BEAD 4 String Pros & Cons?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by grrg63, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. grrg63


    Dec 14, 2005
    I read about bassists putting the BEAD from 5 string sets on 4 stringers in that tuning and Im very intrigued. If you have tried it can you relate your experience and whatever pros & cons you may have run across?
  2. I stay with standard tuning. Why? IMO non standard tuning makes it easier for someone, to do certain things, and that someone probably is not the bassists. So I stay in standard tuning.
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
    TN WOODMAN likes this.
  3. symbolic_acts


    May 24, 2004
    you may need to file the nut.

    you may need to make bridge and string height adjustments. might even need to file the bridge feed for the string if its not wide enough to accommodate a B.

    You wont have a g string...might not matter if you're going chugchugchug but i couldn't live without it
    JRA, saabfender and grrg63 like this.
  4. stigbeve


    Sep 24, 2014
    I did it to an '82 Stingray after I lent it to someone and the nut broke.
    Band was starting to do some songs with 7 string guitars in standard.
    Low B was an absolute monster but there were a lot of dead spots. First few frets on low B were pretty much useless.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
    saabfender and grrg63 like this.
  5. ScottfromCalgary


    May 10, 2015
    I’ve just been thinking of trying this myself. I have 3 very light 4 string P basses and am considering ditching my heavier 5 in favour of a BEAD four banger in my cover band to try it out. Looking through our set list and there’s really only 5 or so songs where I use the G so it would be an easy adjustment. If I go that route I will have a new nut cut and installed along with the regular set up required.
    Jason Hollar and grrg63 like this.
  6. grrg63


    Dec 14, 2005
    Yeah, I love 5ers but they are hard on me physically when we have to play 3 sets.
    And I rarely use the G on them also.
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  7. Les Fret

    Les Fret

    Sep 9, 2009
    Only downside is that you don’t have a G string. I cannot do without it since I play a lot of high stuff. But if you want to use the B string a lot just convert your bass. There is no downside. Maybe you are lucky and the bass needs little or no adjustment. You can try it first for a few weeks and then make adjustments if you want to stick with that tuning.

    Maybe you need to file the nut for the B string or maybe the hole in the tuner. And probably some neck adjustment. But it depends on your bass.
    Mordamir, dBChad and grrg63 like this.
  8. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Your reply contributed exactly the same thing not replying would have.

    OP: Try it. It'll cost you a set of strings and a few minutes with a file to make the nut slots larger. You can easily go back to standard with those same slots. I go back and forth on the same bass with no issues. Just make sure you wind the strings down to the bottom of the post so you get good pressure on the nut (if you go back to standard). Otherwise they might shift a little.
  9. Thumpin6string

    Thumpin6string Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2013
    Shoals Indiana
    Pros: You have a B string
    Cons: Not enough strings
    saabfender and Tekkers like this.
  10. He asked for pros and cons. I offered a con.
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Read the OP. He asked for comments from people with experience using BEAD tuning. Have you played in that tuning before?
    Loring, Markamb1 and Reg Braithwaite like this.
  12. Yools


    Jul 24, 2009
    Deepinaharta, TX
    I primarily play 5-string basses, and I needed a backup bass for my metal band (we tune down 3 half-steps, while my other band is standard tuning), so I re-strung one of my 4-string basses with heavier strings for the detuned low-B (in my case, G#0). It works great for that band - I do miss the high string sometimes and have to move position for some songs in order to get the notes I need without having to over-think it, but other than that it's fine.

    Here are a few suggestions from my experience:

    You will not only need to file out the nut to fit the strings, but you will also need to re-set the intonation for the new tuning. You should do a complete setup once the nut is re-cut and the strings are on - if you're not comfortable doing that, find a tech that can do it for a reasonable price. If the tech starts giving you a hard time about it and saying that BEAD tuning is not a good idea, you can damage your bass, etc., turn around and walk out and find someone who knows what they are talking about. As others have said, you can always go back to standard tuning. I've had no problem with stringing 5-string basses EADGC, so don't think that you're committing your bass to this tuning if you re-cut the nut slots..

    Concerning strings... you will hear a lot of people say something like "get a 5-string set and throw away the G string". I suggest you go to Kalium Strings and get a 4-string set with appropriate string gauges so you don't have to waste a string. If you plan to use standard BEAD tuning, I suggest you use the .136 - .57 set - the low string is a bit heavier than a usual .125 or .130 B-string in a typical 5-string set, which will give the string a little more tension and less floppiness.

    If you have the means, I encourage you to at least try it. Good luck.

