Drop tuning

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by baileyboy, Apr 29, 2012.

  1. baileyboy

    baileyboy Inactive

    Aug 12, 2010
    I have a gig coming up where the guitarist/vocalist drop tunes a whole step for all the tunes. Does anyone else do this on bass? Any negatives to doing this?

  2. Varcolac


    Mar 31, 2012
    London, UK
    Drop tuning like drop D, or the whole guitar down a step, like D standard?

    My band Carpathia tune down a step and a half, so our guitars are in C# standard. It's very useful in rock and metal contexts to have everyone tuned to similar open strings, as a lot of those genres involve riding and pedalling off the bottom string. For that I tune my 5-string fretless to G# C# F# B E, low-to-high. A friend of mine joined a band which also tune to C#, but she chose to tune her 5-string up a step from B to C#. I feel far more comfortable with the bottom string below the main pedal tone, so I went downwards.

    The only negatives are that you either have to re-learn everything outside of that set in the new tuning, or keep re-tuning your bass. Fortunately I have enough basses that the one I use for Carpathia is always in G# standard. For other stuff in standard tuning, I use my other basses.

    Of course, with a five-string it's always possible to remain in standard tuning and pedal off the low D on the B string. Or even put a capo on the third fret and play it as if it has a high C. Or, further to that, on a 4-string, just remain in standard tuning and play the right notes in a different octave. Whatever you're more comfortable with, and whatever gets the job done. :)
  3. Which brings up the question why use something beyond standard tuning? Dropping everything down a half step helps the vocalist - we tend to sing a little flat and this helps.

    Dropping only the bottom E helps with power chord fingering.

    Using one of the open tunings let the chord fingering be all within one fret and opens up the use of the steel slide.

    My point, there is always a reason for using something other than standard tuning, but, there is also consequences from doing so. Change the tuning and all our old standby patterns change. Most of the reasons for tuning differently help someone besides the bass. They make it easier on themselves and we have to adjust, LOL. O'h well, what else is new.

    Thank goodness my bands just use standard tuning and I do not have to get involved with the consequences.
  4. /\/\3phist0

    /\/\3phist0 ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) mmm Woody! DHDIK? Sweet Treets. Supporting Member

    I do this in one of my bands too! It is to help out the singer songwriter mostly for his vocals . At first since I play a 5 string mostly I left it in standard beadg then brought my 4 realized that on a few tunes I needed to drop it to get the notes on the bottom, so I dropped the pbass to dgcf. It felt weird at first ( using normal gauge strings) but by the end of rehearsal I simply forced myself to use a lighter right hand. Now I drop both ( adgcf / dgcf)
    I switch hit I have 2 bands in the same town, a classic rock cover band (standard tuning) and the original/ cover folk- rock band and we rehearse the same day. I tune std for the classic rock band in the morning and drop for the folk in the afternoon . All I had to adjust to is a little more relief / action with the standard tuning ( higher string tension pulling on the neck) which is un-noticeable on my Warwick due to the stability oh the neck. On the pbass it's a little noticeable and YES the intonation is a bit off a TINY bit off.
    I re-tune to save my brain so that the fingerings/patterns DON'T change.
    If I setup the basses for the standard tuning, (action low, relief almost flat) I get back-bow when dropping the tuning on the fender, and hella buzz so this is a compromise.
    If I were to always be in drop tune I'd get heavier gauge strings.
    I play medium gauge (125-45 / 105-45) and the drop makes them feel like light gauge (yuk)
    Flats arn't as friendly for dropping (they get flubby and lifeless) but going to heavyset (110-50) makes it usable. Rotosound flats were fine but the d'addario Chromes just sucked in drop tune even when heavier gauge ( the b sounded like hitting a cardboard box with a nerf ball)

    I'm getting a 6 string tomorrow ( Cort curbow 100.00) that I'll setup for f#beadg and that way I will not have to change tunings. But my brain will sure get a workout changing all the fingerings for the drop tuner band!

    Drawback you need to be aware of is that when you drop-tune , is that the relief on the neck will change and along with it the action will drop lower unless you up the gauge on your strings which then it will be nearly a wash. It's not such a big deal if your action isn't already low (mine is looooow heavy gauge pick at the 12th fret) and PLAY SOFTER with your right hand and if you use a pick, go one size thinner, if not, you will buzz and grind like mad
  5. I have just started jamming with a band that tune their guitars to Drop A# (or Drop Bb).
    Low to high it is A#,F,A#,D#,G,C.

    I play on a 4 string Warwick Thumb NT.

    I have had to trial and error a bit with the strings to get the tension right. I seem to be doing okay at the moment with a set of DR DDT5-55 strings.
    DDT Bass Strings | DR Strings
    These gauge of these strings are (low to high):

    I throw away the E string (the 115) and use the rest.

    A# - 135
    F - 95
    A# - 75
    D# - 55

    This isn't 100% perfect but it seems to be working for now.
  6. baileyboy

    baileyboy Inactive

    Aug 12, 2010
    I will be using one of my Ps for this gig. This bass currently as D'Addario (45-100) half-rounds on it. I tuned it down a step yesterday, then put it away. I'll see if it needs adjustment later today. If all else fails, I'll try the heavier gauge (55-110). Thank you for your input.
  7. deshi00


    Mar 26, 2010
    columbus ohio
    My band play everything 1/2 step down. We also have 3 of 4 songs in Drop C (CGCF) Obviously 1/2 step is nothing major. I had my other bass set up to handle drop c. bought a 5 string set. threw out the smallest sting and its good to go.. It honestly has more string tension than the one a 1/2 step down
  8. dspellman


    Feb 16, 2012
    I used to *hate* having a singer walk in to announce that he couldn't hit the Steve Perry high notes, and would have to sing a step or more down. When I play keyboard, I've gotta transpose. When I play guitar, I've gotta transpose. When I play sax, ditto.
    With guitar, however, came a solution -- the Variax. The Variax is a modeling guitar, but it also does pitch replacement, allowing alternate tunings an octave or more down per string and perhaps six or eight steps up per string. Since the strings themselves remain in standard, nothing changes tension-wise. The new Tyler-Variax guitars make it even easier. In the end, you play the song exactly as you learned it, but what comes out of the amp is a step and a half (or whatever you've set) down. I've never checked out the old Variax bass to see if they did something similar...
  9. Our old singer was an alto belt. My new singer is a baritone who's not so loud (think like Stone Temple Pilots or Creed) but he also has a comfortable higher tenor voice.

    Our old singer wrote songs in Drop C and Drop D mainly, using the Locrian mode because it sounds metal (not that he could have named it).

    All of our songs in Drop D we had to move down a whole step.
    we also have an almost jazzy/dance song in G minor that we dropped a whole step down to F minor.

    We do most of our covers this way too.

    The band is www.facebook.com/themagistrateband

    Higher power we don't play since the singer left, but that's one he could have sang.

    Polaris and INK we've had to drop down a step.
  10. soulman969

    soulman969 Inactive

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    Well the wonderful thing about a bass is that in standard tuning or down a half or a whole step to accommodate a vocalist it's still pretty much the same pattern just played in a different position even if you stay tuned standard.

    I play dropped a half step pretty frequently these days because it helps my vocals and all I'm doing is jumping up one notch in string gauge to gain back some of the tension I lose.

    As a bassist I find it pretty simple whereas a guitarist needs to transpose the entire chord structure of the song unless they also drop their tuning. Then of course there always that nifty little device we all use to "raise our nuts" called a capo.

    Tuning to something lower than standard pitch is something every bassist should have some experience in doing. It's pretty useful these days.