Does down-tuning hurt strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by gottawalk, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. I'm just curious to hear opinions if re-tuning a string back and forth a lot, by either down-tuning for songs, or using a de-tuner, will put more wear on a string and shorten it's "life-expectancy"? I would think that it's a good thing to know for people trying to decide on going to a de-tuner, or a 5-string.
  2. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Of course that will wear out your strings.
  3. Constantly going up and down will hasten metal fatigue on your strings.

    Strings are designed to work best at almost their breaking point. That's where they vibrate best, intonate best, etc.

    When makers construct a string the core is pulled almost to pitch (or almost to it's breaking point) to be wound.

    So what do you think happens when you go up and down, or play at dropped tunings?

    Go to a five if you need to play lower.
  4. +1 on that; that was my feeling, too.
  5. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    In some cases matching tunings with a guitarist, you will need to downtune regardless of how many strings that is if you are playing something that falls back on the open string often, unless you've got some real fast fingers. Nothing wrong with having more strings, just saying there might be some cases where you have to downtune anyway.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I don't know...I don't think down tuning and tuning back up is all that bad for the strings. I do it a lot and it doesn't seem to hurt them. I don't change them especially often, either.
  7. Thanks, Jimmy. :)
    I'm looking for actual "in the field" experience and if it effects how often the strings are having to be changed, or if any are breaking due to wear.

  8. BassDerek


    Aug 15, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    I play a 5-string, and our band is constantly playing in C, so i tune my bas normally ACGCF. for some songs i tune ADGCF. at least once every practeice i have to change tunings and then back again... also i play in a jazz group, so i sometimes have to tune all the way back to BEADG. I tried leaving it in standard, but playing open note C riffs is trying on your hands for sure. but i usally change strings every approx. 3 months, although sometimes 2 or less, if i have a show. i find that the sweat from a show kills my strings :p anyways, Ive never had a string break on me (when using my D'Addario XL-5s) as long as I change every few months.
  9. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    To grossly over simplify the matter, once you have loaded a member to a certain point (Tuned the string up to standard pitch) you can unload it and load it up to pitch as many times as you want without hurting the string. Granted, it will wear from things like rubbing on the nut, etc, but I think that it will not contribute to wear in any appreciable way.
  10. DannyB


    Aug 17, 2004
    I tune DGCF with a set of DR Black Beauties. Reason is simple - all three groups I play with have lots of songs in D, and that low D is just great to have at your disposal to make things interesting. That said, I install them like anyone else would, only tuned to D, and have never had an issue. I generally go at least 3-4 months with a set of these (they are coated and last forever) and up to the "need new strings" awakening (the one day where you finally don't hear "that" tone anymore), the tone is great. Good sustain, good punch, and great tone. I've had no ill effects from DGCF tuning. Then again, if you drop D and normally play EADG your mileage might vary. For me I like staying DGCF and not having to reinvent fingerings at the mercy of guitar players who go to drop D.

    And FWIW, it's funny to watch a guitar wankist that you've never played with before (and is too stubborn to learn the song in advance) try to watch your left hand and end up all over the place. I usually let them know a song or two into a practice session that I'm in standard D, but they still don't get it.
  11. 5bassman

    5bassman Supporting Member

    May 4, 2005
    Or tune to BEAD, using a set of string from a 5 string pack, minus the High G. The nut may need alittle opening up. Keeps you from buying another bass!
  12. LOL! That's choice! That should be in the "How to get back at your guitarist" list!
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You are one smutty guy. First I see this:

    Then, to top it off, you post this:

    Have you no shame, sir?
  14. Dan1099

    Dan1099 Dumbing My Process Down

    Aug 7, 2004
    None at all. ;)
  15. morebass!

    morebass! I'm listening Supporting Member

    May 31, 2002
    Madison WI
    What gauges do you use for DGCF tuning? I'm thinking of switching because I can't seem to get the hang of having strings next to each other that aren't a 4th apart and I want a low D.
  16. DannyB


    Aug 17, 2004
    Right now I play DR Black Beauties 105-45 and it's perfect for my style. Not stick stiff, not floppy either.. just real easy to play. They stay in tune nicely and sound great. I can hit an open low D and it rings out nicely. The action is pretty low as and there is no "floppy string" buzz, and there is excellent sustain.
    Only change I had to make to my p-bass was to loosen the truss rod a small amount since the lower string tension was providing too much relief.
  17. morebass!

    morebass! I'm listening Supporting Member

    May 31, 2002
    Madison WI
    Cool. I ordered some XLs just before I saw your post. They are .055-.105 so it sounds like that might work out. Thanks.
  18. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    One of my basses is tuned DADG, then sometimes CADG, depending on the song - and it seems to me that the string being tuned up and down loses it's "brightness" faster than the E string on my standard tuned bass... I use either a .110 or .111 for the tuned down string, and replace just it 3 or 4 times as opposed to changing the other ones - so, I think tuning up and down shortens "usable" string life - just not to the point of causing breakage...

    - georgestrings
  19. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    FWIW altering your tunings moves ever so slightly the breaking point of your string at both the bridge and the nut, expanding that area of the string that enudures the most stress. It will weaken the strings some at those two points more than if you left them tuned to one setting, but shouldn't be a concern unless you change strings less frequently than once a year.

    Higher tension sets is a different matter as it exacerbates the stresses at the breaking points.
  20. troll


    Aug 31, 2000
    Chicago area
    I certainly don't worry about it. My bands tunes vary 50/50 standard and dropped D, and even though I'm always on the 5, I tune it down. It's just too difficult to play busy riffs that are always going back to that open D, and forget it if I happen to pick up one of my 4's and then try and play it, I've got all the positions whacked in my head. No thanks I'll tune down too and not worry about it. Never had any problems with the strings.