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Drop E Tuning - Do you do it?

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Bin Son of Bin, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. Hi guys and gals!

    I've been practicing alot and working on the mostly simple songs that my Wind Ensemble performs. Well, we seem to do a fair number of songs that requires a low Eb and I often play the Tuba part, but since the regular Orchestral tuning is EADG not Eb,A,D,G, I was wondering: Do any of you out there drop your E to an Eb?

    I've done that plenty of times with my Precision but is it smart/a good idea to drop the E? Will the tension change affect the bass in a bad way?

    At this point when I play the low Eb I end up going up the octave then do a quick drop down if I have to to the E string after playing that low Eb up higher.

  2. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    Tune the Low E to a Low D. You will get better overtones than when tuned to a Low e-flat (or even a Low E). AND it's easier to keep track of the notes because the Low D fingering of notes mirrors the regular D string fingerings.
  3. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    +1 Great tip, ILIA!
  4. Do you do this yourself?

    Will the change in tension cause the bridge to twist or anything like that?
  5. Tom Gale

    Tom Gale

    May 16, 2009
    Used that many, many times. You are right on AND, if you have the need, you can tune the A down to G and add a low C string to replace the E. That works also if you need a low C.
    Tom Gale
  6. Wow!

    I got home and tried the drop D tuning and it sounds awesome. That low D just gives me chills. Thank you so much for that advice.

    But another question comes to mind. Do I leave the E string tuned down at D or should I bring the tension back up to the regular E while not playing it? I'm just not sure if leaving it at that tension is bad or not.

  7. There are many on here that have a bass set up this way all the time and just going down 1/2 or 1 step you will not likely have any troubles. Worst case you may need to tweak the truss rod just a little if you like it enough to want a bass that way all the time, that is simple and easy once you familiarize yourself with bass set-up. Read more on TB about the use of alternate tunings, a popular choice these days seems to be setting up a 4 string bass B E A D (the lowest 4 notes of a typical 5 string bass)(requires the nut be recut or replaced) but drop D has been around as long as guitarists have been doing it and will likely be popular for some time as; it is easy to accomplish on most basses with little to no modifications, works very well on songs in the key of D, expands the range of a 4 string bass, or in a song with a riff requiring a repeated low D note.

    My 4 string basses have Hipshot brand D tuners that allow me to quickly change tunings with a simple lever that is adjusted so you can go from E standard tuning to a low D and back to E mid-song seamlessly. About $75 (plus installation, I did it myself) but very worth it for me as I need drop D often when playing a 4 string and I always want to be re-tuned before the guitarist... I usually am with this:

    They make several versions to match different tuner designs. http://store.hipshotproducts.com/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=54
  8. ILIA


    Jan 27, 2006
    These are really neat and clever:

  9. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Most of the bassists here have no truss rod:hyper:
  10. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    I think you're in the wrong side of the forum, friend. Most wind ensembles don't have guitarists, haha.

    I've played in several wind groups in high school and at summer festivals- I find the drop tuning unnecessarily confusing and not that needed (since you're mostly being drowned out by brass for most wind band works). But there are those few rare pieces with exposed bass parts (accompanying higher winds, etc) where it could be useful. But definitely go the low D route- having an Eb string will just throw you off even more.
  11. Adam Attard

    Adam Attard

    Feb 9, 2009
    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you'll cause any lasting harm to your bass leaving it in drop d tuning. My college professor has a bass he alternates between high c and Viennese tuning, and its perfectly fine either way.
  12. There's nothing damaging about a slight pitch change down, even if you kept it there permanently. I suppose it's possible if you loosened all of the strings enough the sound post could fall.

    Raising the pitch is generally a Bad Idea, however. Strings are designed to function at a certain tension. Raising them too far can create a number of problems. Most often, the string will go bad very quickly and could break. I've also heard of the tailwire snapping, and a sound post crack in the top is possible given enough pressure.
  13. Drop-D is almost standard... I would always decide whether the gig needed low D and leave my bass tuned like that for the whole rehearsal week. Never a problem with that.

    Make sure your bridge and nut slots are well lubricated with graphite, and switching will be a little less risky. Make sure and check every now and again (when you unpack at the beginning of a session is a good time) that the bridge is in the right place, as it will move around a little more if you are constantly changing the tuning.
  14. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Nah, bad idea. You must use an extension if you want those low notes. Drop tuning will wreck your bass. And while you're at it...:hyper:
  15. MostlyBass


    Mar 3, 2002
    Oak Park, IL
    Tuning the E string to a D is somewhat common. Before I had an extension I tried it and really liked it. It made the Beethoven 5 excerpt lie really well in the fingers. And as has been mentioned it's easy to know the notes since you already have a D string. I would say go for it!!
  16. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I've been using a low-D tuning for almost 7 years now. The full story and my solution to get low-Db, C and B can be found here.

    I first used it when I wanted to hit a low-D as part of the Dittersdorf concerto cadenza I wrote. When I was part of a church string orchestra, we played lots of Baroque stuff including the Hallelujah Chorus. These pieces were written with a violone in mind.

    If you've played Vaughn Williams 'A London Symphony', you'll notice there are lots of low-D's written out, but when there are low-Db's or low-C's, they are written in a smaller font and the octave above, in the staff is in the same font as the rest of the work. Maybe low-D tuning was standard practice in England at the time of its composition.

    Anyway, I just stick to the DADG tuning all the time so I don't get confused and my bass seems to like the stability of the harmonic series in the low end.
  17. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Seriously, DADG does really make your bass ring, especially when playing in D. The only problem I have with it is it can be too resonant sometimes. I've had stand partners who used it and didn't damp their strings conscientiously, creating a lot of unwanted D sound in rests and after harmonic changes. Just be a musician about it!
  18. Danimal23


    Dec 25, 2012
    It's also essentially the tuning that Edgar Meyer keeps his bass in since his E has the orchestral extended C but then everything else is in Solo Tuning usually. So...there are some examples in his recordings as to the capabilities of that tuning.
  19. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    Tuning in England in the early 20th century was DGDG, low to high. Holst's "The Planets" also uses this tuning, and it accounts for the Doubled low G in the finale of the Enigma Variations (Number 83 if you're interested in looking it up) . I'll see if I can find my source for this, but it might be in a Book on Holst at a library several thousand kilometers away from me, so I make no guarantees ;)

    Tuning in straight 4ths, while the "standard" now, has not been the standard for that long, but that's a debate for another time and place.

  20. Do you use DGDG and is it used often anymore? I have been enjoying DADG very much. What are the most popular non-standard turnings that you guys use, or is it convert tuning for you?