Extended Range Bass or ERB
In case you were wondering, ERB stands for "Extended Range Bass" and the idea of Extended Range Basses have sparked quite the "discussion" (by discussion, I mean another chance for people to question each other's sexuality and throw all sorts of fun names at each other) on many an internet forum as to at what point a bass is no longer a bass.
Some people believe that four strings is the maximum number of strings that a bass should ever have, while some believe that a bass is a bass is a bass, regardless of the amount of strings it has.
Before I go any further, I just want to clarify a few things. With ERB's, they can look really cool and provide you with a lot of new options when it comes to playing things like chords and tapping, but they can not only be difficult to play well (due to the extra strings), but can also be very, very expensive. If you decide that you want to play one, be prepared to have trouble finding strings and a decent, inexpensive ERB. Conklin makes great ERB's as do quite a few new boutique bass Luthiers.
One of main things about ERB's is that they tend to sound quite different than their four string counterparts. Not only is this due to the extra strings, but the additional mass that is inherent in having a larger bass means that everything sounds more or less "bigger". Some people like this sound, others don't. You might want to see if you can try to find one or two to try out before you commit to buying one.
Getting back to the discussion, there are some players that think that six string basses are the devil.
Now, I may be biased (I am), but I like ERBs. In my bass arsenal at the current moment, I have a four string fretless, a four string fretted, a five string fretted and a six string fretless (I de-fretted both basses myself). In learning to play both kinds of bass (fretted and fretless) with a variety in the amount of strings, I've opened up my ability to play different things as well as experience new kinds of music that I might not have experienced without my 6-er.
You don't necessarily have to like Extended Range Basses, but please don't shun them completely. You may not have any need of the extra range or strings, but someone else may find having the extra low notes valuable for playing metal or the extra high string(s) good for playing chords.
I've been playing my six string bass for about two-and-a-half years now and I de-fretted it only recently. I can tell you that having the extra range has been invaluable in many situations where playing walking lines or chords are important to the sound of the group.
Currently, I use a five string with an extra high C string. I find that the extra string allows me the flexibility of playing chords and lines that I might not have been able to reach on a four. I love the sound of playing chords on bass, and I think that you might find something that you like about extended range bass playing as well.
So, If you're curious as to what playing a bass with more than four strings is like, you might want to pick up a couple basses at a music store and jam around on them for a bit. You might find that you really like it.
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