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Downtuning a Mustang Bass

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Blade3dge, Jul 31, 2012.


  1. Blade3dge

    Blade3dge

    May 19, 2009
    So I asked this over in the basses forum but I thought to myself since the question has more to do with strings and tunings than the bass itself it would be more relevant to ask it here-

    So I've been looking into getting a short scale bass for various reasons however my band plays in CGCF tuning so naturally the strings on the thing are going to be loose and unplayable and they don't seem to make short scale/medium scale strings in heavy enough gauges to get away with the loss of tension on a short scale bass (apparently it's equal to about 1 step of tension loss).

    What I've heard being thrown around is that because Mustangs are "medium scale" and have a string through body there should be just enough space to use standard Ernie Ball strings as long as I don't cut them back before the tapered ends. So what I was thinking I could do is the top 4 strings of the lightest 5 string set I can find. As far as I'm aware this should work but I have a few questions:

    1. I've been told taper will actually give me enough space to use these strings, but I would like a second opinion. Or being pointed in the direction of any long/medium/short scale strings that are easily accessible (ebay etc) which are in a heavy gauge (110+ on the heaviest) and can be used on a mustang.

    2. I've seen some legitimate 5 string short scale basses but NEVER seen the strings people use for these basses. Where do I find those could those could be the right thing for what I'm after.

    3. Will the nut on a mustang support such thick strings?

    4. Tone... It's all about tone. I know that tone dies when you lose tension but I won't be losing tension if I can use the strings I'm chasing. One of the biggest draws of a mustang bass aside from it's small size and weight is the tone. What I hate about downtuning my basses is that compared to standard tuning everything sounds too bassy/muddy for my liking. I can only assume that a mustang bass which typically has less lower end than a standard bass would actually avoid this moreso than my current basses and if I can get it to retain most of it's tonal quality at this lower tuning then it's exactly the sound Im going for. Do you think that it will work for me?

    Thanks guys.
     
  2. spaz21387

    spaz21387

    Feb 25, 2008
    Portland oregon
    dr ddt's might be a good option here!
     
  3. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    Since you have a 30" scale bass that uses string-through body you can use most short and medium scale strings. There are lots of options out there and your only real limitation in terms of string gauge is the size of the string hole in the bridge and the ferrule in the body. I would check some of the short/medium scale string options at www.bassstringsonline.com and ask Jason for a recommendation.

    Hint: it will be very helpful if you measure one of your current strings from the nut to the ball end.
     
  4. Blade3dge

    Blade3dge

    May 19, 2009
    Had a look, very interesting but aren't they for standard length basses? Will they even fit on a mustang?
     
  5. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com

    Mustang basses require strings that are at most 34" from Ball End to the end of the useable windings. They also like strings with thinner diameter sections to go around the tuning post.

    Looking at La Bella Mustang Flat Wounds for example, the part that goes around the tuning post is nearly as thin as the core wire. There are some Mustangs that can take normal thickness strings though.

    Even though the Mustang is "Short Scale" it needs "Medium Scale" strings which are 34" ball to end of winding or silk... HOWEVER, Its really only the E string that needs to be Medium Scale. The other 3 strings can be standard long scale which is 36.5" from Ball End to the end of the windings...

    SO with all of that said... Find the largest Medium Scale string in the flavor you like, and then get matching Long Scale strings to complete your larger gauge set for down tuning...
     
  6. matante

    matante

    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I don't understand how a "band" plays in CGCF tuning. Just because your guitarists are using an alternate tuning doesn't mean you have to. They're likely using alternate tunings in order to play certain chord shapes more easily but this probably doesn't apply to you.

    A lot of guys are posting these types of questions in the strings section, saying "My guitarist uses alternate tunings so what strings do I need..." I don't see why you need to change anything. Can someone clarify this for me?
     
  7. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Say there is a melodic line where the guitar players start on open their low open "D" string, and they want the bass to play in unison... The bass would have to then play starting an octave higher than it could if it were tuned down a whole step as well... Playing it in the lower octave will give a heavier tone to the overall tune...
     
  8. matante

    matante

    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I understand that much, but who wants to play in unison with the guitar??? :bassist:

    Are these guys who feel they need to use alternate tunings letting the guitarist write the bassline?
     
