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Help with downtuning a 5 string bass for metal

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Thunderbird90DB, Apr 20, 2009.

  1. Thunderbird90DB


    Dec 29, 2008
    HI all, im just wondering if anyone cud help me with some problems ive got.
    I got a few questions, so ill list them. I want to downtune my bass (5 string) to B F# B E G#

    Q1. i know i have the top B on my low B string, but will downtuning the other 4 strings so much damage the neck, like warp it? i heard that if you leave a bass where some of the strings are tuned more tightly or slacker than the other strngs the neck can get damaged. In other words, is it fine to leave my B string as it is and downtune the other 4 strings?

    Q2. ive got heavy gauge strings, "Power 5"s from ernie ball i think, so will these be enough or could i just get medium and sound ok? im only asking this because my B string sounds very dead while the others very responsive and snappy, which is wierd and i wanna get rid of them for a more comfortable and perhaps better sounding medium gauge set. Any recommendations?

    Q3. my bass is the Aria JBDX5, a five string superjazz style bass with single coil jazz pickups. should i have gotten something with humbuckers? or will the single coils give me better clarity at such low tunings? i think my neck is the longer style one too, the 25 inch that is good for b string clarity.

    Q4. Are all the strings dowtuned so much to the above tuning or can you tune some strings up? is this bad for the neck?
    for example, my E id tune up to F#, my A id tune down to B, my D id tune down to B, and my G id tune down to E. Then again if i did this would there be unequal pressure from the strings and therefore my neck or bass would get damaged or is this the way i should do it?

    Q5. My tone/volume pots make a scratchy sound when i move them, what should i spray down em to stop it? is it dust or rust or something else?

    Many Thanks for all your help guys, these are questions that have bugged me for ages now! sorry ive asked so much!
  2. do your really need that tuning is what i would ask yourself? its alot of hassle retuning a 5 string like that if you ask me, playing things in that tuning isnt too difficult in 5 string standard tuning,

    your strings use what feels and soudns right to you you, i dont know what could be causing your b to sound dead, check your bridge saddles and your nut make sure the strings are sitting in the nut, not to deep or "floting above the slot, if you change your strings to a medium gauge you may need a new nut to fit the strings otherwise you willg et uncontrollable buzzing.

    the pickups are no problem, SC's work just as well as humbuckers at lower tunings. and i think you mean 35" which would give your B string more of a tight feel.

    ahh hear we go the F# is higher than your standard E and so on, as i said above this is a pain on bass but if you absolutly must use it dont tune your current strings up they may break or will damage your neck, get your bass setup in this tuning and there shouldnt be any problems, but DONT switch between this tuning and standard or you will wreck your neck.

    might just be a tight fit, i personally would leave them, not effecting the soudn of the bass in anyway is it? if they have screws loosen the screw ever so slightly.

    i hope this helps
  3. Alcyon


    Jan 15, 2008
    Vancouver, BC
    You can probably tune your bass however you want; the question is why would you want three B-strings in slightly different octaves/pitches. I think you'll find it hard to play scales or approach music in any conventional direction like that. :/
  4. what tuning is that??
    1) since your planning on changing the strings, switch the tuning then and make sure the tension doesn't start to make your neck bow

    2) go for what your comfortable with and what you want on that one

    3) is a matter of opinion

    4) again do it when changing strings as not to create unequal tension, and so that the strings are comfortable for you

    5) not overly knowlegable on that stuff
  5. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    This tuning doesn't make any sense at all. Your 3rd string would be tuned to the same pitch as the 5th (low B) string. Your 2nd string would be tuned a full octave above the 3rd. Why would you want to do this?
  6. D Rokk

    D Rokk Banned

    Feb 19, 2009
    Delta Quadrant
    i'm gonna tune mine A B C D
  7. Double Agent

    Double Agent Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2006
    Lakeland, FL
    So, you basically want drop-B tuning with the 5th string matching the guitar player's 5th string? Not a terrible idea. You might not need it, but that depends on what your band's material is. But, you won't damage the neck by using any tuning that I'm aware of. What you want to avoid is changing the tuning of that bass too often. Once the bass is set up, use that bass for that tuning only. Don't tune it back down to standard and then back up to the drop-B style tuning over and over again. That constant adding and releasing tension is what will cause your neck to warp over time. As long as you avoid changing the tuning often, I think you'll be fine. People use stranger tunings all the time.

