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C-G-D-A Tuning for 4 string fretted

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Cfunk, Aug 17, 2000.

  1. Cfunk


    Aug 17, 2000
    Micheal & Steve, It is very cool that you guys share your experience and wisdom with us. Thanks. (If you have any questions on the business and economics of the Internet I would be happy to reciprocate. Sorry I don't pick stocks, a fool's errand in my opinion.)

    I am relatively new to the bass and have certainly not mastered E-A-D-G tuning but the idea of focusing on C-G-D-A tuning appeals because my 4 string assumes the essential range of a 5 string (beyond with a hip-shot) and the chance to list Rostopovich as an influence.

    I would welcome both your thoughts on the relative merits and negatives of C-G-D-A verses E-A-D-G and perhaps B-E-A-D as a primary (if not exclusive tuning I suspect it would take several life times of practicing before I could change tuning once in the middle of a song). If there is a better general purpose alternative tuning than what I have listed I am interested.

    C-G-D-A is symmetrical which for us mortals is extremely helpful. I understand fifths verses fourths, seven verses five fret seperation, and the obvious impact on intervals. But what are the nuances ? A post I found stated that arpeggiated lines are easier and scalar lines more difficult. Some longer stretches but also more range from a single hand postion.

    Are there any books or other sources of info C-G-D-A or other alternative tunings for fretted 4 string ?

    I've sorted out the strings to have similar tension to medium EADG(.105-.045) I will use CGDA (.120-.040)

    I would certainly appreciate your thoughts (and those of other Talkbass members) on the relative merits of C-G-D-A and focusing C-G-D-A as main tuning especially for relative new comer to the bass.


  2. Cfunk


    Aug 17, 2000
    Searching the Bass Player Archives I found a number of articles by Michael Manring on Alternative Tunings(Oct '92, Jan/Feb '95, Oct '97, Dec '97) and several titles specifically mentioning CGDA (Jan/Feb '93, March '93, April '93). Oct '92 and April '93 are unfortunately no longer available. I will buy or try to track these down.

    Red Mitchell

    Limited site but evidently while he was working in Hollywood for MGM the requests of composers like Henry Mancini caused him to turn to CGDA tuning in 1966.

    Jole Quarrington (Principle Bassist for Toronto Symphony)

    This is a great site focused on classical double bass. Joel is a big advocate of playing in fifths (like the standard tuning for cello, viola, and violin). An article on double bass history implys that the limits of string technology a century or two back forced the double bass into to stay in fourths despite experimentation in fifths.
  3. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    CGDA is a fun tuning, and as I'm sure you're aware, the same as a cello, only one octave down (I believe Michael uses it in cello octave on the Hyperbass). For me the main application has been when I've been stuck in a rut - retune and suddently all my familiar patterns are gone! There are some lovely big interval chords available, and some fun two handed ideas that work better in fifths. Listen to some of Red Mitchell's work in this tuning - he sounds like no other upright player - try 'Doggin' Around', his duet album with Herb Ellis, it's fantastic.

    I'm all for trying new tunings - since getting a 6 string fretless it's been less of a feature of my playing, as I'm still nowhere near getting into any ruts on the 6 and am finding new sounds everyday, but as and when I hit that brick wall, I may well go for fifths again! :oops:)


  4. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    While not playing cello myself...I have written music for the cello and this tuning has always made sense to me. I just retuned one of my basses to the CDGA tuning, after thinking about it for a while. I find that it entices me to change my voicings and opens my musical ideas up quite a bit.
    Hopefully, this will inspire me, to begin writing more with my bass.

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