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6 String Alternate Tuning

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Willy B, Mar 27, 2015.


  1. Willy B

    Willy B Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    I am toying with the idea of trying an alternate tuning on my 6'er (34" scale). It would be three half steps up from standard, so D-G-C-F-Bb-Eb instead of B-E-A-D-G-C. I'm looking at building a set of strings, and here's what I'm thinking, gauge-wise:

    .120, .090, .067, .050, .035, .025w.
    I "built" a set using these gauges on BassStringsOnline, with D'Addario Nickels.
    I also saw a balanced tension set of Circle K strings that had roughly the same gauges.

    I am trying to avoid using an unwound string for the highest string.
    Has anybody tried this before? Will I run into any tension issues (I prefer a lower tension)?
    If this doesn't work I might just string it up like the highest 6 string of a 7-string bass, E-A-D-G-C-F, using a plain unwound string for the high F.
     
  2. I'd go for this myself... To compromise between a 4 and a 5 when I only had a four made me try some DGCF tuning for about a week, but realized a lot of the rock riffs I play use some open notes and it was pretty impossible to play the riffs with that different tuning... But I guess it depends on what kind of music you play.
     
  3. Willy B

    Willy B Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    It is a compromise either way but, I've always gravitated toward playing in the higher range, especially when playing solo at home which, is about all I am doing currently. It could be an adjustment getting used to a different tuning, so maybe the E-A-D-G-C-F would be a better idea in that respect but, again, I wanted to avoid the use of plain (non-wound) bass strings.

    I don't know, maybe I should just leave the bass strung and tuned as it was designed to be, and play a guitar/baritone guitar or piccolo bass to satisfy my cravings for extended range but, I like the idea of having one 6-string bass that can sort of do it all, even if there is a bit of compromise between the lower and upper ranges of the instrument.
     
  4. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Brand Identity & Development, GHS Strings, Innovation Double Bass Strings, Rocktron
    There are a couple of options in a wound .020 out there, if you wanted to avoid the plain steel string used for the high F (used to have both fretless basses tuned E-F myself). Although, there really isn't that much tonal difference at all between a plain steel string and the wound C at that point, you won't notice.
     
  5. Willy B

    Willy B Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    I hadn't found a wound .020 so I just assumed there was no such thing. I will take into consideration what you said about the lack of tonal difference and consider a plain steel. If I were to go with my D-Eb tuning, would something smaller than .025 be better for the high E flat? A .020 or .022, for instance.

    Thanks for the replies
     
  6. ixlramp

    ixlramp

    Jan 25, 2005
    UK
    .120, .090, .067, .050, .035, .025w will work and is near equal tensions. I used to tune .025s to Eb, they were tight but just held up.
    This set will be not be low tension though, you might prefer to mail-order .020 or .022 wounds from Conklin Guitars website (as i have done before), they are designed for high F so will be fine. However their cores will be thin and delicate so i would recommend the .022w for strength.
    Then add a balanced set of gauges based on Kalium's sets.
    Some guitar wound steel strings may be long enough, i think D'Addario PSGs are just long enough for the top tuner post, just thread a detached bass ball end onto the string so it anchors in a bass bridge.
    Importantly don't be discouraged, follow your intuition and try this, it is very different (i would say superior) to using a baritone guitar, especially tonally.
     
    Willy B likes this.
  7. Willy B

    Willy B Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    Thanks for the advice and words of encouragement.
    So would you recommend different gauges for lower tension?
     
  8. ixlramp

    ixlramp

    Jan 25, 2005
    UK
    Yes, design it to match a .022w using the Kalium tension chart as an approximation of other brands.
     
  9. Willy B

    Willy B Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    I decided to just get a Kalium balanced tension set- gauges .106, .079, .059, .043, .031, .019.
    I'm pretty sure the .019 is plain but that's fine- I think this set should work well for D-G-C-F-Bb-Eb.
    Could probably do E-A-D-G-C-F as well but the tension would be on the high side.
    I will report back once I get them. Thanks again.
     
  10. Willy B

    Willy B Supporting Member

    Aug 30, 2013
    Raleigh, NC
    For closure and future reference: the Kalium set worked well for this application. I ended up tuning E-A-D-G-C-F and the tension was fine.
     

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