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Impossible to drop tune

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sapatown, May 20, 2020.

  1. Sapatown


    Sep 16, 2016
    Sorry big rant text.

    Is it impossible to drop a 4 string?
    In my side project im just getting told what to play and I love it.

    I have two basses.
    Fender Jaguar Troy Sanders Signature.
    And a Rickenbacker 4003.
    Both 4 strings.

    The guitarist are playing basic heavy Rammstein riffs on a 7 string guitar.

    We are tuned to drop A. (AEAD)

    I have tried both basses. And I think they handle it quite well. But its too floppy.
    I use Earnie Ball Power Slinkys 110 on E string.

    I have a 5 string set with a 125 as the B string. Gonna try that.

    Im getting a bit irritated by the guitarist, hiding it tough. A "Know it all" attitude.
    Tells me I need to go buy a cheap 5 stringer instead of using my 4 stringers.
    He says its impossible to use 4 strings for those kinda tunings.

    Then I asked a much more experienced pro bassist in a huge band that tours the world which plays only 4 strings in AEAD.
    AND uses a Rickenbacker. He just says Rotosound and Earnie Ball works fine and never had a problem. Maby just bigger strings and intonate it for that. Maby file the nut.

    Since I have two, I probably can do the setup and dedicate one of them for AEAD.

    Just want to hear if you have experience in this? 4 strings can do just right with those tunings?

    I dont like using a 5 stringer anyway.
    Volker Kirstein likes this.
  2. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    it is possible :) it’s just a matter of using the right gauge and tension strings.

    110 and even 125 will be too floppy for drop A. You will also need to buy single strings (not sets) to allow for the bigger interval on the dropped low A.

    I would go something like:


    Prosteels are available as singles and work well for metal.

    You will need to file the nut to fit the fattest string so i would use the Fender not the Ric. You’ll also need to re-intonate.

    good luck :)
  3. bordinco90


    Dec 7, 2011
    SW Louisiana
    I play in a band where we play in Drop D Standard (my p bass is tuned D,G,C,F). We play a couple of songs that require me to tune the E string to Drop C. That is probably the lowest I will go with my P bass. Drop A tuning is just crazy for a 4 string IMO. I think using a 5 string set of strings will help if set up correctly. Your just going to have to experiment with it to see if it will work. I can't stand a know it all guitarist, but IMO he does have a point. If my band wanted to go lower with tunings, I would just buy a cheap 5er. Plus I wouldn't want to mess with that beautiful Ric lol.
  4. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    You were given good advice.

    Increase your string gauge and re-intonate.

    Guitarist is misinformed, you are certainly able to tune lower on a four than EADG. Don’t bother arguing with him. Just take the appropriate steps and prove him wrong.
  5. 2112


    Apr 30, 2005
    Between my Digitech Drop pedal and my Hipshot Detuner, I have solid access to pretty much any tuning I want down to AEAD. As an added bonus, I don't have to worry about string flop, schlepping extra basses around, adjusting my nuts, fretting over string tensions and gauges, or considering different scale length. I just have a consistent playing space regardless of tuning. The downsides? It costs $200 and maybe more if you don't already have a pedalboard... and each successive step down adds a little bit of compression... but it definitely beats worrying about all the above. I consider it my most useful pedal.
  6. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    You are going to end up in a better place with a quality bass than a cheap 5-er. You will have to experiment to find the right string gauge.
  7. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Plenty of players are using 4-string basses tuned BEAD. You can use a 5-string set and discard the G string. A set with a slightly heavier B string would allow you to drop it to A without a problem. I think something around 135 for the B/A.
  8. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Your guitarist is an arrogant douchebag.

    Both of your existing basses will work just fine, they just need a bit of setup. Thicker strings, obviously, which will probably require a bit of nut slot filing. No big deal. Also might need a bit of truss rod tweaking after switching strings. Also no big deal. It might take some experimentation to find strings with a tone you like, and in a gauge that feels right under your fingers. Again, no big deal, just a bit of $$.

