I recently received my first five-string bass. The low B string can really be effective when playing in a band; if you hit that low B at the right time you can help give a whole new energy and life to the music, push it forward. Having a low B string is an art form all on its own. Five strings or not, you still have to play four-string bass, but use the fifth string for colour. Some cats overdo it and it sounds too muddy. I slap, but it’s really overdone in my opinion. Learning to slap is a great way to learn how to establish groove, but I see so many players who only focus on slap that I just choose not to make it a big part of my playing.
The secret of playing bass well is practice, all the time! Make it a priority. There’s sitting in your room jamming, and there’s productive practice. Make yourself a practice log and write down all of the things you’re going to work on today, and for how long. Keep yourself focused in your practice time and have goals. Think about when you were first learning to talk: you were constantly learning, surrounded by that language all the time. Do the same thing with music! When you’re not playing, be checking out recordings of your favourite players. And don’t just listen to bass players: I transcribe horn players and guitar players all the time. My teachers always told me, ‘When I listen to you play, I should be able to point out exactly who you’ve been listening to’.