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Getting a low E

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by OTheB, Oct 28, 2016.

  1. OTheB


    Oct 28, 2016
    I've been designing a custom bass in which I'm putting in all my acquired wants over the years, and one of them has been a particularly low string - as in I'm out to beat a piano.

    To cut things short: I'm out to achieve a low E. 1 octave below standard. I know this will require a very long scale length and high gauge string, but what would be a good estimate at these numbers? I usually play on a 34" scale length bass, but I've done some experimenting and figured I could reach up to about 37" at a maximum as I have the arms for it.
  2. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    The Brains: FretNation.com
    You might want to figure out if a string is even available to fit your needs.

    Once you find the string gauge that is suitable for you, find out all the dimensions of the string that are available...

    You will need to know:

    Ball to Taper for the tuners
    Overall Length of the string

    Once you have this information of what is available to you, then you can determine how to construct your bass.

    Lets use a .145 Example:

    D'Addario makes a .145 in both Long Scale and Extra Long scale:
    Long Scale = 37.1" Ball to Taper, Overall length of about 49"
    Extra Long Scale = 38" Ball to Taper, Overall length of about 49"

    What does this mean to you? If you chose to use Long Scale particular string, the MAXIMUM length from Ball End (behind the saddle) to Nut is going to be 37", and the tuner can be no more than about 8" past the nut. If you choose to use the Extra Long the MAXIMUM length from Ball End to Nut is going to be 37.9" and the tuner can be no more than 7" past the nut.
  3. OTheB


    Oct 28, 2016
    This is helpful - but would say the extra long scale string at that gauge be able to produce the E? Or would it be best to take the gauge even higher (if as you say there exists such a string)?
  4. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    The Brains: FretNation.com
    The Gauge is what you are going to need to figure out... Well, a combination of gauge and scale length...

    So you know the pitch you want... Now you need to figure out (with maths) the tension you want of that string and the gauge that would be required to reach that tension at various scale lengths...


    It will need to be .XXX Gauge to be YY tension on a 37" Scale, and .GGG Gauge to be ZZ tension at 36" scale.
  5. Call me a pessimist, I honestly can't see anything practical coming out of this.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2016
    Remyd, Honch, joebar and 6 others like this.
  6. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    The Brains: FretNation.com
    Just don't want to see another bass made where there is no string available for it...
    Mktrat, Honch and lz4005 like this.
  7. OTheB


    Oct 28, 2016
    Eh. If it works it works. If it doesn't then I can try other string setups.

    I've got 127N tension for a .145 gauge string on a 37" scale length for the bottom E. This is rather low, and if I want a good 180N then the gauge needs to be around .170 for the same scale length.
  8. This actually doesn't sound as bad as I thought... Almost doable. ;)
  9. Come to think of it, D'Addario XL Nickel now comes in .170TSL (Tapered, Super Long Scale), which is designed for the low F#. So, it's just a matter of tuning it down one whole step.
    waynobass likes this.
  10. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Definitely consider an F# low string as it's somewhat "standard" and available - and allows you to tune in fourths and have "normal" open string tunings on the other strings (F# B E A D G C).
    nuhckes8 likes this.
  11. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Jule-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    Extended scale and custom gauges will be required, but it's definitely doable; the trickier part actually is having a rig capable of actual producing that note at a reasonable volume.

    A Dingwall Afterburner with a 37" low string will do the trick, reach out to the folks at Kaloum or Payson about custom gauge strings :thumbsup:
    VinnyIuspa and Levin like this.
  12. QUAKE

    LowRenzo likes this.
  13. Blueinred


    Mar 12, 2009
    Greater Cincy
    The formerly named Circle K Strings is now called Kalium Strings and they have gauges for electric bass up to .266.
    Here is their website:

    Home page
  14. OTheB


    Oct 28, 2016
    That's what I was thinking. I play a lot in drop D so the drop E tuning wouldn't be a problem if the bass could handle it.

    The kalium strings look good and I might invest in some of those so thanks for the good info Blueinred :D
  15. Growlmonkee


    Jan 30, 2013
    Florida, U.S.
    One factor to consider, before doing this...especially if it's going to be used in a live setting...bass amplifiers, and speakers generally have a diminished sound at E1 (possibly a lower than useful fundamental), because it's around 41hz, (pretty far in the cutoff slope, for most speakers), you'll need to crossover to a sub, IMO, for that bass to sound right. (tight like a piano) here's a good read on this subject, from a good authority.

    Barefaced Bass - What is bottom?
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
    Honch, nbsipics, AndyPanda and 2 others like this.
  16. OTheB


    Oct 28, 2016
    This is very useful information too. I have a sub woofer which I can run my amp out of so this shouldn't be too much of a problem.
  17. Yeah! Then put a hip shot on the F#. Bam! Low E!

    Peshaw! What about the "you don't need the fundamental, bass is all about overtones" argument I get anytime I pull out my BagEnd system! /sarcasm

    Anyway, he has a point. Although the E0 the OP looking to achieve is actually sits at 21hz. And that takes a lot of power moving a lot of air. Power just costs money and has gotten a lot cheaper the last couple of decades. Getting a cabinet that can move that kind of air may require some rather specific cabinets. A JBL G29 Sub will get you down to 22hz (-10db) and will only set you back $5,575 per cab. Personally, I'd go with two of them. Of course, at 10db down at the lowest frequency, you may want to look into something goes lower so you don't lose your fundamental at your lowest note.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
    Garret Graves likes this.
  18. Kalium makes a .200 and .210 which on a 37" scale length would be a tight E one octave below your regular E. Problem solved!
  19. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    A longer scale will help of course, but some play E0 on a 34" scale, such as Yves Carbonne, here he pauses on the E0
    He is tuned B00 E0 A0 D1 ... with Kaliums plus Octave 4 Plus for the highest plains.
    For roughly the same tension an octave down just double the gauge.
    This might help too http://store.kaliumstrings.com/TensionCalculator/index.html
    Quite a few brands sell .175s.
    What i hear from extended range bassists is that Kaliums are possibly the best superlow strings around, as in most flexible and clear.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2016
  20. Ulf_Hansson


    Apr 15, 2014
    Odd idea, let us know how it all works out. What kind of PA do you use to be able to amplify this beast?

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