4 String Vs 5 String Bass | What’s The Difference?

man holding a 5 string bass guitar

4 String Vs 5 String Bass | What’s The Difference?

4 String vs 5 String Bass



  • Four-string basses are great for beginners and those looking to play traditional rock, blues, and country music. 
  • Five-string basses are preferred by jazz musicians and those who play in orchestras. 
  • Four-string basses have a thinner neck and different fret spacing, making it easier for those with little experience to play.  


You may have searched for the best basses in your price range, only to discover that not all of them come with the traditional four strings. String count aside, unlike a guitar vs a bass, the differences between 4-string vs 5-string bass models can be subtle. Similar to fretless and fretted bass guitars, the number of strings on your instrument will be influenced by the type of music you play, your experience level, and your play style. 


Of course, depending on how the shop sets up your new bass, you may want to invest in a better quality set of strings. Check out our list of the best bass strings we could find to see which ones might suit you. Just like knowing how how to clean a bass guitar is part of essential maintenance, keeping your strings on your instrument is also important.  

Differences Between 4 String and 5 String Bass 

Whether you slap the bass or just plain pluck it, the string count on your bass matters. So once you’ve sorted out whether you want an acoustic bass vs electric bass and, if you prefer to play with a pick, the differences between bass picks vs guitar picks, the next step is to consider the how many strings you want. So, just what are the differences between 4- and 5-string basses?

Ease of Learning


Much like a standard guitar, a 4-string bass model is the typical setup. It’s also often recommended for beginners because it’s easy to learn during the early stages of musical instruction. A 5-string bass is often used by experienced players who want more versatility with its extended lower range. That said, some argue that, if your end goal is to play a 5-string, then you should start on one.

Tonal Range

All 4-string basses are tuned exactly one octave lower than a standard guitar on the same notes: E-A-D-G. Conversely, 5-string basses provide and extended tonal range with the addition of a 5th string. In this case, the extra string can either fall above or below the standard tuning, either adding a low B or a high C. This means that the tuning on a 5-string bass can either be B-E-A-D-G or E-A-D-G-C, depending on your preference.  

Neck Size

4-string basses have a narrow neck profile, which gives more room between the strings and makes them easier to play. A 5-string, on the other hand, has a slightly broader neck that can be hard to play for those with smaller hands.


A 4-string bass weighs around 8.5 to 9.5 lbs, whereas a 5-string bass can be significantly heavier. Some 5-strings can weigh as much as 15 lbs. You’ll want to take this into consideration when deciding on an instrument.


When considering what type of bass to buy, know that the more strings you want, the more you’ll likely pay. While there are always bargains, the general rule is fewer strings will be less expensive. 


The price range for a cheap 4-string bass usually begins at around $150 to $200, while 5-strings start at $250 to $350. For more expensive models, you can find a nice 4-string for $600 to $800. And while you can also find a nicer 5-string in this price range, expect to pay closer to $1,000 to $1,500. 


4-String vs 5-String Bass FAQs

What are 6-string basses used for?

Typically, players looking for access to higher notes without moving up the neck want to go for a six-string bass guitar. 


Is it possible to slap bass on a 5-string bass?

The 5th string makes it slightly more difficult because there is less space, but 5-string basses are still commonly used for slap bass styles.  


Why do session musicians need a 5-string bass? 

A session bass player needs the 5th string because sheet music is usually written in a 5-string format. 



It’s always best to choose a bass depending on your style and comfort level with the instrument. 



The average price of a five-string bass will be 5-10% more than a four-string bass. (source)



5-string basses tend to weigh more than four strings, which can be an issue for those who have back or neck issues. 


VS Comparison Table


  4 String  5 String
Playability X  
Note Range   X
Cost X  
Tuning Ease   X








Nathan Rizzuti
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