’re adding the high-C. Your fingers are going to want to play the B in the same way as the E so, force them to learn the difference. Remember, we’re involving all our senses as we learn, so engage your ears, as they hear how the new notes relate to the feel of the strings.

Bring it to your next gig. Play your next gig ONLY with the 5-string. Leave your other bass at home! Having the “crutch” of your old familiar bass with you might be too tempting. Having only the 5-string will put you in a “sink or swim” situation and help you make the transition quicker. Mistakes will happen, but so will progress!


Remember, be patient with yourself and consistent with your new bass. Play often, have fun and enjoy those thundering low notes!