Thinking About Buying a 5-String

I found a really nice 5-string.  Thinking of getting it.  Why?  Sometimes I run out of notes when I'm playing breaks down on the lower strings.  And I'm curious about what I can do with a C string.  The set up is really nice, too, and I can do triple stops on it.  However, I've talked with some professionals who say they really don't use it that much.  And I'm concerned about having to rethink my fingering on the different neck.  Does anyone have an experience with one? Thanks!


  • I'd sure love to have one...I do have a viola, but I don't like the idea of having to grab it in the middle of fiddling a tune when I need the C
  • I play a 5-string.  Daily.    The lower C note does let you extend your breaks to the lower octaves.  I especially like Billy In The Lowground off the 5th string.  Get alot of crazy looks after everyone is expecting the "usual" fiddle part.

    I play a carbon fiber 5.  The exact same carbon fiber in 4 strings was $100 less.   I tell people my 5-string cost more cuz of the "C Note."   get it?  ;)
  • Did it! Got the 5-string. Love the narrow neck that fits my smaller hand and fingers. Now learning chords and notes on C-string and how to use it. Thanks for the Billy in the Lowground tip! Will try it!
  • Here it is. It needs a name now.
  • Wow...congrats!  I hope you really enjoy playing it.

    If you meant to show a photo, I guess you can tell by now it didnt' show  Hope you'll try again.
  • Let's see if it works this time.
  • Another try.
  • I keep getting errors when I try to upload.
  • Are you clicking on the little icon of a mountain ...the last one to the right in the text box?  Then when it puts a little box to load the photo in...let it sit for a minute until you see the photo before you hit the submit button?  It takes a few minutes for the photos to load.
  • <img src="" alt="5-string" />
    Aha! Got on my laptop and that seems to work!!!!
    Thanks for the help! It's currently in the shop right now getting geared pegs inserted.
  • Got a new bow, too.  A good bow makes a huge difference.  Never thought about it until a friend who is a professional musician let me try his.  It felt a lot different from what I was playing!  The luthier suggested two types of bows - one was steady, the other more lively.  Thought I would like the lively bow better.  But the steady bow is becoming my favorite.  It just stays on the strings.  I never would have believed the difference it makes in playing! My teacher was always after me not to play over the fingerboard.  Now it's so easy to play in the right place! And I get a great tone from the fiddle.
  • P.S.  I have a Knilling (wood) 5-string fiddle for sale if anyone is interested.
  • 5 string fiddles seem to be a paradox.  I just had a discussion with one of the top fiddle teachers & players at our fiddle camp here in Alberta.  His reasoning and experience was sound and conclusive that 5 strings aren't worth the trade off.  But just as sound & conclusive are the success stories and facts of those who have adapted readily.  Look at Michael Cleveland...well, maybe he is such a genius...that might not apply to the rest of us.  But it is true that many average folks have adapted just fine.   Also true is that many who have learned to play them and bought one, eventually set it aside and rarely touch it anymore....paradox indeed.  Wish I had one, but afraid it might end up being an expensive luxury...
  • Rodger, thanks for the post. I've had mine a week so far. This is what I've found: I used to mainly do my breaks on the A and E strings.  I'm now playing more on the G and D strings than ever before. Having that C string allows me to lead up to the G string notes, if that makes sense.  For example, my intro to a G chord is D,D,D, E, F# on the C string, leading up to open G string. I think I'm using more of my fiddle now than I ever did on the past, doing breaks on G, D, A and E now.

    Some things like holding one finger on two strings are easier on the 5-string (for example, Uncle Pen). Other things like the Orange Blossom Special double shuffle are slightly easier on the 4-string, which is wider between strings. But still do-able on either fiddle.
  • I think you would love playing a viola!

    Another thing that came up in fiddle camp by some players was the lack of use of the G, and to lesser extent the D string, on a normal 4 string fiddle. They expressed the frustration of loving the sound of the lower strings, but not many fiddle tunes exploit that, so most, less than advanced players struggle somewhat to play those positions well.  To counter that, in my development, I've incorporated a lot of (mindless) exercises, and focused on some tunes I love that use those strings.  Also, you can add an extra part which basically repeats the A part, one octave lower.  Some examples of tunes doing that is Maple Sugar and Silver and Gold Two least the arrangements I have.

    Certainly true that the great majority of fiddle music is focused on the E and A strings.  Obviously because it is initially painful to hold a fiddle in a way that gets the elbow/wrist twisty thingy position which allows the fingers to reach over to play the G string cleanly.   Self taught fiddlers without any experienced help will gravitate to finding a comfort zone that locks them out of being able to develop, and necessitates a difficult un-learning curve into their development.   It is really important, in the very first stages of learning, to master the basic physical set-up, and the discipline to work through developing the stretch of those muscles so it's not painful or uncomfortable to play and hold that position.  I say discipline, because most players at some point experience serious tendinitis caused by failing to stop and stretch, or place too much stress on those tendons before they have developed the conditioning necessary.  A fiddler is a serious athlete when it comes to using those tendons.
  • I have had a couple different 5 strings. I love them and tend to go to them over 4's. Use the C string primarily for rhythm and chording but have played on it in C for low end melody.

    My favorite and forever fiddle is a Chet Bishop 5 string fiddle. (Violin Maker in Oregon) Had it for a little over 2 months now and love it. I didnt lose anything from a 4 and have gained an incredible tone / voiced fiddle that is comfortable to play, beautiful to look at, and sweet to listen to.
  • Rodger --- thanks! I found that I was not using the G and D strings much in my breaks on the 4-string. With the 5-string I'm now using them a lot more! I'm trying to do more chords on the lower strings. I like the sound! However, I haven't found the right C-string yet. What strings do you use?
  • Thanks!  Love the sound, too!
  • Fiddleharlot...sorry I missed the photo and the rest of the posts.  It's beautiful!  Congrats again and sounds like you're figuring it all out really fast.  I think it sounds fun.  Hope you have a lot of good times with that!

    We lost my 96 year old dad on the first and I've just not really had the time, calmness, or focus for looking over forums as carefully as I like to do.  Looks like I missed something pretty good.  Hope you can enjoy your new fiddle a ton.  I guess the tuners are installed by now.
  • Whoa...I haven't been on here for a while & missed the question.  I don't have a 5 string, but I use obligatos on my standard 4 string fiddle....
  • Yep. Long time for me as well. I have a 5 string CF (Mezzo Forte) and pretty much play it exclusively. Florida humid and 5 strings are the primary reason.

    Now I need a 5 string CF electric lol

  • I'm sorry you had so muc

    Sorry you had trouble upoading a pic! Trying it here.

  • John (BGD)
    edited February 2022

    I love my Bob Kogut 5-string but it's been around the block a few time. I converted it to an alto fiddle using some d'addario octave strings, and that was a lot of fun. Right now my daughter is using it as a 4-string so it is not living out its intended purpose!

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