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Learning in alternate tuning.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by tboxx462, Oct 16, 2013.

  1. tboxx462


    Oct 16, 2013
    hi everyone,
    i am new to the forum as a member, but have constantly come here to look at discussions. this is a spectacular site and i hope that someone could give me some insite. firstly, let me give a quick rundown of my history as a bassist. i first picked up the bass in 9th gradeand played till about 11th. ive never had a lesson in my life, and i would usually just look at tabs. the bass i had then had gotten broken when me and my cousin got in a fight and he smashed it. fast forward to last year and a friend called me asking to audition for his band. mind you, i hadnt picked up a bass since mine was broken. i bought a bass(5 string),tried out, and surprisingly i got the gig( how ill never know). since then ive been trying to actually learn to play correctly, however i cant afford lessons, so iv been using books learn from. the band im in now, we play in a different tuning than the standard(B-F#-B-E-G#).
    my goal is to play the bass to my full potential and not be the typical "metal bassist" that just follows behind the guitarist. my question is, should i learn to play on standard tuning, and then with the band switch back, or learn how to play with the tuning we use?
    now ive written the man that wrote one of the books i have asking him his opinion and he told me that not learning standard is hurting me. however a friend of mine who went to berklee for guitar told me that if i learn in standard and switch back and forth that it will confuse me and make it tht much harder for me. i see both sides, and personally i find it more difficult to jump back and forth. any thoughts or advice would be wonderful. my appologies for the length of this but i do thank you all for your time
  2. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    I always try to learn songs in the same position on the neck in which I will be playing them with the band. If I have to change tuning in order to do that, then that's what I do.
  3. escaraBAJO


    Apr 24, 2000
    If you want to play bass to your full potential, learn standard and adapt to alternate tunings. With that kind of goal it shouldn't matter how hard it is.
    Now, if your goal is to play always in that tuning, then by all means...
  4. tboxx462


    Oct 16, 2013
    songs, yes i understand that. when im learning a song thats in say, drop c or d, then i use a capo because the tuning we use allows me to just clip off the neck at certain frets and im automatically in that tuning.
    im refering to the basics. learning the scales etc....everything thats in a book for beginners.
  5. tboxx462


    Oct 16, 2013
    escarabajo, that makes alot of sense. i do really enjoy the tuning we use, because of the flexability it gives with using a capo. but i guess in that view as well, clamping it off i have to adjust everything x amount of steps to go to other tunings. so basically if i learn in standard, that would help me grasp the concepts that are written about and then learn to apply that to other tunings will help me become that much more of a well rounded musician in the long run?
  6. Personally I was kind of in the same boat you're in. (Except I had a 4 string tuning to B-F#-B-E or B-D-A-D). Some songs were standard but most of what we did was in those drop tunings. I think learning in standard will be much more beneficial; you'll get the basic concepts down like scales much easier in terms of fingerings. The form will be the same for all standard tunings and you won't have to search for notes. Plus whatever you play on one B string is just going to be the same on the other. I know when we wrote in the drop tunings I would just come up with things by ear or work off of what they were playing anyway. Learning basic concepts outside of standard tunings would just be too weird. Easier to learn your notes on standard and as you grasp the musical concepts more, later translate them onto the drop tunings.
  7. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I Grow Organic Carrots
    The only benefit of tuning your bass to that tuning is to follow the guitar fret by fret. The danger of playing only in that tuning is that you learn songs by fret locations and not by notes. The beauty of a normal BEADG tuning is you can learn scales and theory and always know what notes you are playing instead of learning a song by string number and fret number.

    I have been playing 5 string basses since 2001 and I only ran into one song that I couldn't do in a BEADG tuning. On that one song I needed a low Bb.
  8. My take on alternate tuning - it is done to make things easier. Question is easier on whom? Normally the guitar guy.

    If he change from standard tuning his fingering for chords and scales must change also. To make a C chord he still has to come up with a C, E & G note, as those notes make the C chord. But his fingering to do that is now completely different than someone using standard tuning. I see that as his choice, thus his problem.

    What key is the song to be played in? I don't care what tuning he uses to get there. Let him do whatever he needs to do, just tell you the key the song is going to be played in and hopefully what chord progression is used.

    So yes learn standard notation and if they want to play in an alternate tuning - fine - just let you know what key they end up playing in.

    Same with all that capo stuff. Just tell me what key you want the song to be played in. Guitar guys do not like to play in the key of F, so they capo @ the 3rd fret and play key of D chords. All you need to know is what key is the song to be played in. I have no problem with F.

    Everything in the "how to play lessons" is based upon standard tuning. So yes you need to know standard tuning.
  9. Thrash3r


    Aug 5, 2013
    I'd learn to play in both tunings, I don't follow the guitar on most of our songs but there's parts that just sound best doubling the guitar riff, if I played in BEADG it would be impossible to play the riffs, they need the open strings.

    Take this bar, written in Drop C#, that's 16th note octaves at 150 bpm, anybody fancy playing that in BEADG?

