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CGDAE - what do you think?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by maxr, Mar 27, 2006.

  1. maxr


    Mar 27, 2006
    Surrey Hills, UK
    Hi - I play 5 string viola tuned CGDAE, and 5 string cello tuned CGDAE. I'm thinking of taking up bass (probably an Eminence 5 string EUB or similar), and know nothing about bass technique as yet. I do know there is a minority of players who tune DB in 5ths, and I'm looking forward to receiving Dennis Mazurro's book on that.

    Given the other instruments I play, would it make sense for me to also learn bass tuned CGDAE, and what advantages and problems can you foresee please? It might make transferring chops to and from cello easier, and avoid some confusion between a 5th tuned cello and a 4th tuned bass. This is initially for folk music accompaniment, and maybe some jazz in time - I don't foresee classical. I'm 6' tall, medium span hands.

    Thanks, Max
  2. PaulCannon


    Jan 24, 2002
    Frankfurt, Germany
    NS Design Endorsing Artist
    I just don't see the point. What use does the high E string serve in the context of a bass, and where would you buy one? I'm also not sure if there are any teachers who could show you how to play a bass tuned like that.

    If you want to tune in fifths, then that's up to you. If I was going to learn a new instrument, I think it would behoove me to learn it the "standard" way first and make adjustments later as I felt they were necessary.
  3. Skeezix


    Sep 28, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I dont' see a problem, necessarily. Although no bass players are going to sit in and you won't be able to play anyone else's bass. Finding a high string that'll work could be tough.

    For me, if I could play a bass in 5ths, I would. The range that you gain is great. Access to 6ths, etc. Might be a neat experiment....
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Oh -- one thing that I meant to mention. Check out what fingering a major third is like when you only have three fingers, as you do on about half of the bass. That's the one thing that has stopped me from even considering the switch.
  6. Hi Max: Go for it. I've been tuning in 5ths for almost 14 years & never looked back. I'm good friends with Dennis Masuzzo & his book is EXCELLENT for 5th tuning. Welcome to the 5ths club. Go to my web page for some links to 5th tuning (www.larryholloway.com), but even better: check out Silvio Dalla Torre.. www.silviodallatorre.com
    He is the Professor of Double Bass at Rostock University, Rostock Germany. Check out his link on the bassetto. It is a smaller (early) bass tuned G-D-A-E. He showed a Pirastro string made for bassetto, although I don't know what scale length they are for. His sight is very infomative & will only inspire you for this tuning. One of his recordings on bassetto is amazing.
  7. maxr


    Mar 27, 2006
    Surrey Hills, UK
    Thanks all:

    Larry, thanks for the encouragement and refs to your site and Silvio Della Torre's. The bassetto stuff is very interesting - is it tuned G D A E because a low C string would be too 'floppy' at its scale length?

    In your experience, is there a minimum size scale that a low C string will work with? e.g. an Eminence has a string length of 41 1/4" and a Steinberger EUB about 41 3/4, but the Steinberger Bass Cello EUB skeezix mentions above is 34" like a bass guitar (anyone ever played one of those? That must be about the scale of a bassetto?). Most of the music I play is in C, D, G, A and related minors rather than the flat chords.

    Ray mentions problems of fingering 3rds - does 5th tuning generally require more big stretches than 4th tuning, or is it swings and roundabouts?

    Paul - high E string: if it's physically possible to make it, Pirastro will custom wind 'odd' strings like that, they're wonderful. They make my cello high E strings. I've been told those should in theory break straight away, but they don't know that, so they last about 6 months.


  8. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I've been playing "toy" bass in 5ths for about 8 years, and figured some of my experience might apply. I heard the arguements about "standard" tuning, and how I should stick with that, blah, blah, blah... But if you look at the history of bass, you'll see that EADG has been the standard for a relatively short amount of time. I don't see why you should limit yourself to playing in 4ths and then make adjustments later - if anything you should do the opposite; play in 5ths and then make the transition to 4ths if necessary.

    As far as reaching that high E, I also say "why not?" If you want to play higher notes, go ahead - regardless of it's context. Music is not about rigid rules.

    Also, you may find that your chords may actually ring out clearer, due to the separation of octaves. Sure, reaching a third is just about impossible, but reaching a 10th becomes much easier. I rarely played chords in 4ths due to the muddy nature of having all those notes so close together, but now I use them all the time.

    I've been looking into making the switch to upright tuned in 5ths as well, and I've been able to overcome every arguement for not doing so. The only thing I think you might run into a problem with is finding a high E string.
  9. Thomastic makes spirocores for 5th tuning. It's called the Red Mitchell set. Velvet also makes strings for 5th tuning. Either the Garbos or the Animas, I'm not sure. I have an Eminence also. I use the Red Mitchell set (3/4 weich). They work perfect. As for the high E... I'm not sure? See if Pirastro has something. I'll see if I can come with some ideas:meh: I'll pm you in a few days to answer the other questions when I have some time.
  10. maxr


    Mar 27, 2006
    Surrey Hills, UK
    Doesn't sound like strings are a great problem, that's great. Larry - is your Eminence a 4 or a 5 string, and do you know if there's much difference between those in playability and sound please?

  11. I say go for it, especially if you're starting from scratch and don't have to retrain yourself from 'standard' tuning. If you're looking at an instrument like the NS cello, all the technique will be kind of a synthesis anyway.

    Anybody know Rufus Cappadocia's music? He plays a five-string electric cello with a low F, on what looks like a standard-sized cello. So getting a low C out of a 34" scale seems reasonable.

