How Many Strings Does a Bass Guitar Have?

Most know that bass guitars have a deeper sound than regular guitars. But not everyone knows how many strings are on a bass guitar. How many strings does a bass guitar have?

The most common type of bass guitar is the one with four strings. The strings are tuned to E-A-D-G, which corresponds to the four lowest strings of a regular guitar. But there are bass guitars with 5 or 6 strings that advanced bass guitarists use to get an extended lower range.

Read on to learn more about the strings on the bass guitar and tips for learning to play a 4-string bass.

How Many Strings Does a Bass Guitar Have?

how many strings does a bass guitar have

The most common type of bass guitar is the one with four strings. They are tuned to E-A-D-G, which corresponds to the four lowest strings of a guitar. But there are 5 or 6 strings that advanced bass guitarists use for the extended lower range.

Bass guitars aren’t popular for taking the centerstage. Nonetheless, it plays a vital role on the bandstand. It’s like glue holding all the other instruments that make a band. In fact, if there is any difference between an average song and a hit song, it all boils down to a solid bass line.

In this article, we will talk about bass guitars with 4, 5, and 6 strings. The best way to understand why there are bass guitars with 5 and 6 strings is to understand how to play a 4-string bass guitar.

Should I Play a 4-, 5-, or 6-string Bass?

The standard bass guitar has 4 strings, and most songs that we know of have been played on a 4-string bass guitar.

It was in the ‘80s when 5- and 6-string models became popular. But they existed as early as the 1950s.

Some bass guitarists have started using these models to add more range to the bass. This means that bassists become capable of reaching lower-pitched notes and higher-pitched notes. Bass guitars feature a wider frequency range compared to a standard-tuned 4-string bass guitar. These 5- and 6-strings models are also famous as extended-range bass.

There are several well-known bassists who have taken the bass guitar to new heights. They include American bassist Anthony Jackson, Karnivool band member Jon Stockman, and Grateful Dead founding member Phil Lesh.

Anthony Jackson is “one of the masters of the instrument.” He contributed to developing the modern 6-string bass guitar, which he fondly calls a contrabass guitar.

Is It Harder to Play a 5-String Bass Guitar?

As mentioned earlier, there are 5- and 6-string bass guitars aside from the standard 4-string bass guitar. There are also bass guitars with more than 6 strings, but they are not as commonly used as the 4-, 5-, and 6-string ones.

More strings mean that there is more to control and keep track of. Also, more strings mean some playing styles can become a bit trickier. There will also be more reaching and stretching on the neck of the bass and more strings to tune and adjust.

Suffice it to say that more strings mean that there’s more work and more practice involved. So, obviously, 5- and 6-string bass guitars are more difficult to play than the standard 4-string bass. 

But then, there’s nothing you can’t do if you are determined to learn to play it. All it takes is practice and perseverance. Besides, wouldn’t it be awesome if you’re capable of reaching more notes with a 6-string bass?

Learning to Play a 4-string Bass Guitar

how many strings on a bass guitar

Let’s talk about the first three steps you should do when learning to play a 4-string bass guitar. These include the following:

  1. Choosing a Bass Guitar to Use
  2. Learning to Read Bass Tabs
  3. Practicing Bass for Beginners

1. Choosing a Bass Guitar to Use

To prepare for your bass guitar lesson, the first thing to do is, of course, to have your own bass guitar. If you still don’t have one, remember that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on your very first bass guitar.

As a beginner, it is alright to start with an entry-level one. As your skills progress, you’ll be exposed to many other guitar models. You don’t have to rush as you will eventually find yourself owning high-end models as you level up.

When you start looking for an entry-level bass guitar that suits you best, the very first thing to do is to set a budget. Then, gain an understanding of the fundamental parts of a bass guitar. Being familiar with its parts, its different manufacturers, and how it is built will aid you in asking the right questions while guitar hunting.

Fundamental Parts of a Bass Guitar

To give you a brief overview of the fundamental parts of a bass guitar, let’s talk about the following:

  • Neck: The bass guitar’s neck consists of an internal truss rod, fretboard, and headstock.
  • Headstock: Headstock is the wider part of the guitar at the end of the neck, where you will find the tuning pegs. These tuning pegs are used for adjusting the string tension. They are used for changing the pitch and tuning the bass guitar.
  • Fretboard: Also known as the fingerboard, the fretboard is a long piece of material laminated to the front of the neck of an instrument. It is typically made of maple, ebony, or rosewood. The quality of fretboards varies, and the best ones are smooth enough to move your fingers over conveniently. Typically, they are arched slightly from one side to another. This arch is, in fact, the radius.
  • Frets: Frets are embedded in the fretboard and appear as thin metal strips. They divide the neck into half-step increments. At the same time, they identify where each note on the neck is played. You have probably noticed fretless bass guitars. However, playing it requires you to have greater skill. For beginners, the best bass guitars will always be the fretted ones.
  • Truss Rod: The truss rod is the one that connects the neck to the body of the bass guitar. It is important as it keeps the neck from twisting.

