As with any instrument, playing the bass requires a certain level of basic knowledge about the instrument itself. One of the things that you have to know before you delve any deeper into playing at all are the String names.
The vast majority of basses out on the market have four strings, tuned from low E to high G. The strings in order from lowest in pitch (the one that sounds the heaviest and lowest in tone) to highest (the one that sounds the highest and brightest in tone) are E-A-D-G.
In the case of a five string bass, the extra string can either be an additional low B string (lower than the E string) or a high C (higher than the G string). The vast majority of 5 string basses carry an additional low B string, along with the original E-A-D-G of the four string bass. Some, like my current 5 string bass, have an additional high C in order to allow the players to play Chords and solo lines with more ease than with just a high G string alone.
Some basses have both a high C string and a low B string so that they have the option to go both higher or lower than a typical 5 string could alone. Some basses now come with 7, 8, 9, 10 and up to about 13 strings. At this point, the bass becomes much more difficult to play, but allows for a much larger range than the typical bass guitar. This may seem strange, but remember, the bass is a constantly evolving instrument. At one time 5 strings seemed odd too. If having that many strings is actually prudent, then they will be around for a long time. We will just have to wait and see what happens with that.
If you are just starting out on the bass, I would suggest picking a bass that is both comfortable, and that has just as many strings as you need. Most people would suggest starting out on a four string bass, and if it suits you, I would suggest it as well. There is nothing to tell you that you can't get more strings later, but it might be wise to start out with the classic E-A-D-G.
There are also players who use cello strings, tune in fifths, and play with all sorts of techniques that aren't considered "normal". This will give you a whole new slew of String Names. If those interest you, you should look into them after you have a decent understanding of the basics. Just remember that people are going to want to hire you based on your ability to play the bass, not how many different tunings you know on the fly, although it doesn't hurt to know those as well.
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