The Lowdown Showdown: Comparing 4-String and 5-String Bass Guitars

In the world of bass guitars, the choice between a 4-string and a 5-string instrument is not just a matter of string count. It’s a decision that can significantly impact your playing style, musical versatility, and even your wallet. In this guide, I will explain the differences between these two types of bass guitars, from the number of strings to playing styles and more. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to pick the right bass for your musical journey.

Number of Strings & Tonal Range

A 4-string bass guitar has the classic bass configuration, with strings usually tuned to E, A, D, and G from thickest to thinnest. This tuning provides a range of lower and higher notes, but it doesn’t go as deep as a 5-string bass.

The 5-string bass guitar has the additional low B string added below the E string. This extra string extends the bass guitar’s tonal range, allowing it to reach deeper, more resonant notes. As a result, the 5-string bass offers a broader spectrum of notes, especially in the low-end frequencies. This expanded tonal range makes it well-suited for music styles that require deeper, richer sounds, such as metal, jazz fusion, and certain funk styles.

Below are some of my favorite Bass Guitar Strings to use:


Both 4-string and 5-string bass guitars are super versatile. The 4-string one is like an all-purpose musician, perfect for lots of music styles—rock, jazz, you name it! It’s easy to learn and fits in well with most bands.

On the other hand, a 5-string bass guitar is like a specialist. It’s excellent for music styles that need deeper, heavier notes, like metal or jazz fusion. The extra low string adds a lot of depth to the music.

Either way you can adjust your bass to play in different tunings through drop tuning or downtuning.

Playing Techniques

You can do all sorts of cool stuff with both types of bass guitars. Whether it’s slap/pop, tapping, picking, fingerstyle, or strumming, both the 4-string and 5-string bass guitars let you do it all. There’s no limit to the techniques you can try!

If you are looking to learn or improve your tapping technique, check out these videos: 

Transposition and Fretboard Navigation

Changing the key of a song is totally doable on both 4-string and 5-string bass guitars. The 5-string bass has a cool perk with that extra string, giving you lower notes to play around with. But here’s the neat trick: with both bass types, you can mess with the tuning!

If you want different tones, you can try drop tuning or downtuning.

Weight and Neck Width

A 4-string bass guitar is usually lighter and has a slimmer neck. It won’t weigh you down, and the neck feels just right for most people. It’s great for long gigs and practice sessions.

On the other hand, a 5-string bass can be a bit heavier because of the extra string, and it often has a wider neck. It might take a little getting used to, but it can handle the extra string and the deep notes it brings. Some bassists find it super comfortable, while others prefer the lighter feel of a 4-string.


The cost gap between 4-string and 5-string bass guitars changes depending on the brand, quality, materials, and extras they come with. You can get affordable used bass guitars from places like Guitar Center, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. If you want a new budget-friendly bass, it might not carry a big brand name, but that’s okay and worth considering. In another article, I’ll dive deeper in another article about what to consider when pricing bass guitars and accessories.

4-String Bass Guitars: Just Googling 4-string basses, I saw basses priced as low as $79.99 (non-name brand) and as high as $1,200 and above.

5-String Bass Guitars: The lowest price point I found started at $99.99 and could go all the way up to $2,790. 🤯

In general, 5-string bass guitars tend to be slightly more expensive than their 4-string counterparts due to the added string and potentially more complex construction.

For the most current and accurate pricing, it’s best to check the official websites of the brands mentioned or reputable music retailers like Guitar Center, Sweetwater, or local instrument shops. Prices can fluctuate based on promotions, sales, or changes in the market.

Genre and Personal Preference

Explore the role of musical genre and personal preference in a bassist’s choice between a 4-string and a 5-string bass, and discover why some bassists opt for both to cover a broader spectrum of musical situations.

The decision between a 4-string and a 5-string bass guitar is a nuanced one, encompassing factors like tonal range, playing style, and musical genre. By thoroughly understanding these distinctions, you can confidently select the instrument that suits your needs and preferences, ultimately enhancing your musical journey. Whether you’re drawn to the simplicity of a 4-string bass or the extended possibilities of a 5-string, this guide equips you with the knowledge to make an informed choice.



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