Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

5ths tuning (cello) vs. 4ths tuning (bass)

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by parrott, Dec 9, 2002.


  1. What are the advantages of tuning in 5ths (like a cello) over tuning in 4ths (like a DB or a bass guitar)?

    And why are cellos (and violins, and violas) tuned in 5ths? Is it just tradition?


    I'm asking because I've just started trying to play a Bach cello piece, and the fingerings (at least I'm assuming that's what the numbers next to the notes are....) that are written make no sense for bass, and that made me realise that the open strings on cello are different to bass.
     
  2. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    For the trivia-minded among you--of whom I count myself one--the late great Red Mitchell (an underappreciated monster, IMO) used to tune his DB in 5ths. I believe it was CGDA, or an octave below a cello.
     


  3. It's not that they're unplayable (yet, I've only just started the pieces, it might be later) it's just that the fingerings written on the piece itself would be wrong for bass.

    And what are the URL's for the sites you mentioned?


    EDIT: One quick google search later and I have all three sites.
     
  4. Mixman

    Mixman

    Jun 17, 2002
    Canada
    I used to be quite the cellist in my day, so I think I can speak comfortably on the subject. Everyone knows the spaces between notes on the fingerboard get smaller as you go down. The Bass fingerboard is longer than the cello's. The notes are further away from each other. It is nearly impossible to be able to play between each string all in one position if tuned in 5ths (for most hands.) Instead of covering the space up to the fifth fret, trying covering all the way to the 7th. a lot harder to do. I really liked the tuning in fifths CGDA because each 2 lines on the staff was a different string, making it a lot easier to read music. But it's just impossible for me to emulate it on bass due to the physical restrictions of my hand.

    Sean
    (former cellist now tackling the bass guitar)
     
  5. jaybo

    jaybo Guest

    Sep 5, 2001
    Richmond, KY
    The cello pieces shouldn't be a problem if 1. you're playing an extended range bass or 2. you play them in the cello's octave.