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Thread: Playing a five string vs a four

  1. #1

    Default Playing a five string vs a four

    I have been thinking about a 5 string, but wondering about how hard they are to play.

    The simplicity of a 4 string was originally why I switched from guitar to mandolin. So far so good.

    The beauty of 4 string closed chords, movable anywhere, is a huge benefit of mandolin. Seems like this would be lost on a 5 string.

    So I am thinking a 5-string is more suited to melodies, and 2-3 string chords, and less for the standard type of strumming/comping you would do on a four-string.

    It seems like string muting would require more effort too.

    Is this correct? More or less?
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    Depends on the kind of music you play and how you want to chord. For me, too many noters can get muddy.

    The 5 string doesn't mess with your mind any more than learning chords (3 or 4 finger) on the D,A and E strings. Now you have a new set of chords starting on those new, lower tones. Each of those sets of chords required a bit of brain reprocessing. Now you have 9 inversions to choose from, and not even counting the rootless ones!

    Other than than, not much different except you have another string to mute and more notes to choose from.
    Play it like you mean it.

  3. #3
    Americana in France? Daniel Nestlerode's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    I chord mostly on the bottom three strings (CGD). Getting up to the E string is a bit of a finger twister. It's harder to mute the C string than the E string, so 5 note chords are called for. But 42245 is not easy for an A chord and 42235 (Amin) is even harder.

    Have discovered how wonderful the keys of Fmaj, Bbmaj, and Gmin are. Seriously. A Bb chord is your friend with a low C.
    Play melodies and solos on all 5 strings

    Daniel

  4. #4

    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    Yeah this kinda agrees with what I was thinkin'. I just got an e-mandola to play with and if my tired old brain can deal with transposing everything a fifth (to avoid the tedium of editting lead sheets), then that may be an easier route to get a little lower than a mandolin, and still let me use FFCP chords and licks. A lead-melody-only instrument isn't the droid I am looking for right now.
    Trinity College TM325 Octave Mandolin (converted to 4-string tenor guitar).
    Eastman MD-605SB, MD-604SB, MD-305, all with Grover 309 tuners.
    Eastwood 4 string electric mandostang, 2x Airline e-mandola (4-string) one strung as an e-OM.
    DSP's: Helix HX Stomp, various Zooms.
    Amps: QSC-K10, DBR-10, THR-10, Sony XB-20.

  5. #5
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    I love 5 course instruments tuned in fifths. I've got a C-G-D-A-E 10 string mandola, 10 string mandocello and 10 string Hardanger viola. I also have a 5 string viola and 5 string octave viola. Its great having a bigger range for chords and melody.

  6. #6
    Quietly Making Noise Dave Greenspoon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    I love having the low C available for chordings. Barre chords can be your friend on the 5. Having more real estate for runs up or down is also nice.
    Axes: Rigel A Natural #1774 w/mods, Andrew Jerman Irwin-style 5 string electric "Stealie", Eastman 515, Shiro F-5, Crafter M85E, Dillion 335 style, Grandmom's solid-mahogany teens bent-top, Baglamas 002
    Boards: Acoustic Electric
    Amps: Fishman Loudbox 100; Rivera Clubster Royale Recording Head; Laney Cub 10 & Cab, Peavey Studio Pro

  7. #7
    Registered Muser dang's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    The low C string really gives a nice depth to the chords, in contrast the 4 string can sound thin...

    But there is some learning curve to the 5 string, and there is something simple about a 4-string having one finger per string that makes me feel I can shred harder.

    Been trying to get familiar with the 5 string slowly, electric is a side thing for me, my bluegrass band would freak out if I showed up with an amp!
    I should be pickin' rather than postin'

  8. #8
    Harley Marty
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    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobart View Post
    I love 5 course instruments tuned in fifths. I've got a C-G-D-A-E 10 string mandola, 10 string mandocello and 10 string Hardanger viola. I also have a 5 string viola and 5 string octave viola. Its great having a bigger range for chords and melody.
    A 5 string octave viola must be a beast! What size is it & what strings does it take? (I have an 18" octave/tenor fiddle fitted with 3/4 cello strings)

  9. #9
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    Quote Originally Posted by Harley Marty View Post
    A 5 string octave viola must be a beast! What size is it & what strings does it take? (I have an 18" octave/tenor fiddle fitted with 3/4 cello strings)
    It's a regular 16.5" viola (with a high E) strung with Sensicore Octave strings. I use a heavier Incredibow on it. It really rattles my jaw on the low notes.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Playing a five string vs a four

    Quote Originally Posted by kurth83 View Post
    Is this correct? More or less?
    Pretty much.

    Think jazz - diads and triads vs big open chords. Comp on the lower 3 and solo on the upper.
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