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Stringing A D G C?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by fuzzy beard, Dec 29, 2013.

  1. fuzzy beard

    fuzzy beard

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    Been pondering the Ideal of loosing the E string and installing a high C. I seldom use the E string and wonder if the C would be more useful.

    I play folk, roots,Americana, and bluegrass.

    Has anyone done this? Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?
  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

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  3. jtlownds

    jtlownds

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    A friend of mine in California has been tuning his bass A D G C for years. I have played that bass many times, and it works just fine. He is using Spiro Weichs S42W, and he plays country western and dixieland.
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

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    I don't know why you would want to limit the functional aspect of playing bass in the styles you mention by cutting out a most useful and powerful range. If you are playing in the key of G for instance, are you saying you wouldn't want access to a low G? Sorry but this doesn't make sense to me. As you're probably aware, many bassists are currently making use of low B/C strings.

    If you're using the instrument strictly as a melodic/solo voice, then higher tuning would make more sense.
  5. kimokeo

    kimokeo

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    Sounds like you would rather play guitar to me.
  6. fuzzy beard

    fuzzy beard

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    Eric. I play 99% of the time with no p.a or amp and low g is seldom audible in the mix. I have found with my bass and others I have played dont do real well acoustically against a couple guitars a banjo and vocals when trying to play much of anything on the E string.

    Now miced up or through an amp is a different story! But I just dont play with support enough to practice and play using the E string.
  7. fuzzy beard

    fuzzy beard

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    Also just an observation I have made in my brief time playing most people playing in the listed styles dont use E string often. And almost never in an a acoustic setting without support.
  8. JeffKissell

    JeffKissell Supporting Member

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    I can't imagine not having an E string and I play those same styles of music. The low G is hugely important as a tonic note as well as the fifth below C. Maybe your bass needs a little set-up/adjustment to get the full power from the low end. I play acoustically with string bands often and the low end definitely is heard.
    -J
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

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    Ok, I guess you should go ahead then.
  10. eub_player

    eub_player

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    Disclosures:
    Formerly known as Francois Blais...
    FWIW, that tuning was called "high-solo tuning" by Pirastro, a few decades ago.
  11. ctxbass

    ctxbass

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    From Buster Williams's biography:

    http://www.busterwilliams.com/biography.html

    "My father was my teacher. He would prepare my lessons for me,'' Buster recalls, "and when I got home from school I was supposed to practice, then he would listen while he was eating his dinner. It was an unwritten law that I had to play it right or hear about it. I was going to be the best. I had no choice. In those days, instead of a two car family, we were a two bass family. My father was a fan of Slam Stewart, and he strung his basses the way Slam did. Instead of the regular G-D-A-E, he strung a high C; ie,C-G-D-A. Adding the C string puts the playing of higher-pitched passages at a more comfortable position. Of course, when he decided to teach me he restrung one of his basses in the traditional manner for me. He told me, 'If I re-string my bass for you, you'd better be serious!'"
  12. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    The 5ths player in me got excited there for a minute seeing A, D, G, C, and thought you were just upside down for a minute.

    As for the types of music you are talking about, unless you are playing a lot of solo/melody type stuff I don't see you using that high C all that often. In my experience, you are mostly "holding down the fort" and I wouldn't want to lose low end in that situation. Anything higher than a D (which would be in first position on that C string) usually seems to be entering guitar territory too much and gets lost in that mix. Without an amp, one of the best ways to be heard in the mix is to stay lower than the other instruments. I wouldn't be without my low G, and a lot of low E's have a decent amount of power. Some just don't. I know I rarely use my low C when playing similar music in 5ths, but that is apples to oranges territory.

    What is your bass/setup like? If you have less low end and it is getting lost in the mix, it could be an instrument issue. Have another bassist or two play it and give you their two cents about it.
    What strings are you using? Have you tried changing your E string? Some really bark out those low notes, some are a lot more apologetic.
    How is your technique? It could be flawless, but it could also be to blame. Getting a really great pizz sound out of your low strings can be a lot more of a challenge than the upper strings.
    Can/do you record any of your sessions? Do you have audience members/other musicians you trust to give you feedback? A lot of the time when you are not amplified the bass is carrying fine on its own, it is just challenging to hear it from your vantage point.

