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Sep 27, 2020 - 6:23:27 PM
210 posts since 6/11/2019

I seek advice on whether to buy a 5-stringer. I've played a friend's before. I have thoughts on pros/cons.

Pros--
When playing a 2-octave instrumental (like AR Trav) in traditional key of D with banjers (who love open strings)--if they can't play the tune without capo-ing to 7--you simply go one string left to play it in G with same finger pattern; also, extended range for country/bluegrass solos

Cons--
Stretching your forearm right (assuming left noting hand) to point of injury playing on C/G strings; confusion on doublestops, etc

Bottom line--do you think a 5-string is something a modern fiddler should have in the stable? Your thoughts, please--thanks

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 09/27/2020 18:27:47

Sep 27, 2020 - 7:26:11 PM
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218 posts since 3/1/2020

I think it really depends on the intended use. If you are playing lots of backup parts, the extended range might be useful for rock, bluegrass or jazz. The tone quality of an acoustic 5-string isn’t quite as good as a dedicated violin or viola, but it can suffice, especially if there’s amplification, where the sound is controlled by a mixing board.

Is it something every fiddler should have? Not necessarily. The violin has such a wide range already, and every style can be played easily on it. Plenty of professional players use regular violins. It’s just that there are some settings where it’s convenient to have a C string, especially if you don’t venture above first position.

Sep 27, 2020 - 7:53:06 PM

210 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

I think it really depends on the intended use. If you are playing lots of backup parts, the extended range might be useful for rock, bluegrass or jazz. The tone quality of an acoustic 5-string isn’t quite as good as a dedicated violin or viola, but it can suffice, especially if there’s amplification, where the sound is controlled by a mixing board.

Is it something every fiddler should have? Not necessarily. The violin has such a wide range already, and every style can be played easily on it. Plenty of professional players use regular violins. It’s just that there are some settings where it’s convenient to have a C string, especially if you don’t venture above first position.


Comment about first position is good.  For traditional fiddle tunes, they rarely require other than first.  To play AR Traveler in G with Low/high A/B, you have to shift from 1st to 3rd, and there's numerous others that, unless played in the traditional key, cause awkward string crossings and/or shifts.

I don't use over 3rd position much, since country/bluegrass doesn't call for it.  Vocals just don't require it.  But what I AM attracted to is the ability to shift a muscle-memorized fiddle tune/solo left to change a key in 4ths instead of having to play it with a different pattern, and possibly having to shift and string-cross constantly.

I mean, shifting to play Whiskey before Breakfast in G cause banjer couldn't play it in D?  Just pat banjer on the head--"bless your heart"-- and move one string left. 

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 09/27/2020 19:56:54

Sep 28, 2020 - 6:37:12 AM
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2287 posts since 10/1/2008

How long are your fingers? Do you want to play twin fiddle harmonies? Do you really love the tone of the "C" string. Can you afford a quality model? Is this love or is it infatuation...... Lastly Someone asked Spade Cooley if he was interest in playing a five string fiddle.... His reported response "Five strings ... I'm looking for a three string".

Sep 28, 2020 - 8:14:58 AM
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Swing

USA

1975 posts since 6/26/2007

I have one and play it quite often though I still retain and use my four string.... there really is no limitation to a five string and if you play in the third position it is nice to be able to drop down the G string notes without moving your hand.... I would recommend trying a bunch of them and get the best one you can afford...

Play Happy

Swing

Sep 28, 2020 - 3:47:08 PM

hayesdt

USA

363 posts since 12/14/2010

quote:
Originally posted by UsuallyPickin

... Lastly Someone asked Spade Cooley if he was interest in playing a five string fiddle.... His reported response "Five strings ... I'm looking for a three string".


Good one!!  Me too.

Sep 28, 2020 - 6:23:02 PM

210 posts since 6/11/2019

All good guidance and I appreciate it. I suppose the main question is can you pretty much play one interchangeably with a regular without messing with your technique. You know, there's even 7-strings out there (electric)--I just can't imagine playing Uncle Pen on those without collateral damage sounds.

I'm not a rich man, but I spend whatever needed to get quality. So, that's not an issue to me. I just wonder if it's something an all-around musician could have as an enhancement. I like to play many genres. Guitarist friends of mine seem to have walls full of special guitars.  Why not a violinist?

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 09/28/2020 18:29:08

Sep 29, 2020 - 5:15:08 AM

2287 posts since 10/1/2008

Do keep us posted. R/

Sep 29, 2020 - 10:49:13 AM
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218 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Flat_the_3rd_n7th

I suppose the main question is can you pretty much play one interchangeably with a regular without messing with your technique.


