Switching to a Six String Bass 25 Years Later

For musicians, their main instrument isn’t just a “tool” that they reach for to unleash music and melody upon the world – it also becomes an extension of themselves.

When it comes to bass players, most of us tend to settle pretty early on a particular number of strings.

Five and Six String Basses Come on the Scene

Even though 5 and 6 string basses have been mass produced and within the price range of just about any bassist for the last 2 decades or so, many famous players have made the conscious decision to stick with the traditional 4 string electric bass as their main instrument.

Up until about a month and a half ago – Jason Raso was among the bass playing population that had decided that a four string bass was “home”. Sure he’d played 5 and 6 string basses…even owing a five, but for him the longer scale length was the deal breaker.

But the combination of writing new compositions specifically for solo bass along with a chance encounter with a virtually one-of-a-kind instrument from a local bass luthier changed everything for Jason.

Nobody was more surprised than him to be making the switch after 25 years of playing a four string bass.

In this interview, you’ll learn:

  • Why Jason chose to make the switch to a six string bass
  • What adjustments has he had to make to handle the extra strings
  • What instrument caught his eye and ushered him into the six string universe
  • The story behind how he ended up checking out some sweet custom basses at a local bass builder’s shop.
  • Some of the features and specs that made this six string impossible for Jason to resist

Thanks to Jason for spreading the word about his switch to an amazing six string bass.
As I mentioned in the interview, I rounded up two clips of Jason playing one of his newest songs called Spinning Forth on both a Fodera 4 string as well as his new F Bass six string.

Not only does it allow you to see and hear his new F Bass, but you can also see how he’s changed up his hand position and how he’s taking advantage of the extended range of note choices that a six string bass provides.

Here’s Spinning Forth as performed on a Fodera 4 string bass:

Here’s Spinning Forth as performed on a F Bass BN6 short scale bass:

Have Your Say:

Have you considered making the switch to a six string bass? Have you played a six string? What did you like or not like about it? Share your experience below in the comments.

  • Nice conversation Mike and Jason. It was very applicable to my situation where I started on a string bass and then on to a mid-seventies Mustang which was about as far as could be scaled down. That was my main bass for 20 years until I went to a 34″ scale Ibanez SR1200 with longer strings with tighter spacing. That was a minor change from one four to another. Extended range was a novelty and I stayed traditional except for the modern sound.

    Quit the band to raise a family and gave those basses to aspiring nephews leaving me with a shorter scale acoustic/electric to play on the couch. Fast forward to last month when I found myself in another band with a hollow body that couldn’t be tamed in the rehearsal space. We also have a song in E-flat and I didn’t want to de-tune just for that.

    Obviously, I needed a bass that could hit new lows so I finally made the switch to 5-string. When I played the Schecter 35″ scale bass, it looked and felt like a disembodied hand out there on the neck so I wound up with another Ibanez. Well, actually two of them; one with the HH Barolinis and the other with the Nordstand big singles. The Nordy’s make their own sonic space and get the primary job.

    String spacing was one adjustment to make but muting the E (where my right thumb used to rest) is the tricky part. I’m trying to convince my right ring finger to keep in touch with it but that takes away from the finger attack which defines my style. Not even in my dreams, can I play like Jason but any tips for taming the one extra string would be appreciated.

    Keep up the good information flow.

  • Hey John,

    Thanks for sharing your journey to the five string with us. Jason recently switched from his six string to a five string (with a high “C”). We keep in touch so I’ll pass your question along to him. Hopefully he can answer it here in the comments.

  • Thank you John!
    I think the muting the B string has been the hardest part of moving to a 6 string. I’ve been using the plucking hand thumb to mute. Instead of planting it on the pickup or the string I have been using more of a “floating” thumb technique a la Alain Caron.

  • Ok I just switched to a 6 after over 35 years of playing bass. I already played 4 and 5. For me the issues are the high C string noises. That sometimes occur. This bass is 36” scale and that has not been an issue as I had played a 35” scale Lakeland for years also. But the string spacing on this 6 is 17mm so that is taking a while to get comfortable with. I think 18mm string spacing would be ideal. My full spacing basses are 19mm or .750”. ie fender spacing. I am loving the bass and playing 6 is opening up ideas just got to get more consistent with string crossings. It is easy to get one string off at times. Haaa.

  • Thanks for writing about your six string adventures Tom, just curious what bass you’re playing? I recently did some six string experimentation and borrowed an Ibanez Soundgear 6 String bass in an attempt to try my hand at a “Royal Blood” style two-piece band with a simulated/distorted guitar along with my bass signal. It was fun and challenging…beyond high C string noise and string spacing issues I also had to wrestle with effects – which is a whole other rabbit hole to fall into.

  • Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic article.Much thanks again. Really Cool.

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