    If you want to try it, by all means give it a go. It's a cheap experiment considering you can use three of the four strings if you don't like it and go back to "normal". Let us know how it goes.
  13. DoubleMIDI

    DoubleMIDI

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    As a high C player I might be able to contribute a bit.
    Personally I play E-A-D-G-C, so have both ends.

    Since you said you hardly can hear the low notes acoustically, I assume, that you play a 3/4 instrument which often do not resonate well on the pitches of E string (and below).
    In this case it might make sense to drop the E and add a high C (or get a better resonating bass...)
    My german carved 5-string 4/4 instrument (made for orchestra with a low B string) sounds very good with the E, even purely acoustical.

    I once played a nylon-strung bass in the context of traditional folk music of europe tuned A-D-G-C. That worked well, but remember that itis more like a good resonating violoncello than a bass. The main reason for this tuning was that non-bass players would be able to play open strings to accompany the other players. For simple folk music it was easy to adapt but only because the bass pattern is simple using root and fifth only.
    If you miss the low G (which might often be the case) you can think about tuning the lowest string to G (using a heavier A string, i.e. Spiro Stark with Spiro Weich D and G). But then you need to fill a fifth on the lowest string.
    Please note that there is no Spiro Weich 4/4 high C string, only a Spiro Mittel 4/4 high C and (on special request from Thomastik) a Spiro Weich 3/4 high C string (more or less the same tension as the Spiro 4/4 Mittel high C).

    My experience with a lot of high C strings is that they are either too low in tension compared to the rest of the set or too high. As much as tuning a halftone up or down will match the set more or less well. You might want to go the route Renaud Garcia-Fons uses, a Flat-Chromesteel high C and downtuned Spiro Solos (3/4 I guess) on G, D and A (and a Spiro Weich 3/4? for the E). But I haven't tried that combination myself, because the steel high C strings are very thin and cut into the fingers if your setup is not really low.

    I'm more happy with synthetic core strings, but either I don't like the sound (Evah regular pizzed and amplified) or the tension mismatch is rather large (Innovation aluminium wound Braided and Noney high Cs, Obligato). Currently I have prototype strings, but in a mix and match situation. Simple nylon strings may work, but this is not what i like personally.

    Since many gut string makers can make naked guts as you like, this route you can get a tension balanced set, at least for high C and G (maybe D too) with Innovation Silver Slaps or Super Silvers (for higher tension gut) below. Ready made gut strings are not neccesarily balanced (the Efrano high C had too much tension for the rest of the set, but might work with the high tension G, D and A).

    It can take a year until you fully accomodated to your new tuning, depending on how much you are practicing. And you might mix up the new tuning when you need to play a normal tuned bass in a session.

    I wouldn't recommend the high C in general. There are so many problems (and even more on my 110 cm scale instrument) that arise. I only stick to the high C since it makes playing some big band charts written for electric bass guitar easier to play and soloing sounds a bit better since the high C sustains better (at least most thin steel strings). For folk music, I would only keep a high C for non-bass players (but they won't get my carved instrument to play).

    Sometimes I even think about restringing my bass to the low B and this after about 20 years of high C playing (with some longer periods of not playing at all, of course).

    I once talked to Barre Phillips (decades ago) and he told me that he liked the harmonics on the high C string, getting more options to play with them on the bass. But he also used a five-string with the high C at that time, like me now. Nowadays he hardly plays that instrument and travels with a regular tuned 4-string bass with a removable neck.
  14. fuzzy beard

    fuzzy beard

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    Set up may have alot to do with it. I play a 1943 Kay M1 strung with silver slaps. Bass was set up by Cincinnati bass cellar when I bought it. I feel I get great response from all the strings but the E. I have never been happy with the E. From the feel to the projection of the note. I considered putting a honey E on to see if that would help but have never tried. Also to the point of projection it is possible the note is developing out in front of the bass and its just not very audible to the player. I'll have to ask other I play with.

    Most other bass players in my genre around here run super nils or steels so old they dont remember what they are.