  9. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Can you imagine what the bass line to Smells Like Teen Spirit would be like if it were in Eb and the bass didn't tune down a half step? (rather than F)

    Metallica Enter Sand Man bass line, not able to play Open E?

    Higher Ground, not being able to play open E, but having to start at the 10th fret (or open D) then 1st to 3rd on the E string?

    EEEEEK!!!!
     
  10. Winfred

    Winfred

    Oct 21, 2011
    I'm not sure I understand this, so maybe I need some clarification.

    Are you planning to drop tune the E string on a Mustang to C?

    I can tell you, as a Mustang player, that you're gonna have a floppy E (C) string. I just tried it on mine, and it's not terrible... It's very soft, but I think if you raised your action you could get away with. Banging on that open C will definitely generate fret buzz with a low or medium action.

    Go into a music store, if you're near one, and tune down a Mustang and see what you think.

    One good thing, your hand and fingers won't get tired playing like that. You could almost blow on the strings and push'em down. :)
     
  11. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Dropping to C... You wll need to use a "Low-B" string... .120 makes a very nice C string as well as a .125...
     
  12. matante

    matante

    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Alright! Alright!! I stand corrected.

    BTW, there is a smilie for EEK! :)eek:)
     
  13. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Not to continue off topic but it really depends in the tunes. I do play with some people who tune to Eb and I keep my bass tuned standard... Really depends on the band /players etc...

    It's all good though!

    I wasn't trying to prove anyone right or wrong, just gave some examples... In a jazz band with vocalists who are always changing keys I have never adjusted my upright tuning... But keyboard players change their keys with the flip of a switch...

    (edit... Cell phone post errors fail)
     
  14. Blade3dge

    Blade3dge

    May 19, 2009
    Hahaha, nice one. But yeah I'm well aware that it would be incredibly floppy hence why my question is about higher string gauges, there's no way a standard string gauge would do the trick even if I took the action to ridiculousness.
     
  15. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Thinking about this more... You are also going to be limited to the opening of the thru body design.
     
  16. Blade3dge

    Blade3dge

    May 19, 2009
    Dangit, it's the E string that's the concern, string tension is normally fine in the others given that E string has the least tension and is dropped an extra step, I'm not sure that such thick medium scale strings even exist? I'm thinking I'd need .115-.125 on the E to get it to work... Any ideas?

    Also you're right on the money about tunings, I could certainly compensate on a standard tuned bass, it's not something I'm incapable of doing (I in fact do it all the time when I can't be bothered retuning). But the inability to "drop" when the guitarists and the inability to access open C for certain parts definitely detracts significantly from the song.
     
  17. Blade3dge

    Blade3dge

    May 19, 2009
    It really is the most disheartening thing when you can't play the instrument you want, not because of inability to afford/access it but because of the unavailability of accessories to allow you to play it, not something that I ever thought I'd have to deal with :(
     
  18. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    A medium scale .120 can be acquired... But you need to figure out if it will even string through the body.
     
  19. Blade3dge

    Blade3dge

    May 19, 2009
    Well that I'm sure I can try out in the store, do you think a nut filing will be necessary and if so will it have any significant impact on the bass if I decide to go back to normal strings? Also where do I find these fabled .120 medium scale strings? Or thicker for that matter, I've looked and looked but found no brand that does them.
     
  20. Spleen Merchant

    Spleen Merchant

    Jul 25, 2012
    I once was using your tuning on a regular 34" scale 4 string, I found a .115 was about right (were GHS Boomers iirc). I didn't have to file the nut or make many adjustments at all to fit those.

    Because of your shorter scale however, I reckon you'll want a thicker string ie a .125 or higher to get decent tension. That will more than likely need the nut filed (.130 for BEAD on my basses certainly did).
    You can replace the nut if you ever want to return to standard tuning.

    Your main thing to worry about, as others have mentioned is the size of the through body and bridge holes, a nut can be replaced but after that you're starting to make some major modifications to your bass to make it work, add to that the difficulty of finding replacement strings in a pinch.

    In my opinion, Mustangs are cool and all but probably just not the right tool for the job. But, If you're dedicated to using that bass keep trying to track down a suitable bottom string to test with.
     

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