Bass strings are way thicker than guitar strings. That’s why they exert too much pressure on the neck. The bass guitar’s neck tends to bend forward by adjusting the truss rod and slightly relief. Truss rods are also used for adjusting the string height.

2. Learning to Read Bass Tabs

The bass tablature, more commonly known as the bass tabs, is a simple music notation system that will aid you in learning how to play bass guitar. Bass tabs are available through bass magazines, books, and even on music websites.

Learning to read tabs in order to play bass is an ideal method for beginners. However, it can never replace being able to read music notation or chord charts. Tabs merely show where to play a note and don’t give details involving the rhythm of the bassline.

Reading Bass Tabs vs Reading Standard Musical Notation

Nonetheless, it is more convenient to read tabs compared to reading standard musical notation. It is great to use tabs to be able to quickly learn basslines, particularly your favorite ones. Then, eventually work on developing your standard music reading skills. This will enable you to become a well-rounded musician.

The bass tab system shows bass strings drawn horizontally in which the lowest and thickest string is the one at the bottom.

Notes are then indicated as fret numbers. In a tab, you will most likely see numbers between 0 and 24. This is because most basses have 20 to 24 frets.

So, to read tabs, you start with the first number indicated on the lowest string. In which case, it is the E string. Then, it is followed by the next number on the next string, which is the A string, and so on.

A bass tab does not indicate the rhythm. It merely shows the order and the position of the notes. Occasionally, rhythms are marked with the count indicated under the fret numbers. But to get the rhythm of a piece correctly, it is always best to listen intently to the song you’re practicing.

In essence, bass tabs are fret numbers on string lines. There’s not much to know about it, but it is a great method for beginners to learn to play quickly. It helps in learning to read standard musical notation and in memorizing note names on the instrument.

Again, how many strings does a bass guitar have? The standard bass guitar has 4 strings. The strings are tuned to E-A-D-G, which corresponds to the four lowest strings of a regular guitar. But there are bass guitars with 5 or 6 strings.

3. Practicing Bass for Beginners

number of strings on a bass guitar

While there are various types of bass guitars available, learning how to use the 4-string one is ideal for beginners.

The most common type of bass guitar is the one with four strings. They are tuned to E-A-D-G, which corresponds to the four lowest strings of a guitar. But there are 5 or 6 strings that advanced bass guitarists use for the extended lower range.

Just like when learning any musical instrument, practice is always the key to becoming an expert bass guitarist. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Practice Regularly
  • Avoid Distractions
  • Begin with Technique Exercises
  • Develop a Strong Sense of Time
  • Be Patient
  • Monitor Your Progress

Practice Regularly

Practicing at least 30 minutes every day is recommended. But if you can allot more time for practice, that would be better. On the contrary, it’s actually not about how much time you spend practicing. But it’s all about how much you have progressed during each practice.

Avoid Distractions

When practicing, find a place or an area where there are no distractions. That way, you can have full concentration. Most of the time, guitar players practice either early in the morning or at night, right after dinner.

Begin with Technique Exercises

You may start your practice with technique exercises. This means running scales, playing arpeggios, and playing chords. These exercises will not only get your fingers moving, but they will also make your mind focused.

Develop a Strong Sense of Time

One of the skills that bass guitarists have is their strong sense of time when playing. This means that you have to develop this skill as well.

To practice, always use a rhythm device. It can be a drum machine, a metronome, or a play-along recording.

Be Patient

Be patient when practicing. Remember that even professional bass guitarists were once beginners. So, take your time in learning how to play each note. Make sure to master the art of fluidity and precision.

Monitor Your Progress

Keep a practice log so you can monitor your progress. This must include your exercises, your goals, and your routines, among many others. Basically, keep track of every activity you do involve your journey to becoming a professional bass guitarist.

Conclusion – How Many Strings Does a Bass Guitar Have?

The most common type of bass guitar is four strings tuned to E-A-D-G, which corresponds to the four lowest strings of a guitar. But there are 5 or 6 strings that advanced bass guitarists use for the extended lower range.

If you’re a beginner, you must start with a 4-string bass guitar. All bass guitarists were once beginners like you, and they all started with a 4-string bass. Make sure to learn all the fundamentals and master playing it because you can’t shift to a 5- or a 6-string bass if you haven’t mastered the standard 4-string.

Upon mastering the 4-string bass, don’t get pressured to start using a 5- or a 6-string model. Being satisfied with your 4-string bass is perfectly fine. Besides, most bass guitarists still use the standard one.

Basically, using a bass with more strings is merely an option. What matters most is that you can create beautiful music regardless of the number of strings your bass guitar has.