Larry Graham on when you really need to use a 5-string bass

Singer Larry Graham performs on stage during the 2016 Essence Festival Prince Tribute at the Louisiana Superdome on July 3, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Image credit: Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

It would be fair to say that the majority of bass guitar greats have all used a 4-string for their entire career without ever touching a 5-string. “I guess there’s a place for five strings, but not in what I do,” Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan told us. “Four strings is gonna keep me busy for the rest of my life, you know?” 

Some might well argue that four strings is all you need, but those people clearly haven't experienced the sheer joy of being able to hit those super low notes. Just ask Larry Graham, who’s thumb-thumping basslines once anchored the rhythm section with Sly & The Family Stone, expanding on the possibilities for bass players with his new-fangled slap-bass technique. 

Despite rarely straying far from his 4-string Moon bass, nicknamed Sunshine, Graham also has a matching 5-string, Moonshine. “I actually love using a 5-string bass,” he says. “Not for live shows, but I've used it on records and playing with other artists like Prince or Chaka Khan."

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.

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