    I tried tuning in fifths for a few months some years ago - it really seems to open up the instrument. Thirds are awful, but the rest of the additional shifting isn't so hard. I found it was easy enough to play classical parts in the new tuning, but I had real trouble improvising, especially over changes. I decided I wasn't up for the challenge of such a big re-think and switched back. The hard part, as usual, is in the brain.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    When you look at all the major thirds that you have to play it seems like a loth of work to me:

    (Short, incomplete list)
    Maj. 7 chord -- root to 3rd, 5th to 7th, 9 to #11, etc.
    Min. 7 chord -- 3rd to 5th, 7th to 9th, 11th to maj. 13th, b13 to 11th, etc.
    Dom. 7th -- root to 3rd, 9 to #11, 7th to 9th, etc.
    Melodic minor has 4 major thirds in it!

    That dang major third -- a pretty popular interval....
  13. maxr


    Mar 27, 2006
    Surrey Hills, UK
    So, how would you 5ths tuning players address Ray's concern on Major 3rds - do you use a special technique or workaround, or is it something you just got used to dealing with? (I assume on a 41"+ scale bass)

  14. Yea Ray, the 3rd's are a tough one & I struggled with them for a while. Of course the 10th is easy. It's the same fingering as an octave in 4th tuning. My thinking has changed. Invert a major 3rd & you get a minor 6th. That's easy to play in 5ths. I usually describe the tuning as upside down & backwards. We tend to build bass lines from the bottom up, as they should be. That's the way chords are built, but no one really notices if I play a major 3rd (C up to E), or a minor 6th (C down to E). I'm of course talking about playing changes, lines, etc. But if I'm playing scales, arpeggios, the major 3rd is a tough interval. The tuning definitely has it's disadvantages, but after 14 years of tuning in 5ths, the advantages far outweigh them (IMO). Dennis Masuzzo's book really explains the shifting & fingering superbly. Occasionally, I shift farther to reach a given note, and other times less (compared to 4th tuning). Explaining music verbally is difficult, but once I got a grasp on the tuning, the fingerings made more sense to me. I couldn't understand why? I was studing with Red Mitchell at the time & he said it's because music naturally resolves V to I. That's when I understood that the fingerings (especially bass lines) made more sense & resolved easier in 5th tuning. Ray, you even said: "If I could play bass in 5ths, I would." I Love it! Go for it!!
    Of course Max, you don't have to worry about changing your tuning. Dennis' book will do wonders. You just have to find a high E.
  15. Hi Max: I'm sure you read my other post, but Dennis' book demonstrates 'rhythmic fingering' or duplets. I've kind of devised my own over the years and I actually do less shifting. It's nothing new or hard. It's just getting to know the fingerboard. The major 3rd is tough, but in time you'll find it. I can't see you having any problems with your background in 5ths.
  16. Slightly off-topic, but perhaps interesting to those considering 5ths tuning: I would like to ask Max (and other 'cello, viola etc players) how you manage a major 3rd on your instrument. If I understand correctly, you have two choices to get a major 3rd in fifths tuning. You can:

    (1) move up the same string 4 semitones [I won't say frets:smug: ], or
    (2) cross up to the next string, and go down 3 semitones.

    Have I got that right? On a bass (assuming you are using 3-finger -1,2,4- left hand fingering that means for (1) you have to change "through" two positions (ie from 1st position to 2.5 position), for (2) just one position (ie from 4th position to 3.5 position).

    Okay, getting a little complicated. I just re-read what I wrote and realised that the option (1) is the same regardless of what tuning you are using! But back to my questions:
    -Firstly, could anyone explain what makes the second option (2) so difficult on a bass?
    - Secondly, how does this work on a 'cello or similar? Do you have all four fingers available to use, as opposed to the three fingers most people use on the bass?
    -Thirdly, when playing a Major arpeggio (eg CEG) on a bass in 4ths tuning, don't you have to move your hand anyways, either to get from the Root to the major 3rd, or from the major 3rd to the fifth?

    Sorry for the complicated posts. I started learning bass in Germany, where my teacher taught me the neck in "Lagen", which I have translated as "positions" in English. If it doesn't make sense the way I worded it please let me know, I'll give it another shot! :hyper:


  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer Supporting Member

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA

    I know nothing about a cello, but as to the other two points, my observations would be this:

    The major 3rd is fairly commonly used as a passing tone in a line. It's nicely used to transition into a change. Further, it's heavily used in walking lines. Often these are pretty quick movements.

    With "standard" tuning, you can get away with a pretty sloppy slift. I usually do more what Rabbath calls a pivot. You just rock the hand back a bit, grab the 3rd and really never move the thumb.

    Covering the ground to grab that note tuned in 5ths with a quick walking line would be A LOT more work.
  18. Yes, I totally agree. Interestingly, reading some other threads on fifths tuning, many people have said that fifths tuning is/would be less difficult in jazz and other "contemporary" music as opposed to classical and orchestra music. But, I think that the real benefit of tuning in fifths would come when bowing, rather than playing jazz, due to the bass "opening up" both harmonically and in range.

    Question: when you "pivot" to play a maj.3rd, are you using the first finger for both the root and the 3rd? Just curious, as I have not learnt this technique (is it originally Rabbath?).
  19. Max: I have the 4 string Eminence. I haven't played the 5 string, so I can't compare set up, string spacing, etc. but I'm sure sound is similar. I took the Gage pickup off & fit it with an Underwood pickup. For 'my' needs & setup, this was far superior as I needed more punch & volume.
  20. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Very interesting thread and topic - i.e. tuning in 5ths etc.

    I nearly missed it though as the title was like hundreds on the BG side about alternate (drop) tunings that I usually ignore!! ;)

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