  13. grrg63


    Dec 14, 2005
    Thanks for the very helpful info Yools. I dont have a pressing need to do it right now, but I would still like to try it sometime down the road.
    Do you think it would be a better idea to do it on a bass with a more substantial neck (e.g. a P vs. a J) to ward off bowing/reduce truss rod adjustments?
  14. Yools


    Jul 24, 2009
    Deepinaharta, TX
    That really shouldn't matter... for practical purposes, putting heavier strings on and tuning to lower pitches should result in very close to the same actual tension on the neck, provided you chose reasonable string gauges. The bass I used is an old Ibanez Iceman with a super thin neck that actually was damaged when I bought it (the fretboard had separated from the neck right around the nut and first 2 frets). I've had it in that tuning for a couple of years with no problem. You should still set it up and adjust the truss rod if necessary to get the most out of the tuning, but it won't cause any problems unless there's a pre-existing problem with the neck.

    The nice thing about the Kalium strings is that the gauges in each set are designed to produce an even amount of tension per string for a given tuning. That's why the gauges in their sets are slightly different than the typical .045-.065-.085-.105-.125 sets you see from most manufacturers - if you put the .045-.125 set on a 34" scale bass at standard BEADG tuning, the tension on the A and D strings will be a bit high, the E and G strings a bit low, and the B string very low. That's why B-strings always feel so floppy - you don't need to extend the scale length of the bass*, you just need to get a heavier string.


    *Comments on extended scale length: Extending the scale of a bass to 35" only adds about 2 lbs of tension to the strings, whereas increasing the gauge of the string from .125 to .136 adds over 6 lbs of tension and puts the B string at just over 39 lbs, which is right where you want it to be. I personally have never played a 35" scale 5 string with a standard gauge set with a B-string as tight as the ones on my 5-strings with the Kalium sets, and IMO extending the scale to 35" for standard BEADG tuning is unnecessary.
    lucas303 and grrg63 like this.
  15. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    I realized at some point that my mind counts from the string that's closest to me, the fat one.
    That's my anchor point to remember riffs. I've started on a normal 4 string bass and switched to a 5er two years in, playing BEADG fivers exclusively for nearly two decades. I own 4s and a 6, and I found that going back and forth between the 5s and the 6 is no effort at all, while playing a 4 takes a lot of concentration. Unless it's BEAD.
    That makes it a lot easier. I still have to remember that I am 'missing' a string, but the only tonal accidents that happen are careless fretting on the D string, pushing the string off the side of the fretboard.

    Based on that info, I'd not recommend mixing a BEAD and an EADG bass. At least not for me. YMMV.
    grrg63 likes this.
  16. Pros: B string
    Cons: not G string
    saabfender, IamGroot, Loring and 2 others like this.
  17. Chef

    Chef In Memoriam

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    This is exactly right.
    Maybe you're in a situation like "doom or death metal" where the B string is of primary importance, and thats fine and good.

    For me, I very seldom use the pedal tones, and often use the G string.
    The primary advantage of a 5 string, for me, is the wider range of positions for any given thing you're playing, and, the ability to choose to play runs on fatter strings or skinnier strings for the tonal differences that provides.

    I missed the G string a lot when I tried this, and then just moved to a 5 string and never looked back.
    Loring and Garret Graves like this.
  18. Drucifer

    Drucifer Not currently practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Endorsements: your name could be here, Mr. Sadowsky!
    Try it. It didn't stick for me, but could for you.
  19. hbabels

    hbabels Supporting Member

    Jul 26, 2015
    Phoenix, AZ
    I have mixed experience with it.
    It’s easy enough to do to try it. I’ve liked the sound & it can feel better than the wider neck of a 5 string. Sometimes I miss the G String other times not at all. Depends on the band / set / music

    I say try it experiment with different string gauges & see how you like it.
    It’s easily reveraible & you won’t damage your bass.
    grrg63 likes this.
  20. Markamb1


    Oct 24, 2018
    ED06B230-7599-476B-9D11-BD36A956020F.jpeg 714ED499-9DC1-4350-B5EB-08C06A360122.jpeg

    I know this isn’t what was asked

    Bought a Zombie bass for cheap....second highest action I’ve ever bought... saddles jacked way up....dropped them down adjusted the truss rod as much as I could comfortably.... still too high.... I really wanted to play it so I tuned down to BEAD. Because of the neck relief it barely buzzes, very little tension.... sounds brutal....almost more like having 100 hundred individual drums....
    4 open notes and 24 fretted notes per string. I feel closer to the drums than a guitar at this point.... it’s getting me used to the idea of switching to a 5 string

    Soooooo far.....I’m keeping it in this tuning.

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