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4-stringed set tuned down, or 5-stringed set tuned up?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Rolle2k, Jun 17, 2007.

  1. Rolle2k


    Feb 7, 2007
    Luleå, Sweden
    I play bass in a post-hardcore/sludge band, and we usually tune down to C, i play a 4-stringed bass, and i have trouble with pretty much fret buzz when the bass is tuned down.
    Right now i use Ernie ball Power slinky (55-75-90-110 set) roundwound strings. They sound good and that, but the problem for me is the fret buzz.

    Now i'm thinking.. wouldn't it be better for me trying like the Rotosound RS665LB (5 stringed set 35-55-70-90-120) and just remove the lowest string, and then tune up a half step?
    i mean, it cant do much negative to the bass tuning up that little. and that would certainly remove the buzz, as it will get alot of higher tension.. i could probably even lower the action a bit.

    what do you guys think?
  2. Bass Below

    Bass Below

    Oct 24, 2006
    New York
    That would work, but you could do better. Search for a member here who goes by the name Greenboy and check out his spreadsheet. Using that in combination with information taken form D'Addario's website for string mass, you can come up with the perfect string gauges for your tuning. I learned a lot in this thread last month: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=334090

    I did just that. I tune to C# (well, G#, but I play a 5 string, if I were playing on a 4 it would start at C#) so we're not too far off. My perfect gauges wound up being 50-65-85-120-165. To accomplish that I put together my own 4 string set of Ken Smith strings from Juststrings.com and it cost me under $30, then I ordered the SIT/Conklin .165 from another site. I have a very even tension in the mid 30's all across my board.

    In a few months, I won't have to worry about this nonsense because I'll have my Quake ( http://www.knuckleguitarworks.com/ ), but for now crazy string gauges will have to do. Good luck!
  3. santucci218


    Jan 26, 2007
    if i were you i would buy string singles and buy specific gauges...
  4. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    My suggestion; assuming D'Addario ProSteels (as these guys are the only company with such stats on their products) contemporary E set:

    E - .100 @ 34.4 lbs
    A - .080 @ 40.5 lbs
    D - .065 @ 47.3 lbs
    G - .045 @ 41.9 lbs

    If you bring the tension of the E up and the tension of the D down (as one ought to) a comparable/ideal CGCF(CFA#D#) set would be as follows:

    C - .130 @ 35.5 lbs
    G - .085 @ 35.6 lbs (F - .090 @ 37 lbs)
    C - .065 @ 37.6 lbs (A# - .075 @ 38 lbs)
    F - .050 @ 38.9 lbs (D# - .055 @ 41 lbs)

    You start getting tonal shifts as you near .130 and beyond as most string makers start using 4 wraps at that point - and as a point of reference, a well tensioned B string really ought to be in the .140 to .145 range, with its E counterpart around .105
  5. Bass Below

    Bass Below

    Oct 24, 2006
    New York
    Going back over my numbers, I probably should have gone with 50-65-90-120-175...

    The 50 is a bit low, but the 55 is way high, it's almost a 14lb. jump. I admittedly don't play a helluva lot on that string anyway, so the neighborhood of 34lbs is fine.

    I could have gone with a 70 in place of the 65, that would still keep me under 40lbs, but still significantly higher than my lower strings and I was more concerned with uniformity, for the sake of my neck..

    Going with the 85 instead of the 90 was a mistake on my part, I must have misread my sloppy handwritten charts when I placed my order, the 90 was far enough below 40lbs. that uniformity wouldn't have been disturbed much. The 85 at F# checks in at under 32lbs... a little too floppy. Oh well, I f'd up. Like I said, soon I'll have my Knuckle Quake and this crap will be a nuisance of the past ;)

    The 120 is perfect. At C# it sits at around 36lbs.

    I would have gone with a 175 in lieu of the 165 for my G#, but I couldn't find it readily available. I was lucky enough to find a place a mile away from me that had the 165's in stock. It was a big upgrade over the 130's. 132's and more recently 145's that I'm used to learning to deal with. It'll get me through the waiting period for the Knuckle.