    Don’t be afraid to use the Rick if you want to. A Rick is made of wood and metal and plastic, just like your Fender. They both are equally capable of the conversion.
  9. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 14, 2011
    Sales Development Manager NN Inc. - Polymet, USA manufacturer of fret wire
    You are heading in the right direction using a BEAD setup and tune down as needed from there. Use the longer scale, Ric in this case, as is will give you a more solid sounding B/A string.

    I have a bass tuned to BEAD. The only drawback is that I love the bass and would like to play it in EADG once in a while.

    A trick to open the nut, use a fine sandpaper and wrap the larger string with it and gently sand the groove open so it is just wide enough for the string to bottom. Then move to the next string/groove, etc. This worked well for me.
    factory presets likes this.
  10. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    His Jaguar is 34”. A Ric is 33.25”
    Hank Scorpio and comatosedragon like this.
  11. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 14, 2011
    Sales Development Manager NN Inc. - Polymet, USA manufacturer of fret wire
    got it....
    GravyGoodness likes this.
  12. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    I don't play 4 string axes.
    IMHO get a low B 5 string.
    Slinky won't help. I personally cannot play slinkies.
    They feel like spaghetti under my fingers.
    Sixgunn likes this.
  13. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    This is literally all you need. Take a five-string set, toss the lightest string, then put them on your bass and make any modifications needed to the nut, setup, and intonation that may be necessary for it to perform well with the heavier strings. These days you can buy four-string sets that are heavy enough for your needs, but taking a five-string set and using the heaviest strings is also perfectly fine.
    TN WOODMAN likes this.
  14. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    What gauges and what tunings?
  15. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    You can safely ignore everything after "..." ;)
  16. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    And you can get a DR set of BEAD (DDT series) strings so you don't even have to toss the superfluous "G" string! Which I use and like on my BEAD bass.

    OP, I'd use the Fender, not the Rick, for the drop tuned bass. That little increase in the scale length will help.
  17. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    Definitely too floppy. As an example, I use a Kalium .150 for the B string on my 35 inch scale Lakland. If I were to go down to A, I would want something 1-2 sizes bigger.
    knumbskull likes this.
  18. seedokebass


    Mar 21, 2009
    The other option (though more expensive) to stay on 4 strings would be a Dingwall bass, like an NG2. They sound gnarly and the longer scale for the E string lends itself well to dropped tunings. I have one that I tune AEAD with a either a 125 or 130 B string that feels light-years better than a drop tuned normal scale bass.

    That said, plenty of people drop tune 34" basses with great results. The string feel however will be an issue unless you use very large strings.
    knumbskull likes this.
  19. Sounds like this might be your first experience playing with a drop-tuned guitarist? At the risk of stating the obvious, I want to mention something important:

    You can play any song ever written, on standard-tuned EADG 4-string. You don't need to tune your open strings to match the guitarist's strings, and you don't need to match your lowest string to the key of the song. For example if the guitarist writes a song in the key of A, you can play songs in the key of A on any standard-tuned bass.

    You might very well prefer the sound of a drop-tuned bass, because you get that lower octave, and that's perfectly fine. Alternate tunings can sound great, and it's okay to use them. But I also feel it's important to dispel the myth, that every musician in the band needs to use the same tuning. Look at a classical orchestra, for example: You might have clarinets in Bb, alto sax in Eb, strings in concert pitch, etc. and they all make beautiful music together. It's no problem.

    I'll give you a specific example: Sometimes when I'm playing songs in keys like G major or D major, I like to use DADG tuning (drop D) on my 4-string, even when I'm playing with a guitarist in standard EADGbe tuning. Why? Because when they play their open D chord, I like playing my low D for a fuller and deeper sound.

    tl;dr Feel free to use the same tuning as the guitarist, if you want to and it sounds good. But there is no strict musical requirement that everybody must use the same tuning. Sorry if I'm telling you something obvious that you already knew!
    Last edited: May 20, 2020
  20. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Generally flats will give you much higher tension if that can work for you. Ernie Ball Cobalts are fairly bright.

    All my basses are tuned BEAD and I have a Hipshot drop tuner on several to drop down to A.

    The guitarist is mistaken. Majority of 5 string basses are 34 inch scale so 4 vs 5 strings makes no difference.
    TN WOODMAN, Curtbass and knumbskull like this.

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