An argument for the 6-string bass

Below is a video by Janek Gwizdala published a few months back on what it’s like to pick up and play a proper 6-string bass. And “proper” means one that has been set up correctly with an appropriate string set of the correct thicknesses, string saddles with correctly set height, a neck that has had its relief set correctly, and so on.

In the video, you will see Janek genuinely enjoying his experimentation with the 6…

…and that’s the whole point of owning a 6-string bass. The 6 is able to do things that would otherwise be difficult or simply not possible on the 4. But even so, there’s a point in the video where Janek says, “Real bass time for all the purists out there” and grabs a 4-string, so even he knows there will always be the 4-string-or-nothing bass player crowd.

Exploring outside of the comfort zone

At the 10-minute mark, it’s also mentioned in the video that for many 4-string players, playing a 6 can go outside of bass player’s comfort zone. True? Yes, absolutely.

The best argument for the 6-string however is that if as a 4-string player you’re feeling too “boxed in”, so to speak, the 6 with its extra low B and extra high C (standard tuning for 6 is generally considered to be B-E-A-D-G-C) could be just the thing you’re looking for.

Is the 6-string here to stay?

The market seems to think so. While there have been high-end boutique 6-string basses for some time, there are now mass production versions available for under $500 USD, and that’s a fairly recent thing to happen.

We, of course, have a good selection of 6-string bass pickups ad 6-string bass bridges to choose from when you’re ready to upgrade your 6-string.

Check out the video below and let us know what you think of the 6-string bass by posting a comment or two.

11 thoughts on “An argument for the 6-string bass

  1. Oh boys & girls, please!……..

    Back in the day, I’d hear pedal tones from extenders on double basses, & out of B-3’s, but always wanted my P bass to go lower(it is a bass, you know). There was too much flap w/the older flatwound strings & tension issues.

    Then came the 80’s & the 5. Sign me up!
    Play what you enjoy, & makes you groove.

  2. I built my own neck thru fretless 6 and love it. The low end sounds like an upright and the upper a cello. Of course, that has a lot to do with the settings I prefer. I am predominantly a small group jazz musician and love the tone and flexibility my 6 gives me.

  3. I had one, and sold it. It was a fine instrument, but not for me. Sweeping across the fingerboard was easier than running up and down the neck, but I hated the feel of the wide fingerboard. I just like old school. Four strings works for Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller. It worked for Jaco. So I have lots to explore and learn with my 4 strings, thank you.

    • I have been a 4 string player all my life. Bass in my world is low end. Years back I researched BEAD without realizing a lot of other folks were too. The five string was out and I did string thickness comparisons. I bought a selection of various 5 string sets. At this time I owned a Tobias 4 string, my preference. After much measuring over the nut and string path to the Bridge. After several tries, I found LaBella Flatwound Lights for 5 String worked great. Eventually I did purchase a 5 String Tobias Growler in an auction, I use DR Black Beauties on that Axe. I’m getting the hang of playing BEAD on my 4 string, The same on my 5 string, I have to force myself to use the G.

  4. I have played many basses and I always come back to the four. The extra colors of the six string are fun to draw with, but the standard gray pencil of a four string are all that’s needed. I always have a bass setup and tuned BEAD so I just grab that if I want to go low. I just prefer the sound of a plucked or picked bass or guitar. When a player gets more then four strings on a bass it seems they tend to slap, pop and tap more prodominantly. Then the bass becomes a hand held piano kind of and I feel a different instrument entirely. That being said I love nothing more then listening to Dave Schools playing piano chords on his six string then tearing up the neck and dropping into a fat country kind of groove. There’s a time and place for everything!

  5. I’ve been playing the 6 string bass for 12 years now, and will probably never go back to 5 or 4. It came in quite handy when I played in a trio. I would play bar chords off of the 1st, 2nd. and 3rd with some distortion. The bottom never dropped out when the guitarist played their solo. When asked “why a 6 string?” I just say, “guitar envy”.

  6. It’s not the instrument you play it’s what you play on the instrument. You can be just as tasty (or not) regardless of the number of strings. I choose extended range basses not only for the additional available notes but also for the ergonomics of where on the neck notes become available.

  7. I like the 6 STRING FRETLESS with my custom and always have, even my 4 & 5 stringers as well, where the low E is tuned to the C# three semi tones lower. So to reach the standard range of a 20 fret bass i need 24 frets but the low B tunes to a G# below A° on the piano keybooard and requires speakers capable of 25hz and up. Six makes the fretboard stretching much less tedious and difficult wifh the easier sweeping a normal groove pattern just using different fingerings on the custom tuned bass. Advantages are playing along with ANY RECORDING EVER RECORDED ON BASS AND ALWAYS BE IN TUNE BY ADJUSTING THE FINGER POSITIONINGS ON THE FRETBOARD to correlate to the tuning to what you are playing along with. Close your eyes and let your imagination run wild!! A major plus!! I play all types of music including heavy metal alternative lues r&b classic rock country western jazz and drop C and D tunings. So enjoy what you play your playground is unlimited by todays standards by the many elite musicians now playing bass. Claypool Hamm Wooten Pastorius Schacher. Look them listen to all their bass solos………….

  8. 6 strings are fun, but if you are an older player with some arthritis in the hands and wrist, it is tough to play with that wide neck. Also, there are a lot more sympathetic vibrations that need to be muted out.

  9. I bought my 6 ten years ago. The 6 is more for jazz players. If you play rock, R&B or blues you don’t need a six. But jazz is all about being avant garde. In the hands of a master like Gerald Veasley, John Pattitucci, or Steve Bailey it really is cool sounding.

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