    Now to the point some have made about the E string. I understand the added benefit of using the E string. And when miced I have took advantage of the low g. But I dont understand how by not using it I might as well be playing guitar. Lol if a basses whole purpose is defined by an E string why do we have any of the other strings?
  15. fuzzy beard

    fuzzy beard

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    Thanks for all the advice and comments. Keep it coming I dont have the experience yet so I really rely on you all!
  16. johninmemphis

    johninmemphis Supporting Member

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    Look at your current setup - solid bridge feet contact with the top; strings centered across the fingerboard and the bridge tilt correct - I find mine get out of whack every so often. Check for loose seams by tapping along the edge with your fingers - you can hear the loose spots/sections. Can also take a look at the sound post location and the string after lengths to see if they look about right. Then as others have said, get someone else to listen to you out in the audience or record the group when you're playing - that low G may really be coming thru.
  17. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

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    You have heard some "why not just play guitar?" and a lot of people feel that way for higher tunings on double bass and especially electric. Historically bass instruments have been all over the map when it comes to tunings. That history is conveniently forgotten by the "EADG is the ONLY way" camp. Not that long ago, basses were three stringed instruments either tuned in fifths GDA or fourths ADG, and sometimes a combination GDG. That low E or C or B string wasn't really possible because of the string technology of the time. That's enough history to establish the point I was trying to make: The E string doesn't define the double bass.

    However, the bass has a very defined role and should play "bass". In my experience, (especially in the type of music you are playing) the majority of that bass playing happens inside the octave between the low G and the open G string, occasionally using the notes above or below depending on the key of the tune. If you want to push it, you might use your lowest notes (whatever they are on your bass) or go up to the D on the G string. Even in classical orchestra music, the bass rarely spends any amount of time above that D, and rarely uses the low notes below an E.

    Above that D you are not only entering into the range of a guitar, but also exiting the range bass is usually played in. That part of the bass is usually used for fills, solos, and other "hey everyone, look at the bass player!" moments. While sparingly those can be great moments, it is very easy to over do it. Critically listening to my own playing when playing folk, singer songwriter, jazz/blues, in my Afro-Latin Polka project or any other "acoustic" bass styles, I use the higher notes less and less. I find that instead of adding something innovative, even the most thought out ideas easily sound like "noodling" or "hey everyone, look at the bass player!" moments.

    There are obvious exceptions to this. Edgar Meyer uses the whole bass, and occasionally some high notes I didn't even know were on the bass. While it's difficult to apply a genre to his music, it does flirt with the ones you mentioned. It is completely possible to use higher notes without drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. As much as I would enjoy having a high C string (or the E above that in 5ths) it wouldn't be something I would use very often under "normal" circumstances. I think you will find that it's mostly a place holder, and you will use the other three strings far more. I would keep the low E string (even if you don't use it very often) because I don't see the high C getting much more mileage.

    Sorry for the length. Ultimately it's your decision and it sounds like your bass could benefit from a luthier making some adjustments to maximize the potential of your E string. I think that would be a better way to spend your money than a high C string.
  18. Medve

    Medve

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    I have a bass with three strings. They are unwound "pure" gut A, D, G. String height is approximately 3/4 inch. Played almost exclusively by my german style bow. Great for some styles. But any modern music requires low E. May I add that even if You do not hear the low E, the audience most certainly does. I believe, it is the opposite story regarding the Spirocore "scratchiness". I hear it, but the audience does not... :)
  19. donn

    donn

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    I got interested when I put on a plain gut set (Clef.) I don't know for sure that the Clef E doesn't put out just about as much fundamental as the Velvet E did before it, but I think I was depending a lot on the 2nd partial on the E string. I have to practice a lot more, before writing it off, but if that's how it is, I'm down one string anyway, then I have room for a high C, and I can get one fairly economically (Lenzner.)

    So ... yes, the bass has a role, and I want to play "bass." But of course to a considerable extent that role is defined by convention, as opposed to intrinsic requirements of Western music or human physiology. A Sousa march, for example, might not take its tuba part down to G once, and that's the contrabass tuba; if there's a bass tuba part it definitely won't go anywhere near G. And those bass tubas can really serve pretty well in a smaller ensemble, rarely if ever playing below the range of a violoncello. The notion of taking an undersized 3/4 contrabass up a fourth and making it something like a 5/4 bass, that kind of appeals to me.

    [Edit: of course, I'm talking about musical forms where the bass line is ultimately up to the player. In legit music where your notes are handed to you, there isn't anything to discuss.]

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