Band Decided To Down Tune A Half Step!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Vintage Guy, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. Vintage Guy

    Vintage Guy Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2008
    Since we are getting up there in years my band has decided to down tune a half step to help out on the vocals. The problem I have is with my 5 string bass's. Down tuning takes quite a bit of tension off the "B",and "E" string and makes them more floppy and hard to get rid if fret buzz. Also on the low "B" below "E" sounds like crap. Anyone else have the same issues,and have you found a simple solution to resolve what I am experiencing?
  2. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Was the low B already quite sloppy? Some basses have a low B that is already sloppy, downtuning it doesn't make it any tighter.

    If you are going to downtune I would recommend you get thicker strings, they will provide a better tension at lower tunings. If you intend to keep this bass always at half step I would also recommend a setup tuned to Eb once you put the new strings on, that way the bass will play optimally for Eb.
  3. therhodeo


    Feb 28, 2011
    Owasso OK
    Do you need the Bb? If not just leave your bass tuned to standard and adjust.
  4. Wallace320

    Wallace320 Commercial User

    Mar 19, 2012
    Milan, Italy
    You have to release the neck a bit to counterbalance a lesser string tension
    But it works, unless you use Elixir strings
    They're long lastin' firstly thanx to poor tension, so that low B is nearly unplayable if you only downtune it

    I talk on behalf of my personal experience...

    I play in a Thrash metal band where our instruments (7 and 6 string guitars, 5 and 4 string basses) are a full step downtuned

    You need a correct setup to do that
    Then it's gonna work good

  5. Vintage Guy

    Vintage Guy Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2008
    Since I have a huge collection of 5 strings,this has occured on every bass I own when down tuning them. They were all fine until they were down tuned.
  6. James Judson

    James Judson

    Jul 16, 2009
    I played in that situation for a while. Hated every minute of it. Seemed to suck the tone out of my rigs. 8 bass guitars, 4 amps, 3 cabinets and no combination sounded good. Could have been the room but I won't down tune anymore. If a singer or gui**** wants to play in Eb I just play in Eb.

  7. Essen

    Essen Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    I've recently encountered the same problem. We tuned down a half step a day before a gig, didn't even have time to do another set up. Played awfully because of the lack of tension on my fiver. I have purchased a set of DR DDT's got get the tension back, I'll let you know how it turns out.
  8. The Diaper Geni

    The Diaper Geni Submissive. And loving it. Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2005
    Central Ohio
    This. Or get your bass setup to deal with the less tension the strings will have after tuning down a half step.

    I play regularly in a band that tunes down a half step. I only play four strings. As a friend of mine says, tuning down a half step makes it sound like you're "playing under water". I'm not crazy about it either. But, a gig is a gig and I get paid pretty well. Soooo.....

    The positive is you do get used to the sound after a while. It's definitely a shock when you first start tuning down.

    I'd try to not tune down first. See if you can deal with the loss of open strings. That may be easier than dealing with tuning down.
  9. hdracer


    Feb 15, 2009
    Elk River, MN.
    ^^^ This
  10. jlepre

    jlepre Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2007
    Parsippany, NJ
  11. I once played in a friend's band and simply moved the notes down a 1/2 step rather than retuning. Wasn't too fond of it, but disliked it much less than turning a perfectly good low B string into mush.
  12. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Tampa, FL.
    For the record, a thicker gauge does not necessarily mean greater inherent tension. That's why you can have different brands that are the same gauge and they'll each have a different inherent tension.
  13. Gougedeye

    Gougedeye Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Central Washington
    That's too bad. I'm not trying to be an asshat here, but how about cutting the songs you can't play in standard tuning? Or rearrange them to a key you guys can sing in? Or switch to playing a 4 string? Thats what I did. The band soon faded away after that. One last thing you might try...Get an extended range bass, like a Dingwall or a Tune or an Overwater. The longer scale will help with your B string. Good luck.
  14. ^^This^^

    ^^and this^^

    Have you tried Circle K strings? They make all kinds of gauges for every tension and tuning.

    Mar 4, 2008
    its only a half step! (sorry had to say it) just play around with your setup a bit and maybe try different strings (more tension or bigger gauge) with people dropping down to F/F# these days a half step seems silly to worry about. sounds like your a seasoned player... you'll adjust.
  16. tink9975

    tink9975 Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2006
    MoCo, MD
    my band does the same thing, I find that thicker strings and a set-up will help a lot, though I would still rather play in standard.
  17. I play with a band who tunes to Drop C#... I keep my bass in C# standard. A proper set-up and thicker gauge strings at the right tension help keep things tight (pun). D'addario and Circle K are nice enough to put tension charts for their products online. I'm sure other companies do as well.

    If you don't do as therhodeo says, research the strings you use now, what their tensions are, and what thicker gauge would keep that same tension at a lower tuning. As it's just a half step, I can't imagine you'll make much of a jump.
  18. This is true, but if you go up a gauge in the same string it will be higher tension. When I played in a band that tuned down like this I had the same problem on a 4, the E just didn't cut it. I went from Roto Stainless 66 LD's (med gauge) to 66LE's (heavy gauge) and it made all the difference in the world. You will need a set up after changing gauges though.
  19. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Well, you have to follow up with getting the instruments setup for your new detuned state. When you slack the strings, the truss rod is going to pull the neck back from where it was before.
    I've been playing 1/2 step detuned in nearly every band I've been in since the mid 90's.
  20. goldenglory18


    Nov 30, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Your Mom.
    Coming from someone that has been playing in standard flat, and dropped D for YEARS, I can tell you that a dedicated bass set-up properly for the odd tunings does wonders.

    Some basses just don't like odd tunings. Kinda like some hands just don't like some basses....