It's not hard to switch back and forth. The 5-string will require a small change in bowing, as string crossings require a smaller movement, but with practice it will be easy enough to manage. 

Sep 29, 2020 - 11:44:21 AM
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211 posts since 11/5/2014

FWIW, there is some learning curve, but I have not found the 5-string that much harder to play after a modest adjustment period (few weeks).

I will say that in (louder) jams, you may find that the lower range does not quite cut through enough, but it is very nice for backup.

Sep 29, 2020 - 1:20:08 PM
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RB-1

Netherlands

3 posts since 9/28/2020

I wouldn't , for the dear life of me, attempt to play WbB in G on the banjo.
I play it in D. Is that wrong?

Just restarted on the fiddle after a break of ~40 years.
Too bad there isn't a specific forum for Bluegrass fiddling, like there are different sections for Bluegrass and Old Time in the Banjo Hangout.
Although related, to me the difference between the two is about as big as between Bluegrass and Jazz.

Sep 30, 2020 - 9:58:38 AM
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1 posts since 1/31/2017

Though I normally don't get an opportunity to post much, 5-strings are near and dear to my heart! I love 'em and have played a 5-string, primarily bluegrass, for years now. I like having the extra range. I don't play a 4-string anymore but never found it to be much of an issue to switch back and forth other than I missed having the C string.

I would totally disagree with the previous comment about an acoustic 5-string having diminished tone compared to a dedicated violin or viola. If quality materials are used and the builder is knowledgeable, it's like any other instrument. It could sound wonderful or not. I've played and owned 5-strings from several different builders over the years and they are all a bit different and can vary in size.

I'm not an endorsee or anything like that, but I have two Dudley (Barry Dudley) 5-strings that are both excellent instruments. They play easily, have great tone and balance, and Barry has figured out how to get a strong response from the C string. There are any number of 5-strings from quality builders out there now - Dudley, Frank Daniels, Silakowski, Bob Kogut - and many shops have their own in-house versions as well.

As with any instrument, buy quality and try it beforehand if possible.

Sep 30, 2020 - 7:34:20 PM

210 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by RB-1

I wouldn't , for the dear life of me, attempt to play WbB in G on the banjo.
I play it in D. Is that wrong?

Just restarted on the fiddle after a break of ~40 years.
Too bad there isn't a specific forum for Bluegrass fiddling, like there are different sections for Bluegrass and Old Time in the Banjo Hangout.
Although related, to me the difference between the two is about as big as between Bluegrass and Jazz.


No, not wrong, WbB is just an example of the dynamics that go on in an OT jam.  Normally in D.  But not before a bunch of retuning and grumbling amongst the banjers.  It's the "wait-a-minute" retuning that I tire of.  The fiddles are usually the ones that have to compromise.

I've played banjer for longer than I've played anything.  And I'm a total non-fan of shunting toward intrument-specific keys, cause of retuning double-C, etc.  Vocals should rule all.  I play fiddle with the keyboard mafia at church in crazy keys like Eb, Ab, even Db.  I get through it because I stick with standard tuning and patterns.  Change tunings for every little whiff and you don't know where to set your mark.  Why is this so hard amongst OT banjo's?  BG banjos seem to be all in with closed chords, just like guitarists have been since the beginning of time.

Sorry, this doesn't address 5-stings much; l, like you, think there should be a separate section for BG (and jazz) here, but there's not as much traffic on FHO as BHO in my opinion to warrant it.  I hope the bosses here can say I'm wrong and make it so.     

Sep 30, 2020 - 9:52:17 PM

218 posts since 3/1/2020

There are certainly 5-string violins that have a good sound, but you can’t really expect a 14” body to get the kind of richness on the C that a 16” viola gets. This is why violists pick the biggest violas they can manage.

As a demonstration of this point, a colleague of mine just received two violas today. Both are by one maker, one a 16” commissioned for my colleague, the other a 16 1/4” commissioned for a friend of his. The former player is a retired but active professional violist, the latter an actively employed violist in major orchestras. The former chose a smaller body length because he finds it harder to play for extended periods on a larger instrument now and isn’t in need of the power of the 16 1/4.” The latter player needs a powerhouse instrument for the ensembles in which he performs. I played both violas today, and the difference in power was marked.

Keep in mind that the G, D, and A strings of a viola also have a distinctly different character from those of a violin. This is why 5-string violins can’t compete with violas.

It’s worth noting that the average viola bow is 10 grams heavier than the average violin bow. This means the stick is typically heavier and stiffer, which has a significant impact on the attack on the strings. The thicker strings of a viola require more weight in the bow stroke in order to produce a good sound.

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