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Dowtuning a Mustang Bass

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

  1. Blade3dge


    May 19, 2009
    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. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Try getting a used B string off somebody who's swapping strings on a fiver, putting it in the place of the E, cutting down the length and seeing how it fits, feels and sounds. And let us know how it works out.
  3. Blade3dge


    May 19, 2009
    I wish it was that easy, because if I owned a mustang I would. There's one sitting in my local music store that I want to buy and while playing around with it might be on the table, restringing it with various different string gauges for tuning experiments probably isn't something I can imagine they would let customers do :(

    So I can't really buy it if it's completely unusable for my purposes.
  4. I just did some reading and everything I read says the Mustang (and Bronco) are short (30") scale, not medium scale.

    D'Addario makes pretty good medium scale strings in a couple different gauges but I think the biggest E is .105. The outer windings on them barely reach the nut on a 32", so strung through (not available on a Bronco) would be just right for a short scale.

    If I was in your shoes, I'd find a store that had ANY shorty in stock and try tuning down a step. That may give you an idea how it would play with larger gauge strings on it.

    I normally wouldn't say this, but if you are on a budget try Rondo Music and look at SX. They make a bunch of short and medium knockoffs that can be had for the cost of a couple of full tanks.
  5. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    The Mustang is short scale, but uses medium scale strings due to its string through bridge.
  6. Blade3dge


    May 19, 2009
    I can objectively say that .105 will not be heavy enough to downtune and any music store with stock will have stock strings which won't work dropped. My problem is whether or not it will actually be possible for me to put a heavy gauge on a mustang bass I've already done enough experimentation to know a standard string gauge will not work :(
  7. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    Here's how I make strings for my 25 5/8" scale 5 strings. Cut the bead off the end of the string. Measure the string length needed from the base of the bridge (where the ball end is) to the tuner and mark this length on the string where there will be enough of the tapered part to wrap on the tuner but the large part of the string will rest in the nut, as it should. Slide a 1/4" long piece of small copper/brass tubing over the string to the mark that's toward the ball end and crimp it tightly to the string. Next solder it. I found it best to use a soldering gun and to put the tip at the end of the tubing closest to the ball end and feed the solder from the other end of the tubing. This way the solder will wick through the tubing and give a good solder joint, which is totally necessary. The solder must fill the entire joint and solder the outer wrap to the inner wrap and core of the string. Cut the excess portion of the string off after soldering.

    This is an example of a .130 B string I've done using the ball end from the string instead of tubing (I didn't have any on hand small enough). The hole in the bead had to be drilled to 9/64". I cut the un-needed portion of the string off with a dremel cutoff wheel and sandpaper.

    Down tuning to A you'll probably want the A string to be a .140 with the rest to match.


  8. Blade3dge


    May 19, 2009
    Now that's what I'm talking about! Probably a little bit beyond my technical knowledge to get all that done myself but at the end of the day if it's what I've gotta do to make it work it's good to know that the option is out there. Now I wouldn't be going down to A on a short scale ever so I don't think I'll need to use something that thick but I was hoping .115-.125 on the heaviest string will do the trick, if it's good enough for a B it should be good enough for a C (on a standard scale I've dropped to A on a .110, which was workable but pretty loose, I normally drop to C on a .105 on my stingray which is very playable). Do you think the nut would need adjusting to use such a thick string gauge?

    Do you think tone loss will be a concern or if I can keep the string tension do you reckon tone will be fine?
  9. Meddle


    Jul 27, 2009
    Why go to the effort of soldering on metal lumps when you can cut the string shorter at the other end and just unwind enough material overall?

    If the shop thinks you are serious about buying the Mustang ask them to set it up for you suitable for dropped tunings including any nut filing needed.
  10. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    The windings will continue to come loose. You can try it but don't ask how I know. ;)

    Blade3dge...A Mustang is a short scale. A .125 is a little floppy on a 34" scale. You will need bigger strings and the slots in the nut will need to be widened.


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