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Seems Like I'm Playing a 3 String Bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by pi_r_squared, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    Not sure if this should be a string post or a technique post.

    I've played guitar (mostly rhythm stuff) for about 30 years and just started playing bass when our church needed one. Just playing roots and simple transitions. Quickly finding out that BASS IS REALLY FUN.

    In order to not double with the guitars, the director usually prefers me to play 'in the basement', basically playing the lowest option available for a specific note. I don't have a problem with this, but as a result I can count on one hand the number of times I've touched my g-string (there has to be a less awkward way of referring to that string:)).

    Due to transposing some of the songs for the congregation, we end up playing an E-flat a lot. This happens enough that our rhythm guitar player usually tunes down a half step. This means that I'm doubling with him whenever I play an E-flat root.

    I've thought about tuning down a half step, but that would make my brain explode, and I'm playing a short scale, so it gets a little floppy and I would probably need to change and least my E-string.

    My other though is to go to B-E-A-D tuning. I found a set of 5-string short scale Adamas strings on ebay pretty cheap. It seems like I would need to tweak my set-up a little, maybe ream out a tuning peg or 2 and tweak the top nut and truss rod.

    If I went to B-E-A-D tuning and didn't like it, it seems everything is reversible, except hogging out a tuning peg hole. Would going back to E-A-D-G still work with the changed tuning peg?

  2. Audiophage


    Jan 9, 2005
    Most B strings fit any tuning peg out there, it's the nut that has to be widened.

    Go for a BEAD strung bass if you think you'll get more use out of the lower notes, or just not touch the 4th string on a standard tuned bass. 3 string basses are extremely rare and it would be bad for a 4 string to be missing a string. Look up Tony Levin for more on the 3 string bass, he had one custom made by Ernie Ball.
  3. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    Boy did I step in it.

    I only titled the thread '3 string bass' because I rarely touch the G, and I was looking for the best option, be it alternate tuning or maybe it's just my technique that need re-worked.

    I think I led people to believe that I was really asking about a 3-string bass.


  4. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    One option would be to get a Hipshot D-Tuner, which just tunes down the low-E string to a note that you set, so you could tune it to Eb or D. But it is kind of a mind-bender!

    Is it that bad that you double the guitarist on those E flats? There's no cardinal rule against it, but I'll trust you if it doesn't sound the way you want it to.

    What kind of bass are you using? Could you pick up a cheap 5-string for the songs that require it? Or maybe get heavier strings and tune your entire bass down to D? Switching to BEAD might require that you also widen the nut slots and do something with the bridge pieces, depending on what kind of bass you have.
  5. superfunk47


    Sep 9, 2007
    Tuning down to BEAD probably won't work too well since it's a short scale. Even with the right strings, I'd think it'd get too floppy. My suggestion would be to get a decent 5 string here: http://www.rondomusic.com/bassguitars5.html since you seem to be enjoying the bass. I mean, if you enjoy something, you gotta invest in it, right? :)
  6. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I've tried the BEAD deal: I could not get by without the G string.

    My advice: go buy a used G&L 2500 Tribute for ~$450.
  7. Slax


    Nov 5, 2007
    Long Island, NY
    I second checking out Rondo's 5 strings. From what I hear, SX is a pretty decent bass and well worth the money for it. Plus, you'll still have the G string incase you have a song that calls for it in the future.
  8. I second (or is it third?) the five string suggestions.

    Of course you could have the guitarist move up a couple inversions so he/she's not strumming campfire chords!
  9. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008

    While our guitarists are more talented guitarists than I am a bassist, niether of them read music, and I may as well suggest playing in the key of h# as inverting chords:)
  10. Tenma4


    Jan 26, 2006
    St. Louis, MO
    Hm. Playing bass in church is primarily what pushed me over the edge to getting a 5er back in 2003. Seems like Eb came up a lot! I don't use the G string quite as much either, but as my playing has developed I use it much more now...and sometimes quite a bit. A "BEAD" tuned 4 string was way too floppy for me. Since I've gotten comfortable with the 5 I'd never go back, especially for church gigs and guitarists that downtune. So I'm gonna say, get the 5.

