Having swapped my 4 string bass about 12 years ago,for a 5 string, I'd never go back. Lots of players love them, but some hate them. The advantage for me is having an extra low string, not necessarily to play lower than average notes, but to be able to play further up the fretboard and still have low notes available. This got me thinking - why isn't there a 4 string bass that is tuned B-E-A-D available. I'm hoping to adapt a normal one, so has anyone tried the same, and can anyone come up with pros and cons? There must be loads of bass players out there that don't want more than 4 strings, but would like to play lower notes - it'd also save tuning down for whatever reason.

  • Rotosound makes 4-string BEAD sets, and even F#BEA sets... I must try out the latter some day on some bass. I wonder how pickups and amp will handle it though? Oct 9, 2013 at 22:07
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    If my bass amp. is happy with a low B as on the 5 string, then it should be just as happy with it on the 4 string. Pick-up wise, I'll let you know.
    – Tim
    Oct 11, 2013 at 10:26
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    Update - been using it for a while, and there have been no problems. The B fitted well, and intonation was easy. The best is when people ask if they can play it (say at an open mic) and I forget to mention it's not EADG... Only thing missing is a thin top G to pop.
    – Tim
    Jun 13, 2015 at 5:34

3 Answers 3


This is not an unusual idea. Any 4-string bass should be easy to set up for B-E-A-D. You (or a qualified guitar repair technician) will need to file the string slots in the nut to make them wider to accommodate the thicker strings, and you will need to adjust the position of the bridge saddles to achieve proper intonation. You may or may not need an adjustment to the truss rod to change the amount of neck relief if the overall amount of string tension changes, but the overall string tension will probably remain about the same.

The only problem would be if the position of the bridge on the 4-string bass guitar did not allow for enough travel in adjustment of the lowest string saddle for proper intonation to accommodate the low B string. In that case the bridge would have to be re-mounted in a different position, or the bridge would have to be swapped out for a different brand with a wider range of adjustment. That might require drilling new screw-holes or routing wood from the body to fit the new position of the bridge, and would best be left to a qualified repair technician or luthier.

  • I was just about to bring up the low-string saddle question. I'd also wonder if the B string would fit through the E string's hole. Otherwise, yeah, it should work. May 7, 2013 at 15:46
  • The B string intonations on my 5 strings are not far off the E and A, so no problem perceived there.I've worked on guitars for many years, so the operation isn't a problem.
    – Tim
    May 7, 2013 at 17:00

well, i played B-E-A-D for a couple of years, because playing in a band with 2 guitars gives you more space below than above. I then changed for B-E-A-D-G-C but still felt the urge to go deeper. Now i play a santander custom and a Ibanez BTB7, both tuned in F♯-B-E-A-D-G-C, starting with a 175 F♯-String from Warwick, one of the best strings i've ever played, so perhaps you should try the F♯-B-E-A-D - Config on your bass. It's really nice!

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    A few weeks ago, I played with a bassist who used an 8 string - F# up to F. You could walk along the fingerboard, and, boy, was it heavy. Both in weight and sound !
    – Tim
    Jan 22, 2014 at 8:42
  • Why F#-B-E-A-G-C rather than the more standard F#-B-E-A-D-G?
    – Max Noel
    Jan 23, 2014 at 16:37
  • ^^ seems like i lost my D-String … its of course F♯-B-E-A-D-G-C
    – rhavin
    Jan 24, 2014 at 0:05

Recently on a site I read (YMMV, I've not done this)... that 35" scale 4 string basses were more appropriate to set up in this configuration.

  • That's good ! the bass I'm basstardising is 34.5" !!
    – Tim
    Oct 9, 2013 at 22:03

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