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De-tuning/Downtuning a 5 string?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bgwatts, Apr 20, 2006.

  1. I'm an oldschool 4 banger. The bands been "suggesting" I go five.I'm interested.I'm looking into it. But,,,,,,,,,,,,we tune down a half step to E flat.Can you do that with a five? Seems like that B string would get flabby and floppy.
    B Flat?
  2. In our band we always detune a 1/2 step. I use a 35" scale Roscoe, and a .130 B string, so the B string is nice and tight.
  3. so its More a function of the strings? not the basic design of the instrument?
  4. More on that...........I've seen some 4 string basses ,with the same set of strings ,where one bass......................just doesn't "have it " when tuned down a 1/2 step. Have you seen this too?
  5. The Hammer

    The Hammer

    Jul 13, 2004
    first off why would you need to detune at all? Are you planning on going below the low B? FWIW I play a 5 string detuned to ADGCF and it plays fine so detuning a half step shouldn't be a big deal. You will want to have your action adjusted however
  6. gafbass02


    Nov 9, 2005
    cheltenham uk
    Im on two bands one tunes down a semitone and one a full tone, i use both six and four strings and it is a pain on both, especially the six, even with heavy strings i still have quite a high action. I find it does sap tone, most noticeable on my Stingray, my Warwick FNA Jazzman seems to survive the best, not sure why. That said it does work, its not ideal but its not too much of a headache.
  7. I used to work at a music store, and I have noticed the same thing. Construction plays a big part, especially the neck construction. I would look for a neck with graphite or steel reenforcement rods, which keep the neck stable, but mostly try the bass out detuned.
  8. RevGroove

    RevGroove Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2002
    Burlington ON Canada
    Manager, Account Services: Long & McQuade Ltd. (Burlington); MTD Kingston Basses International Emerging Artist; Bartolini Electronics Emerging Artist
    +1 on all counts...unless you're all sharing the same charts and not making your own (which would eliminate the need for on the spot transpositions,) there's really no benefit to your detuning at all, unless you want the C...the ADGCF "Gospel Tuning" I also use is more than sufficient for my needs, but I wouldn't go any lower than that...if I needed lower, I'd find a decent 7 string somewhere...
  9. I've never had a problem downtuning a half-step on ANY bass. Sure, some sound better than others, but that's true of any bass in any tuning. I don't think that a bass would sound amazing in standard tuning and then go to crappy when you just go a half-step down. As long as you adjust your setup slightly to accommodate the lower tension, and have a well constructed bass with good strings, it should be fine.

    The reason that you would downtune a 5-string half-step (or more) is because a lot of rock/metal bands play fast with a lot of open pedal notes. So downtuning is the most practical way to make that style work well. Metallica plays all their live shows tuned to Eb for example. It helps the sound thicken up and sound 'heavier' too. Some of the things they play in Eb would be practically impossible to play in standard tuning, because you need those open strings to be down a half step. Downtuning a 5-string isn't any different than downtuning a 4, you've just got an extra string.

    And the B-string shouldn't feel too flabby. A lot of times I tune my B-string down to A and it feel great. And I always use a 125 B
  10. It is much easier to play along with the guitars if your open strings match theirs, at least in my experience. I am assuming this is why bgwatts is considering tuning down.

    To answer the original question, there is no problem with tuning down a half-step on a five stringer. If it works fine for you on a four string bass, it should work just as well on a five. The "floppiness" you are worried about is due to light gauge strings. If you use heavier strings and tune down, you can end up with the same amount of tension as you had originally, or potentially even more tension. It just depends on what gauge strings you pick. It is also worth considering set-up changes as well, as previously suggested.