    What can be gathered from my rambling?
    1. It may be time for you to grow as a bassist anyway, so you might as well get a tool that makes your job easier.
    2. One day you will long to play with a G string in church...
    3. A properly tensioned bass is going to sound and play better than a floppy one any day.
    4. I can't think of another list item because I should be sleeping.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I am no fan of 5-strings, but let's face it...if you play in a church, it's pretty much a necessity. So many songs have notes below low E, and so many band directors (foolishly) dont want the bass playing anything about a guitar's range, that you almost can't do a church gig without it. You can BEAD a 4-string, but I have not heard good tones from low-tuned short scale basses, even if you put a heavier gauge string on it. Short scale is horrible for B-strings IMHO. 34" scale is pretty much a minimum if you ask me.
  12. I got my 5er because of church...but I do play a lot up-neck these days (mostly because the guitar player has been absent :meh:)...

    I know what you mean about the guitar/bass collision thing...to me the guitars need to stay away from the bass range and much of church music is doing that (I know Hillsong and Planetshakers both hold their guitarists pretty much to the first 3 strings)

    I had a BEAD bass for a while to check out if I liked the "B thang"...I did, so I got a 5er...GOT TO have my "G", too ;)
  13. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    why can't we all just get along.........;)

    i think folks get a lil over-concerned about the guit/bass overlap issue sometimes.

  14. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    First bit of advice: Tune all four strings down a half step, so you have Eb-Ab-Db and Gb. Then your first fret is your "open string" (or E, A, D & G), and your open string is your dropped pitch. (the accomodating tactic)

    Second bit of advice: Tell the guitar player to stop tramping in your sonic space, or else you'll have to detune to Eb and it will suck. :) (the bully tactic)

    Third bit of advice: buy a five string. (the expensive accomodating tactic)

    Fourth bit of advice: for using the G string more, to some extent forget the first four frets on the A, D and G strings, and keep your left hand at the fifth fret, using the first four frets on the E string. This will allow you to play everything from a low A all the way up to a high E on the G string with hardly moving your left hand. Know all your notes in this space, as well as where else on the neck to find them. I do this, and I find that it means I am using fatter strings for the same notes, so the sound is fatter.
  15. I would go 5, no doubt.

    In the meanwhile, I think changing your tunning to BEAD is a good idea actually. Since you rarely touch your G string (and remember you won't loose those notes, only the higher ones) and are in NEED of lower notes, changing to BEAD tunning I think is the best option. Once the nut is widened you will be able to put you normal gauge in the future, don't worry about it.

    I'd suggest you look for short scale strings anyway. Or at least try higher gauges so you don't get the strings too floppy.

    But still you will need to buy a 5 strings set and use the 4 bigger ones. Using your normal 4 set to tune down to B E A D will make a disaster of floppyness!
  16. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    I play a 5 string and I use all 5 strings ...

    Some people have a one dimensional vision of bass. They seem to think higher notes on bass is wrong. They should listen to McCartney bass lines.
  17. BillMason

    BillMason Supporting Member

    Mar 6, 2007
    ...and Steve Harris, and Geddy Lee, and many classic bass lines.
  18. pi_r_squared


    Sep 3, 2008
    Thanks for the feedback!

    I've actually been doing what you suggest. It started due to one song that worked Ab Bb Db and Eb a lot but it sort of became my 'go to' position, dropping mostly just for my low E, F, and G. Works really well, glad to know I stumbled across something that is an actual 'bass thing'.

    Maybe I'm seeing this wrong, but doing this seems to make the g-string even more redundant since I can pretty much get up to a high Bb without moving my hand and without using the g-string.
  19. Mike Shevlin

    Mike Shevlin

    Feb 16, 2005
    Las Vegas
    Yea - I with they would have called it 'ass floss' or something & left our G string out of it.

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