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Dropping E to D changes tuning of other strings?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Buck Snelson, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. Buck Snelson

    Buck Snelson

    Jan 15, 2006
    I play a Birdsong Corto bass. It has 31-inch scale length and is strung with D’Addario Chrome flat wound strings, 0.050 - 0.105 (set ECB82). With everything in perfect standard tuning, when I manually retune the E string down to D, the other three strings change tuning also. The A and G strings go slightly sharp, the D string goes significantly flat. If I put everything back in tune with the E string dropped to D, when I bring that string back up from D to E, just the opposite happens – the A and G go slightly flat and the D string goes significantly sharp. I am wondering if this issue is peculiar to my bass or if most/all basses need to be retuned after lowering the E string. I was thinking about ordering a new bass (32 inch scale length Landing L32T) with a hipshot D-tuner on the E string. However, if use of the D-tuner throws the other strings out-of-tune in a similar manner, it is not an option I would want to pay for. I appreciate your observation.
  2. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    When you change the tension of a string, the neck moves.

    If you loosen the E string, tension in the neck increases, the other strings will go sharp.

    I'm not sure why one would go flat.
  3. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    I don't really notice other strings my my basses going out of tune like that, but it's certainly possible.
  4. I use a hipshot d-tuner on my main Fender P bass and do not have that issue. Maybe it's a scale thing?
  5. I know it's possible, but I haven't seen anything appreciable.
  6. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Dropping E to D changes tuning of other strings?


    Yes it does ... another reason I don't like drop tunings. I prefer a 5 string tuned BEADG or a 4 tuned DGCF.
  7. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Well it shouldn't, I have never owned a bass that had to be re-tuned when you do to drop D, yes it loses some tension but the other 3(or more) strings are keeping the neck at tension. One string holds tension just fine, and considering the G string has the most tension, that shouldn't be an issue.

    Why would people have a hipshot drop tuner if the whole bass would change tuning? Seems kind of pointless to shift mid song if it throws off your entire bass. I have had 2 basses with the hipshot D-tuna and this has never been an issue, one of the two was a Cort bought at a pawnshop for $150.

    So in short, no, changing one strings tuning should have no impact on the other strings. I am not saying it is impossible, I am saying that any bass that does it has an issue.
  8. Wally Malone

    Wally Malone

    Mar 9, 2001
    Boulder Creek, CA
    AFM International Representative Endorsing Artist: Accugroove Cabinets & MJC Ironworks Strings
    Get a Kubicki Ex-Factor!

  9. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    Nothing surprising about the A and G going slightly sharp - but the D going flat is weird.

    I've been doing a song in drop C with both of my Squier basses - lots of variables but I do sometimes notice the other strings going slightly out of tune when I drop the E to C. Not sure if your scale length makes yours more or less likely to do it.
  10. Detuning one string can change the tuning of the other strings but that is dependent on the neck... some necks are stiff/stable enough to not be affected.
  11. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    If you change the tuning, the amount of tension on the neck also changes. It is not uncommon for the other strings to go slightly out of tune. Your intonation can also change.
  12. jabsys


    Mar 30, 2011
    I often drop the E to D & it never effects the other strings,
  13. Some basses yes, some basses no. My Ric 4003 stays perfectly in tune, my Fenders not so much. Whatever. Digital tuners are cheap and easy.
  14. JeffplaysBass

    JeffplaysBass Banned

    Jan 22, 2011
    I have a drop tuner on most my basses and it doesn't effect my other strings....BUT my guitarist YES!!!...He brings a separate guitars for 4/40 and drop D for our shows.
  15. wvbass


    Mar 1, 2004
    The only bass I have ever had where this has been an issue was a bass with a Kahler tremolo. I currently have about 20 four string basses that I drop tune, if that helps explain my reference point.
  16. On a particularly flexible Ibanez SR500, drop-D throws the others off quite a bit.
    My other basses, not enough to notice without checking on a tuner--1 or 2 cents.

    Depends on the individual bass, and string gauge.
    Checking this has been part of my testing procedure when looking at new basses for about a year, and for example 2 identical Fenders may behave differently, and a skinny Ibanez neck may stay rock solid--unlike mine.
  17. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Weird. A 31" scale bass using the same gauge strings as a 34" would have less tension than the 34", so tuning one string down should affect the tension on the neck less than a 34". I guess that points to a neck that's not rock-solid.

    Tuning one string down results in _less_ total tension on the neck, which allows the neck to backbow more, slightly increasing the length (and therefore the tension and therefore the pitch) on the other three strings.

    Why would one string go flat? The only thing I can think of is maybe it was sticking in the nut or tuning peg before the detune, and the change in the neck popped it loose. Did you hear a ping when you tuned down?

    I have a bass with a Kahler tremolo and due to it's nature it's a bear to tune. A normal bridge is built to not move with string tension but the nature of a tremolo bridge is to allow easy movement and tension change. So every string I tune puts the others out of tune. It takes about three passes tuning each string to get it in decent tuning, but after that it holds tuning very well. If somebody asks me to tune down, though, they'd better just take a cigarette break or something :)
  18. Stilettoprefer


    Nov 26, 2010
    My guitar will go out of tune across the board of I break a string. But just dropping one a whole step doesn't do anything.

    My P bass does the drop tune thing well, but my Schecter doesn't.

    Some neck are just more flexible than others.
  19. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    Spector necks are rock solid. They would be good for that sort of thing.

    Best bet is to have a separate bass that you keep all strings tuned down a whole step.
    You'd have to do a setup on it to get the relief, action and intonation right, but once that's done tuning would be no more difficult than any other bass.
  20. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I must be crazy to post this, but...

    Many posts here don't have the mechanics correctly described. The strings are in tension. The neck, in order to have no resultant forces, is therefore in net compression (from the strings). Actually, the neck is bent; but, that is another level of discussion. If the neck were infinitely stiff, the release of force by de-tuning the E would result in zero change in strain in the neck and no impact on the other strings. So, stiff necks (graphite, for example) will show less effect on the other strings when the E is de-tuned.

    A neck with less than infinite stiffness will respond to the de-tuning by becoming somewhat less compressed. At the same time, the other strings now bear more load trying to support the elastic compression in the neck; and they become slightly more stretched in tension (sharper), such that a new equilibrium is established.

    A musician with PERFECT pitch (or a very accurate tuner) can detect it, if the bass is isolated. In a rock mix where drop D is most often used, it is not likely that the average listener will pick up the change. Yes, we strive to play in tune. I don't have perfect pitch, but pretty close to it. Yes, I detest noticeably out of tune playing/instruments/singing etc. But, IME, the Drop D tuner does not cause an unworkable issue with a Jazz Bass neck. And they are pretty flimsy. And, that's my standard.