    Anyway, Rolle2k I guess my point is, choose wisely now. Do your research adn you'll save yourself alot of aggravation and alot of money.
  6. Rolle2k


    Feb 7, 2007
    Luleå, Sweden
    Well i have tried looking into this, but i dont really know about how much tension i need.. and i guess that is something i have to check myself somehow.. (but i cant calculate it now myself since i dont use daddario strings).

    i was thinking about something like this:
    String / tension

    D# : 0.055 - 39.7
    A# : 0.075 - 42.7
    F : 0.095 - 38.7
    C : 0.125 - 35.16

    What do you guys think about that, would more tension be perfered on the higher strings?
    Maybe 60-80-95-125 ?!

    By the way, the string i got most Fret buzz problems on is the F one, so i guess maybe thats the one that needs higher tension the most? today i got 90, but will 95 be enough?
  7. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    The primary reason for a balanced set is to even out technique - you can go to a higher tension on the treble side if you want, but you'll have to play those strings a might differently than the looser ones. You aren't picking up much if anything more tonally by going tighter on the high side.

    I suggest keeping your choices within a couple of pounds of one another - hovering between 35 and 40 pounds is a decent rule of thumb. If you really feel like it is important then get gradually tighter as you go high by only a pound or two per string - that will keep the difference in tension between low and high strings reasonable.

    Your bass' neck will thank you...
  8. Fli


    Apr 30, 2007
    Birmingham, AL
    My Chromes:

    F - .050 - 43.6lbs
    C - .075 - 51.5lbs
    G - .095 - 49.8lbs
    C - .132 - 40.2lbs

    Standard tuning w/Chromes:

    G - .045 - 45.7lbs
    D - .065 - 52.0lbs
    A - .085 - 50.2lbs
    E - .105 - 41.5lbs
  9. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    Flatwounds are inherently higher tension - not at all a bad thing IMO.

    A ten pound sway from one string to the next, especially on a round wound string, is more than I personally care for.
  10. Bass Below

    Bass Below

    Oct 24, 2006
    New York
    Without putting in the numbers, I'd suggest changing that 75 to a 70 and changing that 125 to a 128. That would likely give you a uniform tension across the board in the neighborhood of 40lbs., or just under. I'll punch the numbers in later to confirm that.
  11. Rolle2k


    Feb 7, 2007
    Luleå, Sweden
    By the way.. does anybody know anywhere else than http://juststrings.com that sells individual strings, and ships worldwide (i live in sweden) that aint to expensive?
    I'm asking cus the shipping costs $35 at juststrings, and thats way to much whem i'm picking together 2sets or so.
  12. Rolle2k


    Feb 7, 2007
    Luleå, Sweden
    knuckle_head: just one question for you.. you say between 35-40 pounds is a decent rule of thumb. But then i got to ask. why the heck is the "standard" sets from D'Addario have much higher tension?

    A pair if ESXL170 in standard E (E-A-D-G) tuning does have the follwing strings/tension:

    45 - 42.8
    65 - 51.3
    80 - 42.0
    100 - 36.5

  13. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    The only real offender in that set is the .065 - if it were dropped to a .060 I bet it would be a pretty sweet set.

    I personally like my strings tight and hover just above 40 if I can, and often flats are well above 50 pounds. More important to me is that a set is balanced so that similar technique can be used from string to string, with similar tonal and amplitude charachteristics.

    I wish I had advice for a European string source....

  14. Rolle2k


    Feb 7, 2007
    Luleå, Sweden
    Well, i also like my strings tighter, so i i think i may go for tension a little little bit over 40 on most of the strings (besides the E-string).

    Bass Below: When you say you should have needed .175 string on your B.. i know Warwick has a set (although 4-stringed set) pretty extreme for a 4-stringer. Also, the set is really expensive, check here:

    Anyway, thanks everybody for the help so far!
  15. I have a client (www.aroarah.com) that drop tunes her 4-string bass to C#.

