Fifths tuning on electric

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by sonicblue62, Dec 10, 2013.

  1. sonicblue62

    sonicblue62 Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Twin Falls, Idaho
    Does anyone do this? Is there a string co. that markets a set? I hear about some upright guys who do this, but to my knowledge it's kind of exclusive to the jazz world. Any thoughts?
  2. bkbirge


    Jun 25, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Endorsing Artist: Steak n Shake
    Some classical folks do this too. I'm sure there are some jazz guys that do it on electric too.
  3. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    What tuning?
  4. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    C G D A probably?

    Yeah some people do it, not as many, but some do.
  5. 3-string D A E for that I have taken a set .100 .080 .065 .045 put the .080 on my guitar and used the other 3
    .100 .065 .045 think. interesting that's balanced. But, next time I'm just going to order singles from :rolleyes: somewhere.
    And as far as thoughts go, you will play a different bass line I promise.
  6. sonicblue62

    sonicblue62 Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Twin Falls, Idaho
    From the Lemur Music site:
    "In this tuning, the double bass is tuned like a cello but an octave lower (A-D-G-C.) Fifths tuning was once a very common double bass tuning but has been supplanted by standard tuning in fourths. However, Fifths tuning has been re-adopted by a handful of bassists, most notably (the late) Red Mitchell who lends his name to this particular Spirocore sets. Other players who tune in 5ths include Joel Quarrington, Dennis Mazzuso, Silvio Dalla Torre, Paul Unger,and Larry Holloway. 5ths tuning is definitely gaining in popularity."

    It's easier for me to think of strings as low to high (rather than high to low as Lemur states it above), so I envision a C-G-D-A set. To apply this to electric, I wonder if you would need a low B string tuned up to C to insure the correct tension.

    I have enough basses that I would like to try this on one of them if I can figure out the right string gauges to use. A Google search provided no info about electric-fifth-tuning lovers. Maybe I'm on to something original here. :)

    Has anyone heard of ANY electric bassist who has tried this?
  7. jake3

    jake3 Guest

    Aug 23, 2013
    I have not tried it yet, but I have posted about it here on TB. I have an "extra" fretless that is a good candidate for it. The main question is string gauges. You could use a B for the C, an A for the G would probably work, the D is the same, and I guess a G would work for the A.

    Here is the thread I started about it:

    You should listen to some Red Mitchell (post his conversion to C-G-D-A) for some tasty stuff in this tuning on upright.
  8. sonicblue62

    sonicblue62 Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Twin Falls, Idaho
    Thanks for your input! Could you expound a bit more on your experience with this (type of music, etc.)?
    Also wondering why you decided to go 3-string.
  9. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    I have done it on electric. CGDA tuning and i think the string gauges where 35 - 65 - 95 - 125.

    Its fun and it sounds really good. You get the register of a 6 string (almost) You can play chords that you can only dream of with normal tuning. Perfect for cello music. Forces you to be more creative

    Its hard to play arpeggios, triads etc (normal bass stuff).. Confusing to go back and forth between tunings.
  10. sonicblue62

    sonicblue62 Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2009
    Twin Falls, Idaho
    Thanks odin70! I'm excited to do this. I have played a bit of mandolin and recently started tinkering with my daughter's
    cello, so hopefully I won't be too lost.
  11. tbz


    Jun 28, 2013
    Pretty sure Fripp from Crimson does this on his 6 string electric guitar, and has since the early 90s. IIRC he uses 5ths tuning starting with a low C. Per what I've read he started using this tuning because it's pretty difficult to fall back on cliches and standard patterns when you use it.