    Another recommendation I can make is to get light gauge strings for a 4-string bass and buy the B string seperately. Since you are tuning up, you should get light gauge strings from the F# up, but you still want a regular (.125 or .130) B string. A light or extra light pack of strings will probably help with that. I'm thinking about .090 or .095 for the F#. DR makes a set of Hi-Beams that are .040-.095. You could get those and a seperate B string and you'd be all set.

    Have you ever heard of Drop-D tuning? Its not uncommon at all.
  8. Tony In Philly

    Tony In Philly Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2007
    Filthydelphia, USA
    Question: If you go from B E A D G to B F# B E G# are you not tuning three of the strings up a whole step and one up a half step?

    I that's the case I would not do it unless you have very light gauge, low tension strings on the first four strings.
  9. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Sure, but that is not what he described in the sentence I quoted. He talks of tuning his bass's E string (4th string) up to F# and its A string (3rd string) down to B. In other words, he would be tuning the 3rd string lower than the 4th, and in unison with the 5th. That does not resemble a drop-D tuning at all.
  10. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    I use that tuning with a band I jam with but I use a 4 string.

    For a 5 string it's not really down-tuning, it's up-tuning. I would use a B that you normally use but lighter guage for the rest of the strings. You're adding more tension on the neck and if you use heavier strings there will be A LOT of tension.

    For the scratchy pot, you can go to Radio Shack and get some contact cleaner that is safe for plastics. Some of the contact cleaner can mess up the plastics inside the pots.
  11. dystopiate


    Feb 21, 2008
    New York City
    Endorsing Artist: Spector, Aguilar
    It looks like you're tuning to match up with 6-string guitarist(s) who are playing in drop B. I would probably tune similarly but, leave my high string a 4th up from the 2nd string (i.e., highest string would be an A, not a G#), but to each his own.

    I would recommend a custom set of strings. I've tuned B F# B E (4-stringer, 34" scale) before using: .135, .90, .70, .50. It gave a nice even feel across the fretboard is actually slightly lower tension than you would get tuned to standard. I order straight from daddario.com, but spoke to a rep at DR once who told me that a dealer could order a custom set for me. Since you have a 35" scale, I would probably go even lighter on the gauges.

    BTW, you're actually not tuning down, you're tuning up, so lighter gauge strings for the top 4 strings would be recommended, but a 5 string set of lighter gauge strings would be liable to leave you with a floppy low B.

    I also don't understand all the purists who have such an issue with alt tunings. I'm surprised they don't leave a flaming bag of poo on Michael Manring's doorstep each morning!
  12. Thunderbird90DB


    Dec 29, 2008
    Thanks a lot for the advice everybody! this is my first thread and im still working out how to work all this stuff. I published the questions this morning and its wonderful to see so many answers so quickly! Just goes to show the bass community is the best in the world! :) rock on! :)
  13. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    For me the lowest tuning I would ever use would be ADGCF which is a full step down from BEADG. If you want lower than that try F#BEAD. Anything lower than that and it becomes just a rumble.

    But why won't the BEADG work for what you are doing?
  14. Lighter gauge strings will be your friend. I've tuned to drop B with a 5 string and know many others who have the done the same. Using an extra heavy set of strings with make things a lot harder on your neck since your already raising 4 out of the 5 strings. If you like the tension you get from a heavy b string(.130-.135) buy a single b string in that gauge, then get a regular gauge 4 string set(if you like the heavier tension of heavy gauge strings). Think of up-tuning the 4 string set as making it a heavy set of strings, and good luck!
  15. Double Agent

    Double Agent Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2006
    Lakeland, FL
    You are right. I didn't read his post correctly. If that is what he meant to type, I agree it makes very little sense. But, I think he meant a drop-B style tuning and said tune down where he meant tune up.
  16. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    I see what Febs is getting at and I agree with him. Re-read question #4 on the original post. There's a whole lot of confusion in that question that doesn't correspond with the way Thunderbird90DB wanted to tune his bass: B F# B E G#
  17. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    Thunderbird wannt to tune a atandard B E A D G 5 string to (alternate tuning) B F# B E G#

    5 B>B
    4 E>F#
    3 A>B
    2 D>E
    1 G>G#

    String 4:
    for example, my E id tune up to F#,

    String 3

    my A id tune down to B, (Doesn't correspond to his Alternate tuning)

    String 2:
    my D id tune down to B, (Doesn't correspond to his Alternate tuning)

    String 1
    and my G id tune down to E. (Doesn't correspond to his Alternate tuning)

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