Most bass guitars have four strings, but don’t be intimidated by that extra string on a 5-stringer. A 5-string bass can add a whole new feel to a song — plus, it’s just fun.
In this article, we’ll cover what that fifth string does, what you should look for in a bass, and how learning bass can make you a better guitarist.
How Learning Bass Can Help Your Guitar Playing
Playing bass can actually make you a better guitarists
The bass notes in a chord progression can totally change the trajectory of a song. And learning how to play bass can really help you guitar playing
The most important way bass playing can help your guitar playing is with rhythm. The bass is a rhythm instrument (it’s supposed to match the kick drum), and it’s crucial to have good rhythm as a guitarist. It’s what separates okay guitarists from great guitarists.
Typically, the bass note played is the root note of the chord. So if you learn the ins and outs of bass, it can help you understand why certain guitar chords have the names they do. Knowing bass also allows you to figure out more interesting chord progressions and better comprehend others’ chord progressions.
And because bass frets are wider than guitar frets, playing bass can improve your finger dexterity and strengthen your hand muscles (which is good news if you want to play fingerstyle guitar).
What To Look For In A Bass Guitar
There are certain qualities to keep an eye out for in a bass
At the most basic level, your bass should have frets. You don’t want a fretless bass until you’ve mastered playing the fretted bass.
If you’re just starting out with bass or if you have small hands, it may be better to choose one with a short scale (smaller frets). Then you can work your way up to a normal-scale bass.
It also may be a good idea to choose a bass with simple controls. The fewer knobs you have to understand, the more time you can spend playing bass.
And then, of course, there are the factors of money and look. Usually, the more expensive basses look fancier, but the more affordable basses still look fly. It’ll be a balancing act of finding a bass you love that’s also within your budget.
5-String Bass vs. 4-String Bass
Four strings are cool, but have you ever tried five?
Is it better to have a 5-string bass or a 4-string bass? Can we say one is better than the other? First, let’s look at both.
A 4-string bass is tuned the same as the bottom four strings of a guitar: E-A-D-G. A 5-string bass, however, adds a low B string below the E that gives you notes that really hit you in the gut.
Most people recommend you start with a 4-string bass, but a 5-string bass is the same thing just with an optional string. So you can start out with a 5-string and just ignore the lowest string until you’re ready to try it.
The Best 5-String Bass Guitar For Beginners
The best 5-string bass for beginners we found is the Fender Squier Affinity Jazz V.
It’s got two single-coils, one in the neck pickup and the other in the bridge pickup. The neck pickup provides a nice mellow sound while the bridge pickup is a bit more edgy.
For the lower price point it’s at, it does pretty well. If you have a good quality amp, this bass can work on stage, and if you have some nice processing effects, it can work in the studio too.
It’s a great option for beginners — it’s affordable, easy to play for a 5-string bass, and it has simple controls.
The Overall Best 5-String Bass Guitar
Now for the best 5-string basses currently on the market. We’ve compiled seven of the best bass guitars in terms of performance that also fit beginner bassists perfectly.
Ibanez Gio GSR105EXMOL
Ibanez is one of the best bass-makers in the game (you’ll see a few of their basses on this list). And the Ibanez Gio GSR105EXMOL is one of the best of its low-budget models.
It’ll give that fat sound you love about bass guitars (thanks to its solo humbucker) and a punchy tone that demands attention. Plus, it’s got a maple stained mahogany body that gives it a beautiful face.
Dean Edge 09
The single-humbucker Dean Edge 09 bass has a sleek black body that’s curved for the highest comfort possible. It has a maple neck to make it easier for your hands to slide along smoothly.
It’s meant mainly for metal and hard rock because the pickup doesn’t provide much finesse or detail. So it has a dirty, gritty tone, which works really well for some genres or songs.
The Ibanez GSR205
Thanks to the two pickups on the Ibanez GSR205, you’ll get a clear tone while still feeling the umph. Because of that, it can work in a multitude of genres, like heavy metal, jazz, and even folk music.
This one has four knobs that aren’t labeled, so they may confuse some beginner bassists. But what those knobs do is pretty nifty. It’s call a Phat II EQ and it helps shape the tone to your liking.
Schecter Omen Extreme 5
Even though the Schecter Omen Extreme 5 is a bit more expensive than the other bass guitars on this list, it delivers the tone you’d expect at that price point: awesomeness. And you’re able to dial in the tone with its four-knob EQ setup.
It works great — but not exclusively — with metal. Because you have such control over the tone, it can work with nearly any genre. It can range from tender to aggressive, punchy to fat.
But again, you’ll pay a little more for the higher quality it offers.
The Yamaha TRBX605 is one of the more expensive bass guitars on this list, but it’s also the most impressive.
It’s got power, it’s got tone, it’s got EQ controls — everything you want in a bass. The tone is clear yet still with a good amount of umph, which makes it good for rock and metal. However, you can adjust the controls to give a warmer, more subtle sound that works perfectly with blues, jazz, and folk.
The point is, it’s a versatile bass that you can adjust to your needs.
The Ibanez SR405EQM allows you to play around with the EQ to customize your bass tone. Plus, it has something called the Power Tap feature, which (you guessed it) boosts the power of the tone.
This bass is great for beginners who have a little bigger of a budget, or experts who are looking to upgrade. Basically, you get what you pay for.
Schecter Stiletto Studio-5
The Schecter Stiletto Studio-5 bass may seem more expensive than the other options here, but is worth every penny. It delivers a clear tone that is both powerful yet crisp. It also has great sustain, and the EQ controls let you customize it even further.
Performing extra well in rock and jazz settings, this bass gives you an impressive sound. Newer bassists may complain that it’s heavy on the shoulders, but the tone may be worth the weight.
It’s difficult to pick just one of these bass guitars — they’re all solid options if you’re just starting out on the bass.
But our recommendation is the Dean Edge 09. It’s the best balance of quality and affordability. Even though it’s suited best for heavy rock, you can still use it in any other genre. It provides the gut-pounding force you need and an enjoyable tone.