Tuning question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Recursive, Oct 17, 2013.


  1. Recursive

    Recursive

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    I've been playing bass on and off for the last 5-6 years. I have played mostly by feel and by ear, never really dove into learning a whole lot of music theory and in depth terminology. Anyway...

    I recently started playing in a band and the guitarist is tuned to A. For me to get that low I have to sacrifice the more tight feel in my strings, not to mention take on a pretty muddy tone, so matching his tuning is pretty much out of the question.

    My question is, what would be the best tuning on a 4 string bass to accommodate the low A that our guitarist is currently in?

    The last music project I worked on was in a drop Db tuning. So my tuning was still in Db - Ab - Db - Gb (or in sharp terminology C# - G# - C# - F#) and this tuning has been working just okay with A, but I'm just not experienced enough with tuning to know if this turning will acclimate to A the most efficiently.

    I like being in the D range because my strings are nice and firm and I feel like Im getting the most out of my tone there.

    If anyone has any input on this over thought matter please let me know :D

    Thanks!
  2. Thrash3r

    Thrash3r

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2013
    I would just tune to A, use the right strings for A and they wont be floppy or sound muddy, around 140 or 145 for the A string works well in my experience.
  3. NYCbassist

    NYCbassist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Location:
    Mount Airy, North Carolina
    Yep, It's time for a 5 string tuned down 1 whole step. or mod a 4 string to accept the fattest 4 strings from a 5 string set.
  4. Recursive

    Recursive

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    I have an Ibanez SR-905 which I used in a metal band I was in years and years ago. The lowest I go with that bass before it starts to get muddy and flabby is Bb. That half step down to A causes some issues for the sound Im trying to achieve with this new band.

    That's exactly what I did when I bought this 4 string. Filed the nut to fit a 135 gauge from Ernie Ball Power Slinky 5's (which is what I use on my 5 string Ibanez SR-905)

    Any other suggestions?

    Thanks
  5. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2010
    Location:
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    Learn theory so that tuning is irrelevant. I play in different tunings from my guitarist all the time... granted it is usually because I forget to switch so I have to adapt on the fly.

    The SR B string is already pretty meh in terms of definition so going lower is just going to make it more difficult to get clarity. What kind of amp/cab are you using as that can make a huge difference with those low frequencies. I personally run a .125 for my B, that can accommodate a low A but I would probably go a little thicker, maybe .130. I find .135 pushing it in terms of size and lacking in terms of clarity and sustain so I have never tried anything larger.

    This band probably tunes to A so they can get low, I would imagine at least %75 of songs will be written in A (probably minor) and heavily involve the open A string. I personally would just get a low A if I was playing in that band.
  6. megafiddle

    megafiddle

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    I always thought my open A string with standard tuning sounded just fine
    with a good neck pickup.

    Can you even reproduce 27.5 Hz with a lower tuned A?

    -
  7. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2002
    Location:
    Reims, Champagne, France
    Are you baiting here or is it a serious remark? From tone to open drone strings through easiness, avoiding to play boxes or favoring specific scales, there are a lot of excellent reasons to use non standard tuning, none of them implying a lack of knowledge.
    I won't get into name dropping but many great players use alternate tunings all the time.
  8. Recursive

    Recursive

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    I guess I'll just start messing around with my 905 getting matched up in A. Its been a while since I got it that low and my tone was a lot less refined when I tried A years ago. So maybe with my current eq knowledge and refined tone, I might be able to get the 905 sounding "tightish" in A.
  9. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Location:
    Canada
    But it feels too much like be the guitarist miror than actually do it for a good reason.

    When they chug that low A ... you can do arpeggio and do the opposite of them... a guess this is too wild
  10. NYCbassist

    NYCbassist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Location:
    Mount Airy, North Carolina
    There's 2 problems here. You need some sort of Sub-woofer to recreate the low A with some clarity. The strings are the easier part IMO. Trial & error will get you the tension & Tone you need. EB slinkies won't likely get it done for you.
  11. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2010
    Location:
    Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
    I was dead serious and I really think you missed my point, I think we are on the same page. I am not blasting the OP for not knowing theory, OP just had mentioned it and this is a prime example of why theory can be extremely useful out there in the real world. OP's tuning should not solely depend on what the guitarist is using, that is why learning theory helps. If OP understands the intervals and relationship between everything how the guitar is tuned is completely irrelevant. Of course sticking to the standard 4ths will make everything consistent and easier but whatever you want to use will work. I have a student who plays in a band tuned to drop C at almost all times, he plays tuned C D G D G. It works for him and he is used to it by this point but when I teach him I just explain things with theory and he has to adapt it to his own instrument. I am not teaching that student technique, just theory. The OP's bass would work tuned to standard if he wanted to, it just wouldn't be what most of us would do as we generally want to be able to go at least as low as the guitar.
  12. Recursive

    Recursive

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    This is what I've been doing for the last 3 weeks since my current band formed. Ive been having a great time playing higher on the neck while the guitars are chugging/getting heavy and vice versa. Im having no problem staying in key and exploring wiithout playing the same frets as our guitarist. My reason for starting this thread was mostly out of curiosity not desperation or anything. Thanks to everyone for their input though.
  13. NYCbassist

    NYCbassist Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2007
    Location:
    Mount Airy, North Carolina
    This is certainly an option but there's tons of fun to be had when your Rig can handle the low A. It's really no different than the drop D scenario. you can keep standard tuning and just be one octave higher when hitting the D while still going down to low E. It is still a lot more fun to have the "Low D" available.
  14. Recursive

    Recursive

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2013
    I'm definitely going to experiment with getting my 5 string to sound/feel right in A, but as for the 4 string, I'll leave it in the tuning its currently in. The session we had last night was awesome and I discovered some really great sounding chords with the new song we started writing. I think this tuning is going to be great with the guitars in A based on further discovery. We were getting really heavy and almost djent sounding when we first started playing, so I was really wanting to be able to play some open strings. Now that we are getting a little more melodic, this tuning is just dandy.

    Again thanks to everyone for their input! :bassist:

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