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Eb tuning songs

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ics1974, Jun 3, 2020.

  1. ics1974


    Apr 13, 2012
    I am a bedroom bass player (4 string bass only) and just like to learn songs and jam to mp3's. My question is regarding songs in Eb tuning.
    What does everyone do when a song is tuned to Eb?
    -Have a guitar dedicated just for Eb tuning
    -Tune your guitar to Eb for that song then tune it back to regular tuning after
    -Use software to change the pitch back to regular E tuning
    -something else?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
    Smooth_bass88 likes this.
  2. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    Having a 5 or 6 string usually helps. Alleviates all your tuning problems. If all else fails, use a d-tuner maybe.
  3. 2112


    Apr 30, 2005

    I use this pedal, and love it. No on-the-fly returning, no worrying about different string tension and flabby tone, and it's cheaper than buying another bass just for the different tuning. I've noticed it seems to add a small amount of compression with each successive note down, but it's nothing to get twisted up over unless you're a huge tone snob. Also, some people have reported tracking difficulties, but this may be linked to the signal you're sending the pedal rather than a problem with the pedal itself or a faulty unit. Definitely worth a look.
  4. I play all 5's so I stopped even thinking about Eb tunings long ago. But were I to just want to play along with the song, I would either run it through software to pitch it up 1/2 a step, or I would just de-tune (though that may affect your tension).

    Another option, if you find yourself needing the lower-than-E tunings, is to set up a bass in drop-D or even B-E-A-D and play things there.

    FWIW, I always use the software option as I have to do that often when singers or guitarists want songs in different keys than the recording.

    Good Luck!
    Hambone70, OogieWaWa and Mr Cheese like this.
  5. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    There are lots of Eb's on the neck. Expand your horizons and play it elsewhere on the neck.
    ak56, HolmeBass, Jughead6 and 18 others like this.
  6. TrevorR


    Oct 3, 2015
    Near London, UK
    First fret, D string, 6th fret, A string... case closed... end of...!
  7. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    5 stringer here so it usually isn’t an issue. However, if the song is more riff based and the bass part follows or mirrors the guitar lick, I’ll tune to whatever the guitar is to make it easier.
  8. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    When I was first starting out I learned a bunch of SRV, GnR and Stevie Wonder by listening to them on the radio with no other information. Didn't know they were almost all recorded in Eb tuning. I just played the right notes.
    StayLow, Mastermold, salcott and 5 others like this.
  9. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    In one band project, the vocalist did everything down-tuned a half step to save his chops. No problem: I dedicated one 5 string (believe it was a Bunker headless), strung it up with slightly heavier double ball-end strings, and tuned accordingly. That's cheating and not really necessary as it was a 5 string.

    Let it be a challenge and learn to navigate the fingerboard on the fly...you'll be a better musician and accompanist for the effort. If somebody wants to do the Cheap Trick version of "Ain't That a Shame" down a half-step, you're good to go. I draw from experience.

    lomo likes this.
  10. Just tune down a Half step.. If it's a big issue with fret buzz,loosen your TrussRod a 1/4 turn.. Should fix that problem.. When you tune back to Normal Pitch you shouldn't notice much of a difference with your action..
  11. I just play some things an octave higher when playing 4 string. Unless it’s a song that requires pedalling on a low Eb, nobody but another bass player will ever notice. And who cares what those guys think. :)
    mikewalker and Pdaddy1978 like this.
  12. Lloydtownsend


    Aug 23, 2010
    In true TB style I should start this by saying something almost completely unrelated to the question but it drives me nuts so. I won’t.
    Yes, get a tuner and tune your bass down. You probably only need to tune Down the “big two” strings anyway.
    Tuner on YouTube = free.
    Tuner = $15.
    5 string bass = more than that.
    6 string bass = more than a 5.
  13. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    If it's a song my band is playing in standard, I'll run it through pitch changing software. In the time it takes to downtune and then retune your bass once, you can have it in the new key forever.
    ga_edwards, Vinny_G and OogieWaWa like this.
  14. Savage_Dreams


    Jan 8, 2007
    i get the whole 5 string, theres other Eb's... yadda yadda, but depending on the type of music sometimes the open string is important. lots of rock/metal pedals off an open string and soemtimes just doesnt flow right played in other positions, or you lose the bottom of the song going up higher. sure you could retune every time you go to a different song, but for the sake of bedroom practice one of the many app's out there that can pitch a song up or down makes the most sense to me. plus i find them helpful when your playing along to some older track that isnt exactly tuned right on pitch.
  15. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i'd be with those who don't re-tune = play in Eb. it's a skill. ;)
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2020
    ezstep, salcott, Sgt007 and 6 others like this.
  16. dalkowski

    dalkowski Supporting Member

    May 20, 2009
    Massachusetts USofA
    This is TB, so you need a 5er, stat, plus a new rig to handle the lower frequencies. ;)
  17. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Beat me to it.

    In a mix, no complaints about tone suck. I use it with both of my main bases and it works great.

    Only caveat is in a band setting, be sure everyone is in the right key for the next song. We have gradually transitioned to doing pretty much everything tuned down now, which has eliminated that issue for us. But that isn't an issue for you currently.

    My excuse for getting a second gig-worthy bass was to keep one tuned down. I don't need it for that anymore, but it's not like I'm taking it back!
    Plectrum72 likes this.
  18. Gustopher


    Jul 30, 2018
    This is exactly what I came to say. Sometimes even with a 5 string, it just doesn't flow the same. Some types of music just need those open strings to make the riffs really work. You can get by without them, but it feels different.
  19. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    I retune to Eb. There is a slight action and tone difference, but I embrace it as a new color to work with. In my cover band, it is all Eb, but for wedding/corporate gigs all standard.

    The big difference I notice is that in Eb, I think the open strings and lower frets are a little looser sounding, but unless I just played four gigs in standard, I don’t think I really feel any difference that I can’t adjust too.

    The setup is always done to Eb though. In standard, I do feel like it is slightly stiffer in the higher frets, but those gigs require fewer acrobatics up there any how. I think you can set up a bass to be able to play fine between the two tunings. Will the intonation be super spot on? It will probably be close enough unless you are playing a ton of chords high up on the neck.

    The Digitech Drop pedal is pretty cool. While it works for bass, I still think there is slight glitchiness to the sound. I think that pedal was designed and tuned to guitars. If you are a bedroom bassist, it might be a bit expensive for something you can do with your hands. I think the drop pedal is great for live where retuning takes a bit of time. Luckily, basses retune quickly as opposed to guitars.

    Just practice downtuning quickly. A hipshot drop D tuner is a nice tool to have also if you just need some open Eb notes. It does require some rearranging of fingering.

    Downtuning is also a great way to keep harmonica players away. “I have an E harp will that work?” “Sorry, we are down a half step.”
  20. I read a biography of SRV and the author (who knew him well) stated that he detuned to Eb because he liked the tone he got from heavy gauge strings, but they were much harder to bend. It wasn’t a vocal range issue. Axl probably did it to save his voice, but I don’t think it worked. No idea why Stevie detuned. Maybe for horn arrangements?

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