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notation: intructed to tune down 1/2 step

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by zillo, Feb 5, 2006.

  1. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    This is probably a dumb question, but when sheet music instructs you to tune down 1/2 step, does the notation follow and where you play the notes follow?

    For example, would the 5th fret on the E (b) string still be read and played as A, or would it now be Ab?

    Say that this is in A. Looking at the sheet music, you are playing a major triad, A-C#-E. Would I start that on the E string, 4th fret, or 5th fret.

    Does tablature follow the downtuning as well? I'm specifically looking at manic depression, in the Jimi Hendrix songbook for bass.

    I'm thinking that you read it normally; it's not written as downtuned, but that seems weird.

    If you are downtuned it seems like the notes are in different places, though. Could you just not downtune and play it in normal tuning?

    Geez I sound dumb. Oh well. :)
  2. Kroy


    Jan 19, 2006
    First of all, the only dumb question is the one you're too afraid to ask.

    Second of all, here's an answer:

    Generally, the notation will be written at sounding pitch meaning if the song is in Ab then the notation will be written in Ab with a key signature and all that. If there are tuning instructions (such as to tune all strings down one half-step) then the TAB will usually be rendered such that you play the song as if it were in normal tuning (playing an A on the 5th fret of the E string) but, because of the tuning, it will come out of your bass as an Ab. Similar to a guitarist using a capo.

    I personally don't see much need to tune a bass down to match the guitar. You can always get Db, Ab, and Gb without tuning down. So unless you want a low Eb or something you can't get otherwise, there's no reason to tune down.

    I teach alot of Green Day to my students (they ask for it) and I rarely actually have them tune down (even their guitars) because it's rare that they use open chords.
  3. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC
    Yeah, I downloaded a PowerTab song for Kenny Wayne Shepherd's "Born With a Broken Heart", and I tried to play to the recording. I thought the tab was off, but then I did some investigating and found that the tab was set to 1/2 step down.

    Me being a noob I have never tuned down, so I thought for sure the transcriber was on crack until I found where he had set the 1/2 step tune-down within the PowerTab software.

  4. zillo


    Jun 5, 2003
    Whitedk57...that's jut what I was doing!

    Thanks Kroy...it sounds like I can (this song is in A, with the key sig and all) just interpret this down a 1/2 step...e.g. A becomes Ab, and carry on:bassist:
  5. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC
    Which part? PowerTab?
  6. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    Ah, if you mean standard notation, just play the notes it says -- an A is an A, no matter how you tune your bass.

    If it's tab, you've got to tune your bass to what the transcriber had his tuned to.

    Another arrow in TabEvil's quiver, me thinks. ;)

    Oh, and I'm pretty sure if you downtune your bass a half step an A will be on the 6th fret, E string, wouldn't it? 5th fret if tuned normal.
  7. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    For tab, you just play at the frets it says. Tab does not imply notes.

    In most other notations, if it specifically says tune down by X, I would expect the notations to be written as if you were not tuned down. Much like if it said "capo 1". But really, I don't think there is any standard.

    And be careful when they say to tune down. I have found tabs that say tune down 1/2 or a full tone tone when the actual recording obviously just uses a simple drop D :rollno:

    I only tune down if I cannot play the song correctly without tuning down. e.g. I need a low D. Or if the entire band tunes down for songs I already know. It is easier to tune down than transpose everything.