    You can probably ignore everything I just said. Grab a bass, tune it down, play, and enjoy.
  11. Thanks to all.And for the record.When your a lot ADD and a little dyslexic,tuning your bass to match the guitars keeps the fingering patterns familiar.Essential for a guy like me.:)
  12. Playing a bass with a low B you should not have to tune down. Use the B string at the 4Th. fret and every thing els in
    the Eb cage one fret lower. I play with diffrent groups tuned
    down plus with a piano playing songs in Eb. The five string makes it easy. Also good for catching C & D in other songs.
    also A low B.D.E lick on the low B makes a good Riff or a beach boy riff in G using G and the E & D note on the B string. It take a little pratice but a low B can be a groovy
    friend to a bass player if you make it work for you.
  13. JKwo


    Jan 12, 2006
    Well, you could play the stuff with BEADG tuning by going 1 string down and four frets over, and just play the same fingering patterns you were before, they'll just be higher up the neck.

    It would actually be advantageous, because 1. the frets are shorter so it's easier to move across them and 2. ime you generally get a beefier sound up past the 5th fret than with the open strings and low frets.
  14. That doesn't always work though when your guitarist is playing things in Eb

    What if you need to hold an Eb while playing up near the 12th fret for a certain fill? Or how would you tremolo pick an Eb and octave Eb in standard tuning?

    I'd like to see you try and play some of Metallica's Eb tuned songs with a standard tuned bass. :p

    Besides, a 4th fret Bb has never sounded better than a downtuned open string Eb. To me anyways.
  15. JKwo


    Jan 12, 2006
    Two handed tapping... or by having really long fingers.. or by doing your job as a metal bassist and staying way the hell below the 12th fret.. (and no, those wannabes like Harris, Martinie, Myung and Burton don't know what they're talking about) :D

    Very carefully.

    I've never tried, but I'll take your word for it that it's completely impossible. :bag:

    Yeah, well.. I can't even get my damn intonation figured out on my B string, so I don't like fretting on it anyways. :bawl:

  16. There's more to it than the issue of "inadequacy" to play "down a fret" etc. that some posters are addressing

    You're totally on track, bgwatts; certain songs/styles DEFINITELY sound better with access to open strings

    For Example: If your band is playing in Eb, and you're playing along on a 5-srting in regular tuning, you can't "pivot" off the E-string the same way..

    I recently played for a recording of a song (heavy-ish, but commercial) that was in the key of "D" - I got this session (and the song) the day before it happened, so I had to decide fairly quickly what would work better, my Stingray 4 with a dropped D, or my Lakland 5-string... in the end I used the Lakland, but I didn't TOUCH the B-string, I dropped the E-string to a D, and I'm SO GLAD I did; it was OBVIOUS to me by the time of recording that the dropped allowed me to play in a different way (nuances; ghostisng, etc) that if I had fretted the D on the B-string!

    As for the "Floppiness": well, the Lakland has a 35-inch scale, so floppiness was negligible.... :)
  17. Agent000


    Jan 23, 2005
    Similar question, I'm in a metal band and the guitarists are tuned to drop-c (CGCFAD). I need to have an open string be a C, and I play a 6 string. My options as I see them is super floppy with G C G C F Bb and overly high tuned with C G C F Bb Db. Anyone else run into this and have a better solution? (I might be mixed up on the highest strings, pretty tired and not used to detuning yet.)
  18. I'd go with the up-tuning option, which would give you:

    C F A# D# G# C#

    ... but I'd be asking a local luthier about my optons regarding the high string tenion that would result

    ..though I suspect if you tried this with a very light-guage string, the tension increase wouldn't do any harm (although it would "feel" different to the player; less string mass, physically thinner strings, etc... it's up to you to decide if you like that "feel" or not)
  19. I've noticed that too. I tend to tune to dropped D quite often, as far as C. I tried the D on a $300 dollar four string and it didn't sound the same as my ESP that I have currently. There's really no sloppiness to the D, but the C can be something to be desired (still have adjustments to do.) The guage of the strings does help quite a bit too. The heavier your strings, the better sound of course. I'm sure that you already know that, as with everyone else here. The neck-thru design really makes the de-tuning stand out. Nice sustain through everything, nothing rattles at D. Anywho, yeah. So, heavy strings help, adjusting the action, and neck-thru. Pretty much the advice I'd give you.

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