Effects of drop tuning basses
I am wondering what effects drop tuning has on bass guitar necks, mostly for extreme drop tunings such as drop C ( C, G, C, F ).
I am sure if one gets the bass neck set up for the change in tension, or uses heavier strings to make up for the change on tension it would be fine, but what about the basses that are constantly changing between drop C and standard tuning and back again? How much does the tension shift affect the neck over a period of time?
The change in tension is not all that big. The fatter strings generally have less tension anyway.
I doubt there is a meaningful effect of detuning in a neck properly constructed of quality materials.
Now, if you're detuning the whole thing, truss rod adjustments may become necessary. But it is unlikely that a reasonable detune (meaning it still sounds reasonably good) on one or two strings will result in any neck problems.
Let's do some math! :)
I'm going to use a 4-string with 34" scale and D'Addario XL's as an example since they make their tension readily available for each pitch.
I'm going to use the 50-70-85-105 set for an example since anything heavier would put some serious tension on the high strings.
A 34" scale bass tuned standard EADG with these strings at the specified gauges would have ~202 lbs. of total tension from the strings. Note the D string alone would be almost 60 lbs. tension - yikes.
At drop C CGCF tuning, the same strings would have ~153 lbs. of tension. So basically about a 25% reduction in tension on the neck. I'd say that's significant.
One thing OP didn't mention is how often is it being changed back and forth?
If it was just for a few songs, I can't see it being a big deal. But I would also find this cumbersome especially in a live setting.
If you're talking about having it in EADG for a few days, then CGCF for a few days, etc., I could see that making the neck move around if it's not a strong neck.
Even if this didn't cause any physical problems with the bass, I'd personally stay away from it just because you'll never have optimal tension and playability for both tunings with the same set of strings. I realize not everyone has the luxury of owning basses for each tuning they want to use, but I was able to get myself a bass setup specifically for CGCF and I love having it feel the way my standard tuning basses feel.
I've never found it practical to move between a standard or drop c tuning and e standard. In any situation I've been in where I've been in two bands requiring different tunings, I've used two basses and set them each up appropriately. With a drop c tuning, I've used a five string set and used the B for the low C.
I can't imagine a need to retune between the two, as you'd just play the notes to match the song regardless of tuning, rather than retuning up two whole steps...
I've been wondering this too recently, having started considering restringing one of my 4 string with heavier strings and tuning it BEAD - I know there'd be a change in tension so I'd have to adjust the neck, but would it have a major effect? I'm considering doing this on my Warwick RockBass Corvette due to the long scale, which presumably helps?
"One thing OP didn't mention is how often is it being changed back and forth?"
I should have mentioned the change in tuning to drop C may occur once or twice a day. I have students that want to learn some songs that are drop tuned and only have one bass, so they would need to drop tune to practise the song, then retune to play regular stuff.
If you're always keeping it in EADG unless you detune for a lesson, it probably won't be so bad. I wouldn't want to play all day on strings that loose but for teaching purposes I'm sure it's OK. I'm assuming your students' basses are always drop C? Curious about what gauges they use.
Oh, and you just have to hit the "Quote" button in the bottom right-hand corner of the post you want to quote, and it will show up at the bottom of the page in the Quick Reply box where you can type your reply below the quoted portion. You can also quote multiple post in one reply by hitting the icon next to Quote which has two big bl;ack quotes on it and a + sign. Click each post you want to quote and then on the last one, click Quote and they will all be added. I just figured this one out. :)
In the past I haven't had many students requesting drop tuned songs, but it is becoming more and more common lately. So, most students don't have their basses detuned and set up for that, and that is my concern. I think I will have them get a second bass and set it up for drop tuning, PLUS they will have to learn their scales in the optional tuning as well, then we can go for it.
And thanks for teaching me the quote thing. Even old dogs can learn new tricks haha.
That is interesting trying to teach kids with all these tunings these days. I started on good 'ole EADG in the late 80's, with the occasional drop to D to play stuff like "The Thing That Should Not Be". I blame guitarists for drop tuning so they can hold the ever popular "power chord" with one finger.
Yes, I started in the 70's with EADG, and still to this day play the majority of my gigs with a 4 string, although I have messed with a EADGC five string on occasion for some solo stuff.
I too blame the guitar players for the dropped- make everything sound like a wall of low frequency noise- tuning. It's kind of frustrating to teach, but it's not going away in the near future, so I guess I have to learn to accept and do the best I can..... but for sure I am going to make them transpose all the scales into the dropped tuning if they insist on doing it. That will teach them to mess with me hahaha.
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