4 or 6 but, why not 5
Electric bass guitars are available in many different string combinations (4, 5 & 6 being more “common”), scale lengths (32″, 34″ & 35″ being more “common”, yes… others are available), materials (wood, graphite composite & aluminum being more “common”), electronics and hardware options. I often get ask; “Hey Joe, why don’t you play a 5 string bass?”… well, probably for the same reason why I don’t play a 7 (or 3… yes, they are available… just not “common”) string. For me, being that the bass is tuned in fourths (standard… E, A, D, G on the 4 and B, E, A, D, G, C on the 6); it is logical (again, for me) to think in string grouping pairs (2, 4, 6, 8, etc… I know, crazy huh?). I’m “programmed” to use 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 13 for chords and arpeggios. When I play a 5, my equilibrium (or something like that) gets all out of whack! It’s not that I “can’t” play a 5… I simply don’t want to! If I want an extended range instrument, I want the ability to “extend” both up and down!
Please tell me who decided that the 6 string electric and acoustic guitar (standard) tuning should be E, A, D, G, B, E!!! It took me YEARS to feel comfortable playing a “guitar” since after decades of being on the bass… it was SO not logical (yes, I know… there are benefits related to chords… but still)!
Oh yeah, and a final thought for you bass players (regardless of my love for the 4 and 6 string bass); In 2004, I auditioned for the band Disturbed and regardless of my “abilities” on a 6 string bass… it was probably not the best move to audition using the 6 (I should have had a 5 string for that one). This pretty much sums up my audition experience (except, I didn’t know the guys).