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Best decision for this 6 string tuning, need help

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by mstone564, Dec 26, 2011.

  1. mstone564


    Dec 14, 2009
    So, I recently got a 6 string (woo!), and is curious as to what I want to do with the tuning.

    The tuning I use for my band is A Standard (for me) so from low to high it's: A - D - G - C - F - Bb

    However, I would LOVE to have it in standard for the jazz/experimental stuff I do on the side.

    Would it screw up my neck if let's say I kept it in standard and then switched it to my band's tuning whenever I needed to then tuned it back up? Or vice versa and kept it in my bands tuning and tuned back up to standard when I needed to?

    What would be the best option for this? I really don't want to harm my bass that will cause damage down the road, but I also don't want to have to stick to one tuning.
  2. grisezd


    Oct 14, 2009
    One step down shouldn't be a problem unless you like to play with super low action. It's not going to hurt the bass. Set it up to play well in your A, and just deal with some slightly higher action when you tune up. Or just play it in A all the time and don't look at the other players fingers!
  3. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Lower tension shouldn't hurt the neck. Sustained higher tension could. Whatever you do, make sure that your bass will be okay with the tension at the higher tuning. If you're using a standard six string set, and if you like the playability and sound you get when the bass is tuned down to A, you should be fine. A neck that moves a lot could be problematic, and you might have to make slight compromises in your setup to get one that works at both tensions.

    Try talking to Skip at Circle K Strings. I've found him helpful with string tension questions and have had pretty good luck with their strings. I've also had good experiences with DR strings -- I haven't tried their DDT (drop down tuning) sets, but this seems like the kind of situation they're aimed at.
  4. I tune my 6 to A standard, same as you, with Spirit Descending. With my "other band", standard, half step down (Bb Eb Ab.....etc.). Never had a problem, BUT, it's neck through and string through. I would imagine that with a bolt on or set neck, you may have issues with tension, action, and fret buzz. May not be enough to notice if you stay in the same temperature zone all the time.

    I have a question along the same lines: am I killing the life of my strings?
  5. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I've seen bolt-on and neck-through necks that moved a lot, and necks of both types that were very stable. A neck that moves a lot in response to the weather won't always move a lot in response to changes in string tension, and vice versa.

    You might find this chart helpful:

    I'm not a luthier, but I don't see periodic tuning changes of a whole step (down and then back up to standard) across all the strings harming the neck. Very uneven forces on the neck I could see being bad. Buying a set to get the tension you're used to at standard tuning when you're tuned to A, and then tuning UP I can see being bad (read: lots more tension on the neck), but what you're both proposing sounds okay to me. I think the trick will be finding the strings/gauges/setup that will give you the best results in both tunings while keeping the tension in the higher (standard) tuning within acceptable limits. Michael Manring does all kinds of crazy tuning changes (but then he also plays light strings on a graphite-necked Zon).

    As for the life of the strings, I don't see it being a problem -- it's not like you're taking them on and off, or even letting them get slack -- but what do I know. Have you noticed your strings not lasting very long (or not as long as you're used to)?

    Maybe a luthier will chime in about the neck safety/longevity issues. If you're switching tunings a lot, a stiff neck would be a plus -- and maybe a very "willowy" neck could be compromised by being left at the lower tension for prolonged periods... I guess if I was worried about it, I'd tune it back up to standard at the end of each "dropped" session, but this is all conjecture on my part.
  6. mstone564


    Dec 14, 2009
    If it helps, it's a Spector Legend 6 string.

    And I don't mind playing with low action as long as there's no crazy fret buzz (even though this is for a metal band).

    So would having it set up in standard (BEADGC) with these strings... Amazon.com: D'Addario EXL165-6 XL 6-String Bass Soft/Regular String Set: Musical Instruments ... and then just tuning down to A when needed wouldn't be a problem?

    Also, random, but I was curious about this as well. If anyone has this bass or would know about this, is it bad that I have to physically push down the top of my case for it to shut? I feel like this is causing harm to my bass.
    I'm using this case btw: http://www.samash.com/p/Spector_Hardshell 6 String Bass Guitar Case_-49993484
  7. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    That looks like a fairly beefy (.135 to .32) six string set. Between that and the 35" scale (if I'm not mistaken) of your bass, I think you'd be fine in terms of tone and response dropping a whole step. As for fret buzz, I dunno. Try it and find out. It will depend on how much your neck moves, how well your bass is set up to start out, and your technique.

    Shoving the case shut? You're there, I'm not. You're in a better position to judge, but if I were worried about a case harming my bass, I'd look for another.

    I don't think the tuning changes you talk about would hurt your neck, but if you're worried tune it back up to standard pitch when you're done. Again, I'm not a luthier -- this seems like common sense to me, but I can't give you a definitive answer.

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