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GDA in 4ths + Low C

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by William Hoffman, Jul 2, 2012.


  1. William Hoffman

    William Hoffman Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2009
    Lodi, California
    Has anyone out there in the universe of innovative string addicts ever tried this mix?

    What I really love about the Red Mitchell 5ths tuning set is that low C. But I didn't manage to take the leap yet to full 5ths tuning. Has anyone combined it with GDA in 4ths?

    Am curious about it, but obviously the overall tension of the mix will make a difference.

    Today I strung up my steel string bass with the Red Mitchell medium low C (#3986 @ 67 lbs), Spiro Weich A (S38W @ 66 lbs), Red Mitchell D (64), Belcanto G (62). Tried to keep the tension as close to the Red Mitchell set as possible.

    Any thoughts or experiences?

    Thanks!
     
  2. MikeCanada

    MikeCanada

    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    It can, and has been done. Machines or extensions, or buying a 5 string bass can be big barriers to people who want the low C, and although I personally play in 5ths and find that solution to be what worked for me, it doesn’t for everyone.

    Tension can be a bit of an issue, but at the same time, a lot of that can be preference, and how your bass responds to different tension. Some players and instruments work better with a low tension setup, others with a higher tension setup. Some people swear by even tension sets, when others say they don’t work. My $0.02 on tension is as long as you are using a string that is intended to be tuned to the pitch you are tuning it to, (or within a semitone/tone for those guys that tune solo strings down to orchestra pitch, 5ths players that use a solo F# as a G, etc.) then this should not result in anything scary like your neck ripping off because there is too much tension.

    The big “problem” with the tuning that I see, and that a lot of other players who have tried it see as well, is you are essentially creating a fingered extension, without the extension. So, the extra foot of fingerboard that you would have had to reach over your head to get the notes on? That is now how much farther you need to travel up your bottom string before you cross strings to your A string. A major 6th on one string is a lot of distance to travel, especially with faster passages, and moving from the Ab that is on your bottom string where the C used to be (8 semitones from the nut) all the way back to first position again is quite a leap to be making. If you have that tuning on your bass, try playing an Eb major scale, which comes up a lot, and see how easy it is to execute.

    So, short answer: You should be fine with whatever you would usually use for ADG strings, and using either one of the few 5ths tuning C strings, or one of the 5 string, B’s or C’s that are out there. Best of luck, and enjoy having the low C, it definitely changes your life for the better.
     
  3. William Hoffman

    William Hoffman Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2009
    Lodi, California
    Thanks, Mike.

    Everthing you said describes my experience exactly. I like the low tension of the Red Mitchell low C, and tried to keep the same even tension across all four strings.

    I agree with you as to the main challenge this string mix presents. The jump to that Ab. But it isn't all downside, it opens up new possibilities, too. The interval between the C and A strings is two half-tones bigger than with 5ths tuning (C to G), and while I can hit that Ab, you are right that it requires a quick and more distant shift and will take some practice.

    I play mostly jazz pizz and improvise my own bass lines. I can be flexible and pick my notes. I noticed that most notes in my walking lines -- maybe 90% -- but especially when soloing, tended to be on strings GDA. The E string got less use, but it's hard to quantify how much less.

    The Eb scale is the perfect example of why I wanted the lower notes. I have a low Eb now. But for every gain there is a loss somewhere.

    I am already looking for other notes to play in the deeper zone instead of jumping to the Ab or Gb. It is so much fun to have those new notes to play, maybe a C-extension is in my future, or maybe a 5-string, or hell I'll just go the path of least resistance and learn 5ths tuning. I don't know. In the meantime this really doesn't seem like an unworkable way, even long-term.

    Quirky, but fun. And you can do things with this set up that I never even thought of.
     
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Glen Moore tuned B(or C)ADC for years with Oregon. Unconventional to say the least.
     
  5. William Hoffman

    William Hoffman Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2009
    Lodi, California
    Thanks Eric! You know, it's whatever works for you. You can call me unconventional and I won't even ask what the other part was. :D But I will say this: I am really diggin playing this set up! I has so much more to it than I thought. Am using that C string in ways I never thought of, and it has a big sound.
     
  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    I'll only call you unconventional after you replace your G string with a C string, a la Glen!
     
  7. William Hoffman

    William Hoffman Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2009
    Lodi, California
    I may go there. Low C + ADC. The jump from D to C is still intimidating, even for me. :smug: I am diggin the 4 octaves I can now play on. But just think, with the high C string the 4-string bass would have nearly 5 octaves!

    What kind of music did Glen play, anyway?
     
  8. William Hoffman

    William Hoffman Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2009
    Lodi, California
  9. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    If you check out some Oregon music from the 70's, you may hear some familiar sounds, depending on how old you are. I think he is playing in 4ths these days from studying with Rabbath. He's a very eclectic improvising musician. He gets a massive sound on his Klotz bass. When I tried to play it way back in the day, I could barely get around on the thing and it was set up way high for me. The low C string was a bear. In a whole other league from the Juzek I was (and am) used to playing.
     
  10. rjspear

    rjspear Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2011
    Ithaca, New York
    Luthier, owner Singing Woods Violin Shop
    You might want to split the difference and tune the fourth string to a D. I know several orchestra bass players who do this. It's useful because D is a common orchestral key. I can't say if that holds true for jazz or other styles of playing. Having a low D only gets you halfway to your goal, but it gives you a fifth between the two lowest strings. The techniques you work up to accommodate the shifting can later be applied to a fully fifths-tuned bass if that's the way you decide to go.
     

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