Advice after tuning down a full step

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

  1. chazolson

    chazolson Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2013
    Reston, VA
    Sorry to be the bad-news police, but if any band I was in asked me to change my tuning based on the "demands" of someone else in the band (and it's a 99% chance it's the guitar player), I would refuse. Eb (or Ab, or C#, or whatever) is a key just like any other key. I can play in that key just like any other key. If the guitar player can't .... time to find another guitar player.
  3. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Eh, in my experience, the desire to tune down a bit almost always comes from wanting to help out a singer who's having a hard time hitting some high notes.

    Whether you choose do accommodate that by transposing, or de-tuning, or not at all, is certainly your call, especially as a bass player. Guitarists rely a lot on chords that use open strings; sure, you can transpose anything and it'll be technically correct, but you often end up with chord voicings that aren't the same and do sound quite different.

    For example - try playing Led Zeppelin "Kasmir" on a standard tuned guitar.

    Personally, as a musician, I'm way more interested in creating music that sounds great than adhering to some self-imposed rule.

    Alternate and dropped tunings are just another tool in the box. It's not wrong, and it's not "cheating". It's just an available method to accomplish a goal.

    In my opinion, of course.
    Basshappi, MDBass, Waltsdog and 8 others like this.
  4. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    I have a 34 inch bass that I keep permanently tuned down to D.
    I put on the Rotosound SH77 "Steve Harris" flatwound set, and it works great.
    Perfect tension: doesn't flap at all but still a wee bit bendable. :)

    Attached Files:

    Anders Barfod and Magsyndrome like this.
  5. Stumbo

    Stumbo Guest

    Feb 11, 2008

    Kinda like EQ. Change your EQ to fit the venue for the best band Sound instead of sticking with "your tone" regardless. Same for guit players and drummers volume.
    Anders Barfod likes this.
  6. DD Gunz

    DD Gunz

    Jun 18, 2015
    You have relieved a substantial amount of tension by tuning a step down. You need to compensate for that. Your neck is probably flat or has a slight back bow which is contributing to the noise you speak of. A total solution would be higher tension strings and a setup.

    A simple truss and bridge adjustment would go a long way in the meantime.
    mrcbass and mikewalker like this.
  7. DavC


    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    i have a 4 strg that's down 1/2 step ... original E was .100 ,... down 1/2 - .103 or .105 ... trying to keep the lb stress on the neck real close . Then the truss might be ok as is .?

    a string with a hex core might be a little stiffer , ... but feel fine tuned done .?
  8. If you are interested in flats, I have found the La Bella 760M ("Original 1954") 52-110 set to be good for D-G-C-F tuning.
    mikewalker likes this.
  9. trailer

    trailer Thumper Supporting Member

    Jan 18, 2008
    Guntersville, Al.
    At one point I was playing in a "standard" band, 2 eflat bands and a D band at the same time. I just changed my attack a little for the D band to keep the clack to a minimum *shrug*
  10. electrichead


    Nov 29, 2013
    I am just finishing up resetting several basses for rehearsal and gigging with a new band. We do 30 - 40 cover songs a gig ranging through grunge, alt, modern metal, hair metal, nu-metal, and on and on. As such both the guitar player and I have 3 tunings throughout the set as well as several songs in drop D. I have a very heavy right hand and needed to fix the same issue you are having.

    I really liked the feel and tension on my Jazz in E with hex core SS, 45 65 85 105, so I set about matching that tension across the other basses and tunings.

    I found these 2 resources to be the most helpful but there are several other tension charts and guides on the web. Not all manufacturers provide data but you can get pretty close across the most common strings.
    String Tension Pro

    Once I had a list of the gauges I might need I finished up with some trial and error. One of the sets I had to make custom with singles from Bass Strings Online. Since the tensions were so close to what I already had on I didn't need to make any truss rod adjustments, just saddle height adjustments to compensate for the thicker strings. Now all 3 basses feel and play the same aside from a little extra girth on some strings.

    As long as you already know what you like it shouldn't be difficult to match it.
  11. Fathand

    Fathand 21st Century Distortion Man Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2005
    Regarding the original question - thicker strings + setup and that's it (like many have stated earlier).

    Depending on your preferences and bass the suitable set is most likely between .115 - .50 and .100 - .40. I've played in D-standard for years and currently prefer a .100 as my low D, because it's easier on the fingers and I don't like super tight tension on my strings. .115 was too chunky for my tastes.

    Everyone is entitled to their preference and the level they shelter their bass from hostile changes & environments, but usually these kinds of comments (transpose, why not get a 5-string) come from people who don't play rock/metal gigs. You'd be surprised how much of that music relies on the open strings, and as a bass player you're practically bouncing off from those two bottom open strings all night long. My left hand would divorce me if I tried to play a one hour metal gig with a normal tuned 5-string replacing a down tuned 4-string.;)

    I don't know if the OP has a rock repertoire, but this may apply to other genres as well (which I might not be that familiar with).
  12. Bob Clayton

    Bob Clayton My P doesn’t have flats or tort Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 14, 2001
    Philly Suburbs
    Try picking up The Drop by Digitech. A pedal that simulates dropping the tubing on every string. So if you’re tuned to standard and have it set to two semi-tones, it’ll be like you’re playing everything a whole step down.

    I use it for some songs and have no tracking issues at all, even on a 5 string.
    mikewalker, Stumbo and zoonose like this.
  13. mobdirt

    mobdirt Guest

    Jun 14, 2017
    youre kind of proving my point here, i didnt say anything about how much pressure they can take i said they are more taut
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2018
  14. howlin


    Nov 15, 2008
    I'm Not There
    This is exactly what I have experienced and would consider it a good starting point FWIW.
  15. Skybone


    Jun 20, 2016
    Having been in a couple of bands using D Standard, a slightly heavier gauge set of strings is the way to go.

    A 50-110 set should be ideal, though you will need to check the intonation after putting the strings on.
    knumbskull likes this.
  16. theduke1

    theduke1 Supporting Member

    Dec 22, 2010
    Sussex WI
    I use a Digitech Drop pedal
    This allows for standard tuning of my bass and it is especially handy at open jams to change tunings on the fly
    mikewalker and zoonose like this.
  17. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    I have my P tuned down to DGCF using Rotosound '77 jazz flats .45 to .100 gauge and that tension works for me. I had to adjust truss rod and intonation to match the lower tension from tuning down of course.
    mikewalker likes this.
  18. Magsyndrome


    Mar 1, 2018
    That's one nice thing about having a couple of extra basses. You can set up a couple in different tuning. Over the years I have played in many bands that tuned down a whole step or half step. This is just normal for bands to use different tunings.

    I always use the heavier strings when tuning down personally. Intonation usually only needs a slight adjustment. Often a slight truss rod tweak is necessary. The Hipshot drop D tuner is a really useful tool for bands who just drop the E to a D on certain songs if you don't want to transition to a 5 string. Arranging the songs in your set list so you don't have to keep tuning up and down is a big help.
  19. Practice playing lighter. Its worth it.
    mikewalker likes this.
  20. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Time for a low B five string.
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