In this lesson I’m going to give you a few tips on moving over from 4 to 5 string bass. I cover some of the common problems and then some ways to make things much easier.

Differences Between 4 and 5 String Basses

  • Amount of strings (Obviously!)
  • Weight – 5 strings are generally heavier due to the slightly bigger body and neck
  • String Spacing – 4 strings have a wider string spacing (how far apart the strings are)

Tuning A 5 String

The most popular system for tuning a 5 string is B E A D G. This gives you a low B string and five extra notes that you can’t reach on a 4 (Eb, D, Db, C and B).

Another way to tune a 5 string bass is E A D G C. This gives you an extra high string instead of the low B. This tuning lets you reach higher notes in each position which can be great for different chord voicings, melodies and soloing.

Check out these great players that use high C strings:

  • Janek Gwizdala
  • Matt Garrison
  • Hadrian Feraud

Getting Used To A 5 String

  • Play a 5 string as if it were a 4. Ignore the extra string and let yourself get used to having it there for a while.
  • Rest your thumb on the B string to mute it when playing other strings.
  • Use the lower string sparingly. Don’t rush into playing low notes all the time as it may not fit the song. Try adding a few notes and see how they sound before jumping straight into playing everything down there.
  • Learn the new notes ASAP! Knowing the notes on the fretboard is essential otherwise you will be guessing all the time. Try learning the C major scale just on the bottom string as then you will have the natural notes under your belt already.

Floating Thumb Technique

In this technique, the thumb rests alongside the fingers and presses against the strings to mute any residual humming. The floating thumb has a few advantages over regular anchored fingerpicking.

  • Muting – all of the strings below the one you are playing get muted without you specifically targeting them.
  • Hand and wrist positions – the floating thumb is a relaxed hand position so it sets you ups in a good position to start with.


  • Lay the thumb across all of the strings to begin
  • Use the side edge of the thumb and keep the hand at a slight angle
  • Use the arm to move your hand across the strings

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