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Goin' Down To Drop Db

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Heaven And Hell, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. Heaven And Hell

    Heaven And Hell

    Aug 22, 2009

    I'm mainly a Precision user, and I'm currently using Rotosound 110-50 heavy gauge, but overdue a change.

    I usually play in standard or Eb, but have recently joined a group who play in Drop D and are looking to play in Drop Db, which means my bass will be in that tuning for sustained periods of time.

    A couple of questions. I basically know nothing about the whole tension thing, but are heavy gauge strings okay to use for that tuning?

    And perhaps more importantly, do I need to many any modifications, like re-setting it up? Some people seem to say yes, others say no. This seems like the most appropriate place to ask.

    Needless to say, despite being a bassist of 5 years and having done many many gigs, I'm a gear amateur, though recently [finally], I'm taking an interest in the mechanics of the beast, so any further education on the matter, additional to the advice I'm seeking, is welcome :)

    Many thanks,
  2. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Try D standard ... DGCF ... it is only 1/2 step down from the Eb tuning that you are already used to.
  3. lay a groove

    lay a groove Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2008
    Medina, Ohio
    I'd invest in a 5 string
  4. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    1. Whatever gauge you're comfortable with will be okay for that tuning. Typically when downtuning you'd want thicker strings if you want the same sort of tension as medium gauge strings in standard tuning. Check out the tension chart on Circle K's website which will give you an idea what gauge you need for each string. (They make some non-standard gauges but you can approximate to your favoured brand - but I'll recommend trying the Circle Ks!). For example, a .102 E is 40.4lbs of tension. To get the same tension and feel for D you'd want a .112 or .118. For Db it'd be .124.

    Of course, if you prefer playing downtuned with standard strings and having a looser feel, enjoy that!

    2. Modifications? Only if your nut slots are cut particularly small, in which case you may need to gently file them. You should be okay I'd imagine. Setup? Absolutely. If you were doing anyhting other than replacing one set of strings with an identical set on a perfectly set bass, I'd recommend checking your setup and adjusting as required.

    If that sounds scary, it's really not. I've played guitar for years before bass and never learned how to set my own instruments up. When I got my first bass I got a local tech to put the strings on and set it up. When I realised I may have to pay him everytime I wanted to try a new gauge or brand of strings I decided enough was enough. I'm not a technical or practical person and I usually hate DIY but I love being able to set up my own basses.

    All I did was get some allen wrenches, screwdrivers, feeler gauges and a good steel ruler. Then I followed the basic Fender guide (it works on other basses too). I played it to see if I was happy and adjusted the action to my taste. I've happily set up each bass I've owned, and electric guitars too, and feel like I have a much better understanding of the instrument.
  5. Heaven And Hell

    Heaven And Hell

    Aug 22, 2009
    Excellent, many thanks for that. I've got a bass toolkit actually, it will finally come in handy :) Cheers dude, sincerely and massively appreciated!:D
  6. bunkaroo


    Apr 25, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    I second everything SoVeryTired said. I used to be afraid of doing my own setups but it's really very simple. Plus it starts to get tedious to keep running to the shop when you have more than a few basses.
  7. I'd suggest checking out the Circle K strings so.

    I'm coming from D'Addario Pro Steels (standard .130 low B) and I'm gonna make the jump up to a .150 or .166 for my bands drop A tuning on both of my basses. I've read lots of great things about these strings but believe they're gonna give me the tension that I'm wanting dropping my B to A.
  8. bunkaroo


    Apr 25, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    Yeah for drop A I can't imagine being on anything lighter than a 145. I have the 150 CK balanced set on my 35" Euro and it feels great. It's quite nice to be able to play the A string the way I would play any other string at optimal tension.
  9. Awesome bunk! Great to hear from another 35" scale Spector player. So stoked for these strings!
  10. bunkaroo


    Apr 25, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    Yeah I don't think you'll be disappointed. Very easy to install. I didn't even touch the nut for the 150 on the 5LX - looks good to me.
  11. Soppy Hat

    Soppy Hat

    Jul 14, 2012
    I drop to D-Db regularly, and I use DR's Drop-Down strings (the yellow case with the spider on it):


    I can keep a stable sounding Db with them - I've even dropped to C and gotten an acceptable tone out of them ( even tried drop B. It was awful. Never again). Their tone seemed to fade fastish though. I'm sure there are drop strings out there have some better longevity.

    That's just my .02p. Maybe not the best strings, but I liked mine.
  12. bunkaroo


    Apr 25, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Spector Basses
    I didn't like the DDT's at all even when they were fresh. Just a weird tone to them overall. I was using the 135 set to do ADGCF with them. Low A was just like "thud".

    I actually like a lot of DR's and truth be told, I'd probably use them a lot more if that had tapered ends on all the strings.
  13. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    My band currently tunes to Drop C and I use lighter gauge strings than you are using now, although the low string is the same (mine are 45 to 105 Bass Boomers). I like low tension, though. One of my basses is set up with 115's, which produces a nice fat sound on the low C but is uncomfortable for extended playing.

    Also, I would recommend checking your intonation whenever you change string gauges or tunings. This is another key part of learning how to properly set up your bass, and proper intonation is absolutely vital for getting a tight sound when you have multiple detuned instruments in the band. It's pretty easy to mess up your group's relative tuning when you take a bass and a couple of guitars intonated for standard (if at all) and then start messing with tunings and string gauges.