flattening your tuning for recording!?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Son of Bovril, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. I was speaking to a professional engineer who was saying: " you won't believe how much flatter you have to tune the bass to sit properly in the mix..."

    I was like ***!? but then I discussed this with some other musicians and engineers who mentioned that it might be to do with the loger scale and oscillation on the bass strings compared to a guitar.

    I don't know if you've noticed, if you play hard on your bass (dig in deep), and watch your notes on a tuner you will see that the notes first bend higher, then drop back down to where they resonate, and this is usually where you tune your strings too - the resonant note.

    now, this guy was saying that if you play hard, (especially for faster music styles) that you should tune your bass slightly flat, so that the initial attack of the note is in tune, not the resonant part of the note...

    does this make sense to anyone else, and what are your opinions on this? Has anyone else heard of or done this in studio?

    seems wierd to me...
  2. hyperlitem

    hyperlitem Guest

    Jul 25, 2001
    Indianapolis, IN
    im an engineer and ive never heard a respectable engineer do that. THe mantra is always tune and tune often, but not like a few cents flat. Always just make sure your in exact tuning. I would think when he said flat he was meaning some sort of EQ but tuning your bass flat sounds bull to me. dont push down so hard and push as close to the fret as you can. Guitarists deal with the same problems so then theyd have to tune a bit flat and youd be in the same problem as before.
  3. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    I say ignor this piece of advice. Standard tuning does not result in a note that is slightly sharp. And even if it did.......personally I can tolerate a bass that is slightly sharp, but a slightly flat one would drive me insane.
  4. Basshole

    Basshole Inactive

    Jan 28, 2005
    First of all, I've never heard of such a thing, and second, I don't care how hard you "dig in", if you're actually blooming notes, with the strings going sharp initially, then you're playing TOO hard, in that it really boils down to the proper technique of HOW to play hard without actually playing sloppy, and causing the string to "wherang".
  5. Wolf


    Jan 30, 2004
    Well, I'm no expert on resonance and all that hoopla -
    but I DO know that many rockers actually tune the entire
    band to 445hz (=A) to get a more 'brilliant' sound.
    I say - the tuning doesn't have to be exact - but it does need to be consistent.
  6. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Sono est omnia Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2003
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    I don't think it's such a crazy notion. I remember the first time I became aware of this curious phenomenon. I had been playing bass for a couple of years and I had become a big Primus fan. I had learned their tunes off of their albums by ear. Back then I don't think they had tabs for that stuff yet ('92?) but a few years later I found a transcription of the song "DMV" in a guitar mag. Somewhere in the second-half of the song, Les starts pulverizing these low notes. IIRC, the note written in the transcription was a low D. There was a little side-note that said that Les played so hard that the notes went sharp to Eb or E, I can't remember. I then tried to recreate it on my bass and I could, indeed, make the notes go quite sharp depending on my attack.

    I finally confirmed my suspicions when I purchased a Peterson VS-1 virtual strobe tuner. As expected, my basses with higher action exhibited this phenomenon to a greater extent than with my lower-action instruments, mostly due to the simple fact that I play lighter on a lower setup. I suspect string fatigue may also contribute to this condition. I like to keep my flatwounds on my basses a long time and consequently, I can observe the strings over the course of their lives. I've noticed that as many strings (rounds or flats) age, they not only lose punch, brilliance and sustain but they also lose their pitch stability and consistency as well. That goes for my much beloved Fodera Diamond strings, too BTW.

    To close, I just wanted to provide an example. Let's say you're using a pick to play some medium-fast eighth-notes hard on the E-string. Your string isn't given much time to return to its resting position. It's spending most of its time stretched out because you're playing hard and fast.
    Of course, we should all just use simple common sense in these matters. Just like how there should be little difference between your soundcheck volume and your performance volume, it makes sense to tune the instrument using the same technique you'll be using for the upcoming performance, doesn't it?

  7. Brad Maestas

    Brad Maestas Sono est omnia Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2003
    Petaluma, CA, USA
    Basshole, causing the strings to "wherang", as you put it, is just another way we to create a sound from an instrument. Don't rule out something just because it fits outside of the realm of technique you consider to be appropriate and acceptable. Having said that, I will point out that I have a few friends that play way too hard than they need to and despite my best efforts, they continue to spaz on their boutique basses. :rollno: :p

    It is important to have control on your instrument, that's for sure, but don't diminish your options by declaring something off-limits just because it doesn't fit your idea of what can and can't be played on a bass (or any instrument for that matter). Have you seen Mike Watt explain his "flipper" technique in Mike Gordon's film Rising Low? It's hilarious! He's a great example of a musician who has a unique balance between control and chaos. After all, playing what other people wouldn't play is how Jaco met Joni Mitchell! :cool:
  8. bannedwit


    May 9, 2005
    Buffalo, NY
    The only way you would tune down in recording would:
    a.) do so as a group with all strings at same tuning (or key)
    b.) if you decide to record and speed up the song afterwards...

    Bass Player magazine or one of them has those Tommy Shannon from Double Trouble articles and he said that for some songs he did with Stevie Ray Vaughn, they recorded and sped up the song resulting in a new key that the song was in.

    Stuff liek that, but this guy sounds like a jamoke!
  9. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    Sounds like "wacky engineer" hooey. Those wacky engineers... some of them get a little... wacky.
  10. I've never heard of that before....

    I'd say it might make sense if your bass strings are really high, such that open tuning doesn't match with the tuning of fretted notes. But that's means your bass needs setup and intonation work. Or I suppose if you play with a strong grip and tend to pull notes sharp. But that's a technique issue.

    But it generally sounds like hooey to me. A real "pro", even semi-pro bassist would have good technique and a properly intonated instrument, so you have to wonder how good the engineer is that he doesn't have any decent players with decent instruments coming through his studio.

  11. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Fair enough, but technically a guitar should exhibit the same phenomenon when played hard. According to the engineer in the original post, that's not the case. See the hole in the theory?
  12. Hey guys thanx for all the input!

    Interestingly enough my brother, who is an engineer and a guitarist, says that he tunes the low B on his 7-string slightly flat also, so that when he is strumming hard, it stays in tune with the other strings!? it's an interesting concept none the less, and I wonder just how many pro engineers out there might use this? They tend to guard their secrets pretty closely!
  13. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Tuning flat for a recording is a great method...to sound out of tune. That's about it.