    The solution was GHS Boomers in Heavy grade. This restored the lost tension, and I am able to use the neck in the same truss rod position as standard strings at standard tuning.

    I did a complete setup on her bass, and it runs great with the Heavy Boomers. She prefers NPS over SS or pure Nickel, so the Boomers worked perfect for her. These are the heaviest 4-string set I could find.
  16. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    I can see where the GHS_5M-DYB Boomers would be pretty good on a 4 string if you drop the .105 - good call mr gavin.

    Singles are about the only way to dial it in precisely as the big boys haven't figured this stuff out yet. :rolleyes:
  17. Chelsea drops one of her LTDs to C# G# C# F# tuning on a permanent basis. This bass is always tuned this way, so I wanted to optimize it for this tuning.

    The H3045 heavy gauge set is 50, 70, 95, 115 and she says it works great for her needs. She is a very aggressive player and dominates that bass, so avoiding fret buzz is a must. With standard Nickel Lo-Riders, I had to set the action too high to avoid buzzing. With the thicker cables, I use stock neck relief and stock action height.
  18. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    I'm glad it's working for her - the tensions are a bit inconsistent though. The set you stipulate to runs ballpark like this;

    C# - 34 pounds
    G# - 55 pounds
    C# - 54 pounds
    F# - 48 pounds

    What you generally want to see is the highest tension on the thinnest string, but not by alot. A 20 pound sway from one string to the next is a bit extreme IMO.

    If you get the opportunity to do it again a better ballpark relationship might be;

    C# - .125 @ 40 pounds/.130 @ 43 pounds/.135 @ 45 pounds
    G# - .090 @ 48 pounds
    C# - .065 @ 45.5 pounds
    F# - .050 @ 48 pounds
  19. Bass Below

    Bass Below

    Oct 24, 2006
    New York
    I prefer mine tighter than mid thirties as well, but in my current situation, I'm compromising. The guy I got the .165 from also had a .194, which would have given me a very tight G#, and I could have based the rest of my set on that. Probably could have gone 194-130-95-70-55, which would have given me tension in the low to mid 40's across the board, which would truly be ideal for me but I'm compromising for a reason.

    Using a 194 and a 130 in the traditional "B" and "E" string positions would require me to modify the nut on my bass to the point at which going back to so called normal strings would require a new nut. Not a big deal, I'm quite capable of doing it and switching it back and it is certainly worth it... usually.

    I have a Knuckle Quake on order. Hopefully I will have it in a few months or so. I can live with the tension I'm getting at G#-C#-F#-B-E with 165-120-85-65-50 during that time. The trade off of some tension versus not having to mod the nut on my Music Man now and then having to replace it in the fall seems to be worth it. Especially since I've been playing on much lower tension for most of the last 2 years. What I have now is a step up, when the Quake arrives, I'll be ready for the real tension.

    Thanks for the link to the Dark Lord stuff, but after using the 165, I don't think I would ever try anything heavier. Although everything I've tried below the 165 was just too floppy to play, there is sonic articulation that is obviously lost in the massiveness of the 165. Detuning on a standard bass, unfortunately comes with it's compromises no matter what you do. Go up in gauge to regain tension and you're going to lose tone. It's just a question of what is more important. For me, at this point, I'm playing mostly live so my ability to play and play hard outweighs the sonic differences. If I go into a studio to record before I get my Quake, I may try to find a string somewhere between a 145 and a 165, to maintain some tension, but regain some lost sound.

    The only real solution is increasing scale length, and no, I don't mean switching to a 35" scale bass ;)
  20. The next step up is cutting the nut for a .125 or .130 string, and buying custom sets. This gets pricey in a hurry, as most B strings are $10 to $12 as a single. Another alternative is using the 5L-DYB 5-string light set 120, 95, 75, 55 with a recut nut. I have not calculated this set tension for her drop tuning.

    Splitting hairs gets expensive. If she gets endorsed by GHS, perhaps they will build the Chelsea set just for drop tuners. That hasn't happened yet, so I do what I can using factory string sets.
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