  10. tboxx462


    Oct 16, 2013
    splintered skul and ric5, thank you for ya'lls input. ive been trying to learn the scales with the tuning we use, and since it is in a different tuning, i cant follow the tabs in the books, i have to pay attention to the notes and learn to read music. and i am working to learn the notes names, not the fret numbers or string numbers, but what you said makes great sense. i guess the question that it brings to mind is, are you suggesting that i stay in standard since our tuning isnt a drop tuning its more of a raised tuning(using a 5 string) and learn to maneuver myself that way while the guitarist does his thing in the other tuning?
  11. tboxx462


    Oct 16, 2013
    malcom: as far as finding out what key the song is in, the guitarist doesnt know anything about that type of stuff, ive asked.....he always says "man, hell if i know, i just play what sounds good to me." as for me, im still trying to memorise all the different types of scales and triads. usually im like he is, i just go by what sounds and feels good at the time.
  12. The band I play in plays in drop B as well and I think I can provide some good insight. There are two different things you're looking at: theory and application.

    What you may be struggling with is where theory meets application. For example, say you want to know how to play a minor scale, or a minor triad. Well, you could just learn the shape, and then learn the other shape for when you're playing on the low B and F#, but at this point, you're not really "knowing" how to play your bass. You don't need a bass in front of you to understand theory, but you should know how that theory applies to your bass, ie, how to construct scales/chords by knowing the intervals of semi-tones and tones. That is, you should never rely on shapes. They are a handy tool, but your knowledge shouldn't be limited to them.

    Then there's application. Slapping or tapping or plucking or picking on a bass in a dropped tuning is the same as it is on a standard tuned bass, so you don't need to worry about that.

    Now, where you are going to definitely run into trouble is learning materials. Typically, these are prepared for a bassist who is playing in a standard tuning. And my response to this, is learn it first from the tuning that the book is made in. I have a bass set to standard for this exact reason, as the technique is usually meant for certain fingerings which may be very difficult in a different tuning, and you simply wouldn't be able to pull it off. Or, if you could, you wouldn't be practicing what the lesson is trying to teach you.

    This whole post is going on too long, so I'll break it down.

    TL;DR: Play as much as possible in the tuning you will be using most often (Drop B) and learn your theory independent of the bass. If you have an instructional book made for standard tuning, learn it in that standard tuning, then apply what you have learned to your bass. Until you know enough and are comfortable enough with your bass where you don't need to ask this question, don't try and learn things the first time in a tuning other than the one presented, as it will overcomplicate the process and just frustrate you.
  13. Good luck with that. My advise is find some people to play with that know what they are doing. Your guitar friend will just end up taking you down a lot of dead end streets.

    Reminds me of the story about the person needing a heart transplant asking the Doctor what qualifies him to perform the surgery and he answered; "Oh, I just do what seems right to me, I have a knack for this kind of stuff".
  14. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    that is awesome
  15. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    There's only 2 reasons to detune a bass:
    1.) to copy a detuned guitarist
    2.) because you like the sound

    there are 2 outcomes:

    1.) you tune like the band does, only learning those songs, in that tuning, using that fingering.

    2.) you tune standard, learn your notes, and gain the musical knowledge and skill required to adapt to your uneducated guitarist's 'creativity', and reach a skill level that will serve you in the future.

    which outcome do you want?

    Also keep in mind: most educational material you find will assume you tune standard.
  16. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    3) you can have notes impossible to get on a standart tuning
    4) you can do stuff impossible on a standart tuning
  17. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    last night I couldn't get it pass 132bpm with string crossing so it is just a matter of practice to get it at 150bpm.

    good technic and practice will get me there as it is the case with you too.
  18. Thrash3r


    Aug 5, 2013
    Is that with a pick or fingers? either way you've got fast fingers to be fretting the octaves at that speed, I think it's going to take more than good technique & practice to get me there, even after practising for years my limit on one string is just over 160 bpm, there's no way I could get close to playing 16ths at that speed across the B & A string.
  19. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    fingers, I can't play with a pick very well. I just play with 2, 3 or 4 fingers. So it isn't that bad to do, just have to practice it well low and move the speed up little by little.

    it is funny because I couldn't do it on one string, always had a hard time playing fast on one string compared to string crossing
  20. Maraki


    May 2, 2012
    It doesn't take that much practicing to get the speed required to do that kind of strong crossing, especially with just octaves. You might be surprised what happens if you spend more time in the wood shed.

    I play in a band that stays in a halfstep drop form (C# G# C# F#, if I were to follow the guitarist), standard, and every now and again a low, tritone down from standard drop form (G# D# G# C#, as above), and I just stay in half-step on my 6er ( A# D# G# C# F# B), except for the few drop G# songs, where I just drop the bottom string - other than that, I stay in half-step standard for everything. I have fast enough string skipping to do the riffs (in a week I can update with a live video of me playing, if you're really interested).

    My point is, you should find the tuning that works best for you - no one else even really needs to know (if your guitarist has to see your fingers to not mess up, run away! Haha).

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