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Confused with 6 string bass tuning?!

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Vysous, Jun 11, 2005.


  1. Vysous

    Vysous

    Mar 29, 2005
    Please, help me, I am a bit confused... What is standard tuning for 6 string bass? I always thought it's just tuned in fourths, as on 5 string bass... Like (bottom-top) - B E A D G C ... But I also heard, that standard tuning is different, with major third between top two strings... Like B E A D G B .... Please, help me, I don't know which is more usual.... Thank You!
     
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    C is more usual, however, guitarists who play 6 string bass will often tune it to a B to make it easier for them to deal with it.
     
  3. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I go with BEADGC (two six string basses in my collection) - if I was so desperate to play guitar that I needed to drop the C down to a B, I'd consider a guitar and an octave pedal instead! ;)

    Wulf
     
  4. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I play BEADGB, but the more common approach, which you could probably call the actual standard, is BEADGC.

    I prefer BEADGB not only because I also play guitar, but because there's something aesthetically pleasing about having all the strings at least somewhat consonant with each other, without the B-C dissonance. In particular, having the highest and lowest strings consonant, or at least not dissonant, works for me. AFAICS, through the history of six-string instruments--guitars, lutes, vihuelas, various viola family members--most seem to have incorporated an irregular interval somewhere to make this kind of consonance happen. I don't think I've encountered another 6-string instrument whose regular tuning was in 4ths all the way across the board.

    Another possible advantage to BEADGB, though it may be so minor as to be trivial, is that you only really have to learn note names for 5 strings. If you know what notes are at what frets on the low B, you know this for the high B too.

    Also, I can easily play a major triad in natural harmonics on the highest three strings, which you can't do with BEADGC. Again, hardly a major point, but I like it.

    You do however give up a semitone of upper range with BEADGB. However, my 6s have 26 frets on the high B, so I actually get up to C#!

    In the end, you should go with whatever you're more comfortable with. There's certainly nothing wrong with BEADGC, as players like Patitucci, Bailey, and A. Jackson have shown.
     
  5. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Generally, the reason for the third interval (G to B) instead of a 4th (G to C) on guitar is to facilitate chord voicings. Many chord voicings are much easier this way than if all strings were in fourths, not really a consonance issue as such. If you're planning to play a lot of chords on your bass, then this tuning would certainly assist. If not, then keeping all fourths can certainly make things nore consistent, and so (usually) easier.
     
  6. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I think it depends what chords voicings you're trying to play. There are plenty of chords that work in the low register of the bass on a standard,4ths all the way across, tuning. Of course, if you really want to get into chords, including harmonics, then the way to go isn't to fix on one particular tuning at all but to experiment with one or more specific tunings per song (ala Michael Manring).

    Wulf
     
  7. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Quite true, but part of my point was that it's not just a guitar or chordal thing. Look at gambas, for example.

    http://www.s-hamilton.k12.ia.us/antiqua/gamba_b.htm
     
  8. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    True. However, offhand, as guitar player, I can't think of many voicings that are actually *easier* to play in BEADGC than BEADGB, though I can think of many that are certainly no harder. But I can think of several that are easier in BEADGB. It all depends on exactly what you're trying to do.
     
  9. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Truedat. I string my piccolo in 4ths just so I can just play and not have to think about the notes being a half step lower on one string.
     
  10. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Chicago
    Tim Bogert says the reason his highest string is a B is that hunderds of millions of guitars can't be wrong and that it makes it easier to play chords.

    I have my highest string tuned to C.
     
  11. Me too. Everyone else is insane. :rolleyes:

    Edit: OK, I am an idiot(no, really), & I don't mean to make it look like Tim Bogert or BillyB fromLZ said, "I say they CAN be wrong." That's all me.
     
  12. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Of course, the whole idea that it's a right-or-wrong issue is itself wrong.;)
     

  13. Right- uh, wait... :meh: