Advice after tuning down a full step

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by formulaz, Apr 2, 2018.

  1. formulaz

    formulaz Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Milwauke, WI
    My main band has taken the plunge and we are tuning down a full step for all of our songs to accommodate our older voices. That is on all the strings. In other words, what was sung in the key of A is now in G, but the position on the fretboard remains the same.

    My problem is that several of my favorite basses don't seem to like the step down, especially with the E string. When I'm really cranking (I am not a light touch on my strings), the strings will clack on the frets. About half work, and about half have trouble.

    I don't want to sell my favorite basses, I'd rather get them to work. I am looking for suggestions. Adjust the action? Lighter/heavier guage strings? Of course, I could learn all my songs all over again, just a step down (i.e., not tune down, but adjust my hand on the fretboard), but again, I would prefer to see if my basses can accommodate this.

  2. Deak


    Feb 28, 2016
    I couldn't get the down tuning to sound anywhere near right on a 4 string. Like you it could have been my particular gear. I was in kind of the same boat and thus I bought the first of my 2 fivers. For me, problem solved, although I prefer to play a 4 string.
    craig0316 and bassdude51 like this.
  3. dtripoli


    Aug 15, 2010
    Unless you want or need to have the open strings for D & G (Normally tuned E & A), why bother?
    Just play the songs in a lower key with the normal tuning.
    If a song was originally in key of, say A, play it in the key of G. That's a step down.
    craig0316, lowplaces and 2saddleslab like this.
  4. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Get heavier strings and set your bass up properly.
    stigbeve, Burwabit, Milo's and 28 others like this.
  5. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Heavier gauge and new setup. Done
  6. formulaz

    formulaz Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Milwauke, WI
    Just play the songs in a lower key with the normal tuning.
    If a song was originally in key of, say A, play it in the key of G. That's a step down.

    Many songs do require an open string, especially in E.

    It's not like I can't relearn all the songs. Many are very, very easy to play a step down, of course. I am just trying to see whether someone has a suggestion or suggestions where all or most of my basses can be adjusted to accommodate tuning down.

    I do not especially care for 5 strings, but if I were to make that transition, that means several of my favorite basses are no longer useful. I'd prefer to keep playing them by making them work tuned down.
  7. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Heavier gauge strings will help a lot.

    Go to about a .115-.055 set. Not every brand has 'em, but dropped tunings are pretty common these days, so a lot do.
  8. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    DR has a specific line just for this (dropped down tuning, aka "DDT"). Strings are actually made differently to sort of maintain a feel of tension, from what I understand.

    Haven't played 'em, though, and I've heard mixed reviews on the tone of these.
    TinIndian, scuzzy and FloridaTim like this.
  9. FloridaTim


    May 29, 2013
    Kissimmee, FL
    This is what I did. They worked great for me.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  10. Anders Barfod

    Anders Barfod

    Jan 16, 2015
    I thought a 110 string on the bottom E (now D) was sufficient on a 34" scale bass with a good setup (bridge and truss rod) to be nice and playable.. 100 in standard E, 105 in E-flat and 110 in D on the low string. Granted we are talking hexcore strings with good tension.
  11. formulaz

    formulaz Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Milwauke, WI
    You bring up strings with "good tension." That is something I know nothing about. Please tell me more....
  12. mobdirt

    mobdirt Guest

    Jun 14, 2017
    Have you adjusted the string length for intonation?
  13. formulaz

    formulaz Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Milwauke, WI
    No. Never have done that before.
  14. mobdirt

    mobdirt Guest

    Jun 14, 2017
    Increase the string length by checking where the intonation matches the 12th fret harmonic to the 12th fretted note, use a tuner, its where i would start. After that increase the bridge height a bit to avoid fret clang, if the fretboard is curved follow the curve, and you may need to lower the pickup a little. Hope this helps :)
    BK bassist and formulaz like this.
  15. mobdirt

    mobdirt Guest

    Jun 14, 2017
    Strings with hex cores tend to be a little more taut, even i learnt of this very recently even though i have been using hex core strings for years lol
    DR and d'addario and many others make them
    formulaz likes this.
  16. Drucifer

    Drucifer Not currently practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Endorsements: your name could be here, Mr. Sadowsky!
    A good guitar tech could put new strings and adjust your setup for this tuning.
    smogg and formulaz like this.
  17. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008
    When I went looking for new strings, there was a "tension" rating on the package.

    Going to higher tension strings will solve the problem but the bass neck truss rod will need to be adjusted so the neck won't bow.

    Even then you'll need the check the neck regularly to make sure it's not slowly bowing.
  18. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Heavier gauge strings or 5 string bass.
  19. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    I have the DR DDT's on a 5er that is dropped a whole step. They are really nice strings. So much so, I am considering their more normal gauge for my standard tuned bass the next time I opt for new strings. They sound good and hold tune well, at lower tunings. And for stainless, they aren't harsh sounding.
    Philly Watts likes this.
  20. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    No they do not. They have exactly the same tension for the same thickness.

    They are slightly less flexible, but that is completely separate from the lbs of pull required to reach a given pitch.
    MDBass and electrichead like this.
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