    Makes me wonder if any of the Crimson bassists have used a similar tuning; it's likely they don't as a 5 string, or Chapman Stick like instrument can get near that low C in standard tuning.
  12. Just two days ago, I tuned to fifths. The sound brought back memories of my cello. I wish to this day that I had learned to play it. Then again, I told myself I would never play a stringed instrument again to save my fingers from torture. And here I am, 8 or 9 years later, playing an electric bass with steel strings. And loving it. Anywho, I just used a plain ol 45-105 set, tuned G up to A, D stays, A down to G, and E down to C. Sounds cool, but it's too different for the music I play to be worth relearning the fretboard.
  13. jake3

    jake3 Guest

    Aug 23, 2013
    re Fripp's tuning -
  14. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Yes i'm you're man for fifths tunings :) i've developed many sets for 4, 5 or 6 string bass. Circle K Strings / now Kalium strings may well soon offer sets on their site, although they have always been able to put together fifths sets on request. What's your favourite gauge for a standard E? i'll let you know equivalent gauges for any fifths tuning.
    Crimson's recent Warr Guitar / Stick player Trey Gunn uses fifths tunings and on his 8 string Warr BbFCGDACD ... minor third + tone intervals on top, which is the official upper extension for Fripp's NST.
  15. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I've been playing CGDA for over a year and love it! I use custom sets. There's a fifths tuning club in the general instruction forum.
  16. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I have an old Hofner Shorty (28" scale) tuned as piccolo 5ths. Used an assortment of bass and guitar strings I had laying around. I don't gig with it, but it's a lot of fun to mess around with.
  17. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    My earlier message was a bit terse because I had to type it quickly at work on my phone. The fifths tuning club can be found here. There is a lot of information there including links to some of the other threads here on TB that talk about tuning in fifths. I'm sure there are more threads than one person can easily find.

    The string gauges I have used are:

    C 0.126 to 0.145
    G 0.084 to 0.095
    D 0.055 to 0.062
    A 0.035 to 0.040
    E 0.028

    I've used GHS Precision Flats, Pressure Wounds, and Bass Boomers. I list an E string too because I tried tuning one bass GDAE for a while. I liked it enough to make a second stab at learning to love a fiver, this time tuned CGDAE. I'm not really happy with it and will probably sell it soon and retune one of my fours to GDAE which is a nice tuning for chording and playing violin tunes, not that I do any of that. I attempt to get balanced tensions of 40 pounds but it is difficult to get flats heavy enough to do that on the C string and some of my sets are more balanced than others.

    I'd like to get a Bass VI of one kind or another soon, if I can afford it. I'd tune that in fifths too. I'd do CGDAEB if it is feasible but I think the C string could get pretty floppy on a 30 inch scale. I'd probably buy a Gb string at the same time so that I could put them all up a fifth if the C string didn't work out. Other options would be FCGDAE and DAEBGbDb. One way or another I think a VI tuned in fifths would be quite a beast!
  18. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    i play a fair bit of mandolin, and my theory is that 5ths tuning is good for little instruments like that (and violin of course) because it spreads the notes in the chords and scales out, giving the fingers room.

    by the same token, i'd expect 5ths tuning on a bass to require a whole bunch of jumping around to get to the notes, which may be why upright (unlike the rest of the classical string family) has historically settled on 4ths.

    the biggest "normally 5ths" instrument is the cello, which at a ballpark 27 1/2" scale length is thoroughly in the guitar zone.

    anyway, isn't edgar meyer a 5ths tuning guy?
  19. ishkabibble


    May 10, 2010
    San Dimas, CA
    Brian Gibson from Lightning Bolt does in a five string setup, C-E. IIRC he uses banjo strings for the high A and E.
    Probably almost definitely not the kind of music you're looking for, but his setup is at least food for thought IMO.
  20. jake3

    jake3 Guest

    Aug 23, 2013
    Although your point about small/big is a good one as a practical matter, I don't think that's why the upright is in 4ths. My understanding is that it's in 4ths because it descended from the viola da gamba family (not the violin family), and the viola da gamba family, whether large or small, tuned in 4ths (with one higher string, not applicable to a bass, sometimes tuned as a 3rd).

    p.s. - I also play a fair bit of mando, so I know exactly what you're saying.