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Playing in alternate tunings?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Derek Balonek, Jul 15, 2012.

  1. So, I tune in fifths (CGDA) and it has so far turned out to be my favorite setup. I've got good range and it feels intuitive to play my original compositions in.

    However, I do really like playing other people's music. The problem is, what's intuitive and natural in standard can be a bit awkward in fifths. I would rather not switch back, as I like this tuning and I also feel that it would help me grow as a musician to be able to play songs written for standard in it. The question of course us how?

    What do you recommend I do to get all those riffs and patterns that were once easy in standard down? Do I just start over with the simple stuff and work my way up? Should I map out the patterns for fifths? Would it be a good idea just to throw myself at the hard stuff until I get it?

    I'm sure y'all have played something in a different tuning (Drop-D, C, Eb, etc. on a fiver) than it was written in, so please, tell me how you approached it. Thanks for any advice.
  2. Now days I do not use anything but standard. Back in my banjo days the tuning changed with the song, various reasons, mainly to make the finger patterns easier. When I came over to 6 string rhythm guitar I tried open tunings, but, decided to use standard tuning as most of the "how to books" used standard tuning.

    Now that I'm on bass guitar I just stuck with standard tuning. Luckily everybody I play with also stick with standard so I do not have to adapt to play with them.

    If you use anything other than standard tuning, you reap the benefits as well as suffer the consequences of that decision and must alter your riffs, licks, and patterns accordingly. You alone know what is best in your case.
  3. That is true, everyone learns and plays differently. I was curious how others approached this kind of thing so I have a few options to try out.
  4. That is a cool tuning, but you will find rock music is written normally around simple fingering patterns and the 1 , 4 and 5 chords are the anchors. If you are playing classic rock you would have a lot of transposing to do.

    Modern riff based rock might be ok.
  5. Grab a cello method book and work your way through it. Ignore the bowing info.
    There are books about double bass playing in fifths too. ie. http://www.dennismasuzzo.com/bassinfifthsarticle.htm
    here is an excerpt from his site..

    With the smaller scale length of the electric bass, a lot of the 5th stuff will be easier compared to double bass in 5ths, but a harder compared to cello. You'll probably find increased string resonance in 5th tuning too. You'll be able to 10th more easily all over the bass, but say good-bye harmonic 2nds without an open string.

    Violin, viola, cello, mandolin, mandola are all tuned in 5ths.

    A google search or "5ths tuning bass" will yield a lot of info.
  6. Thanks longfinger, that's a good bit of info. Your statement on resonance is true, I find I have to mute more often to stop the sympathetic vibrations. I can barely get a major third on the first frets, much less a second, but the wider chords are what I like. I will definitely look into the cello suites, it'll also help my poor sight reading.

    Troy, surprisingly the 1-4-5 is pretty easy, at least just playing roots. The 5 is right across and the 4 is just two positions down, so it's like playing a 1-3m-4 in standard. The riffs are what I find harder, specifically anything that heavily uses open strings. I tried to play Muse's Hysteria and it's not really feasible there.
  7. c_maj


    Jun 24, 2011
    Las Vegas, NV
    Hi Derek, as a fellow CGDA tuner, what worked for me was that I just dove straight into it.

    [Well, I kinda didn't have a choice; I played the 'cello for a number of years @ my church, and was asked to play the bass for our sister church.

    So here I was, playing the 'cello one Sunday, and then by the next I was on the bass. I literally didn't have time to learn the standard tuning of a bass, so I drop tuned like a 'cello so that I didn't have to think about where the notes are.]

    I play Christian/Gospel music, and whereas the bass lines are mostly played by standard tuned basses, my thinking is that it shouldn't matter what your tuning is, it's all about the notes.

    So I guess a piece of advice that I have is to just get really comfortable with CGDA tuning and where all notes fit in relation to the fifth tuning. I think once you get used to it, things will become quite intuitive for you.

    And maybe I have such a nonchalant attitude about it is because all I really know is CGDA tuning... so perhaps I'm just rambling and not really helping you.

    HTH - if not, sorry for wasting your time. :meh:

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