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6+ string tuning

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by nataku, Jan 13, 2005.

  1. nataku


    Jun 21, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    recently ive been wondering about what people standardly tune their basses to. im fairly certain that 6 strings are regularly tuned to BEADGC but not quite sure. if any1 knows what basses with more strings are tuned to the info would be very much appreciated.
  2. I think most sixers go this way, but some go EADGCF- I've also heard of ADGCFBb, starting at a 'normally' tuned 4 string's A. Some Gospel guys tune down to low A- an octave below the above mentioned note. My 6's B hipshots down to A, & I use it, but not too often.
  3. Most 6 stringers are tuned B, E, A, D, G, C.
  4. I tune my 6s BEADGB. I'm not sure I can explain why this makes many things nicer for me, but it does. Perhaps it's because I'm a guitarist too. Perhaps it's because I like being able to play a major triad in harmonics at a single fret, or being able to get a major third by barring at a single fret. Perhaps it's just that having my outermost strings not consonant with each other offends me somehow.

    There is, BTW, a long tradition of using a 3rd among the 4ths for tuning 6-string bass instruments. For example, one tuning for a 6-string bass viol way back in the day was DGCEAD. Another, for a "basse violone" (I think), was GCFADG.

    I poked around on Google for a bit, and actually, without spending a ton of time on it, I couldn't find a single example of a 6-string bass instrument--before the modern 6-string electric bass--where there wasn't a third in there somewhere and where the highest and lowest strings weren't consonant. IOW, no EADGCF, no BEADGC, no DGCFBbEb. Not to say they absolutely don't exist, but there seems, at the least, a strong tendency to end up with an instrument where the extreme open strings are consonant with each other. This is a very common pattern for stringed instruments in general--it's true for guitar (even in many if not most alternate tunings), banjo, all the members of the violin family, and all the members of the mandolin family, as well as those funky instruments Irish guys use (cittern, Irish bouzouki).

    I mention this only because I've often seen the assumption that a pure-4ths tuning (BEADGC) is somehow more natural and logical, as if it were obviously the most sensible and useful choice. Apparently many previous generations of musicians didn't find this to be so, and they must have had at least some reasons.

    I'm *definitely* not arguing that BEADGC is bad or anything. Whatever works for you or anybody, is good. And just because somebody did something 300 years ago, that doesn't mean we have to do it now. I'm just putting forward the argument that there could be some perfectly valid reasons for not going with the seemingly most "logical" choice.

    In the end, it doesn't really matter what we tune the dang things to, as long as we can make them work.