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6 string tuning

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by mijarra, Jan 23, 2001.


  1. mijarra

    mijarra

    Jan 20, 2001
    Perhaps a dumb question: Do you tune a 6 string bass the same as a guitar? I mean, of course the notes aren't the same, but does your open G remain a G as on a 4 string or do you tune it down 1/2 step like the 2nd string on a guitar?

    Also, is there any reason you can't jump from a 4 to a 6 string? I can't see wasting a few hundred bucks on a 5 when the goal is to play a 6. Or, would I find some uses for a 5 that I never suspected?
     
  2. winston

    winston Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    Berkeley, CA
    There's not any one "right" way to tune a 6-string bass, although it seems like the most common tuning is BEADGC, low to high. I've also heard of people tuning F#BEADG and EADGCF, or BEADF#B and EADGBE. The only limit is your imagination and finding the right set of strings to suit the tuning.
    I think basses of ALL string configurations are equally valid; if you want to play a 6 or 7 string bass, go ahead--and don't feel pressured to change if you're perfectly happy with a 4.
    I went straight from a 4 to a 6 string, figuring that a 6 would obviously be better than a 5 because it had an extra string. Know what? At least in my case, I was wrong--after playing the 6 string for a few long hours in rehearsal, my left wrist was hurting like hell from having to reach over the high C to play the low strings. When I adjusted the strap to change the angle, my right hand started hurting. Try as I might, I couldn't find a way for my body to work comfortably with a 6. When I got home that night and put on my 4 string it just felt so good and easily playable. I took the 6 back and traded it for a 5 string fretless that has given me nothing but pleasure. I think the most important thing is to find the instrument that works right for you-check out as many basses with different string setups as you can.
     
  3. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Six-string basses are usually tuned BEADGC ... all fourths.
     
  4. Unlike Winston, my jump to a six was painless. I dont have big hands, but I play four hour gigs two or three times a week with no problem. A six is really only valid if you solo, or like to play chords, although it does make sightreading easier (no leaps up the neck looking for the notes on the extra staff lines), otherwise a five will do just fine. Some sixes, like early Yamaha TRB6P's, had very wide necks, and the average sized guy needs to play sitting (case in point- Anthony Jackson). Also a six requires a lot more muting technique than a five to stop open strings from ringing in sympathy. A six IS a lot of work....but it's so much damn fun!!
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I played an early TRB6P and found it was easier to play than most basses - especially any Warwicks! The neck is actually very flat and this makes it very easy to reach any notes. I went from playing 4s in the 80s to a 6 and the TRB6P was the most comfortable 6 I found.

    I did find after a while though that to me the C string doesn't really sound like "bass" and that a 24 fret neck gives more than ample scope for soloing. I found that I was using the B string far more than the C and am happier with 5s now - the C was just getting in the way really.