Fender is probably about the most trusted name in bass gear, but for many years they stayed away from building a 5 string bass. However, by the late 1990’s they embraced the evolution of the instrument and started making different types of five’ers to suit just about any taste or budget. Read on for the Fender 5 string bass guitar guide
The Fender Precision bass was the first model ever produced by the company in 1951 and helped take the electric bass guitar from a novelty to become the dominant instrument of choice for providing the low end. For this reason it seems only fitting that our exploration of Fender 5 string basses should begin with this modern take of the classic Fender Precision bass. While the Precision may have been the first model of the four string variety of the bass, the 5 string precision bass was a rarity until it went into regular production in 2008. Fender didn’t just slap an extra string on the bass, they took the time to upgrade the hardware, included graphite rods to further stabilize the neck and experimented with the bass electronics until they came up with a sound that was faithful to the Fender legacy – just with an extra string.
The Precision is a work-horse; it’s thick neck and single position split pickup contributes to its meaty low-end tone. While some may feel that the single pickup doesn’t offer a wide variety of sounds – the sound you get out of it is muscular mid-ranged madness! The simple controls and passive electronics make this bass great for beginners that aren’t troubled by having a larger profile neck. Pictured above is an American Standard Fender 5 string Precision bass guitar in with a white body and rosewood finger board – delicious!
The Fender Jazz bass may have come a few years after the introduction of the Precision bass, but it plays second-fiddle to none! The Jazz bass was designed from the start with a thinner neck to make it easier for guitarists to double on bass, but bassists soon took to the bass in droves. They especially liked having two pickups for more options to customize their bass tone. The controls on the Fender Jazz 5 string bass guitar are the same as the four string version: a dedicated volume control for the neck pickup, another for the bridge pickup and a tone control.
Just like the original Fender Jazz Bass, the electronics on this baby are passive and the amount of sounds you can get out of it are impressive. The two single coil pickups cancel out hum when they are both at maximum volume, but if you solo one pickup (by completely reducing the volume on the other pickup) you can usually hear the hum – especially if there are neon lights present. Despite this ‘flaw’, many famous bassists swear by the two single coil pickup configuration. Jaco Pastorius found his sound by heavily favoring the bridge pickup and playing close to the bridge with his fingers. Just like the updated Fender 5 string Precision bass, this Jazz bass has been upgraded with a graphite reinforced neck, light weight tuners and bridge and a vintage-look finish that ages beautifully. Pictured is a Jazz bass with a black body, white pick guard and rosewood finger board – yummy!
For those that want to have a Fender 5 string bass guitar with a very strong retro look to match, look no further than the amazing Marcus Miller signature Fender 5 string bass! This bass uses ash and maple hardwoods commonly used in 70’s-era Fender basses in grand style featuring inlaid block position markers and the steel hand rest for that truly vintage look – on a 5 string bass! This bass truly brings the retro funk while incorporating the low b string for ultra deep and modern sounds at a moments notice.
The Marcus Miller Signature 5 string Jazz bass features a black ash body with a black pick guard along with a maple neck and finger board with an aged looking finish -bootylicious!
Other 5 string Fender Jazz basses that can be had from the signature line includes the Roscoe Beck 5 string jazz bass as well as the Victory Bailey Jazz Bass V.
If the American Standard, Deluxe or Signature Fender electric basses are a little too pricey for you, they also offer Mexican import versions as well as their Squire line of basses that are targetted at the more budget-conscious crowd. While much cheaper, the quality of even the more affordable basses have been getting raves from customers on bass forums online in the last few years. Fender offers great warranties on their instruments and each new purchase also includes a Fender hard shell case.
While these basses were a long time coming, the wait was well worth it. Fender took their time to ensure that their 5 string incarnation retained a sound that was faithful to the original while also being able to produce a solid low b string that sounds great, responds well and isn’t too floppy or muddy sounding. While earlier 5 string Jazz basses that incorporated active electronics were criticized for not sounding quite like a Fender, these updates manage to blend the best aspects of the Fender traditional look and style with modern features to make them a true contender for anyone looking for a serious five string bass that can handle the road and the recording studio. There’s a reason why it seems almost every bassist you see on the scene is playing a Fender: they’re workhorses that sound and look great. Fender set the standard for basses for which every other builder has followed. Fenders have been used exclusively on some of the most famous recordings ever made – so chances are that just about any sound you hear in your head when you think of an electric bass – can be made by a Fender.
Now you don’t have to be left out of the Fender club if a 5 string bass is your preferred instrument. You don’t have to pay for a boutique bass anymore with the distinctive look and modern features – Fender’s done it themselves. Whether you’re a fan of the company or not – you owe it to yourself to check out their latest offerings if you’re in the market for a kick-butt five string bass guitar.
Thanks for reading this Fender 5 string bass guitar guide!