Setting up a bass for low F#?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by colantalas, Jan 4, 2018.

  1. colantalas


    Mar 26, 2014
    I play in a metal band that uses a few different tunings. Most of our songs, the guitars are in drop B (BF#BEG#C#) and I play a 5-string in standard tuning. We've been exploring doing some songs in a low F# tuning, basically the same as the above but with the low B down to an octave below the next string's F#, if that makes sense. It sounds really cool in our opinion so the guitarists are looking into baritone options for this purpose, and I'm starting to think about how I would pull this off. One plan is just to keep my standard tuning and hit the F# on the 7th fret of my B string, but I have an old OLP Stingray 5 string kicking around that I've been meaning to upgrade and it might serve the purpose. My thought is to swap out the pickup and install a preamp, and set it up for a matching F#F#BEG#, but I don't know where to start on a string gauge that low. I know a 34" scale bass isn't ideal for this, but I only have one longer scale bass that I don't want to keep in this special tuning because I use it for other things, and I don't have the budget to buy something new for a while. Anyone have any string gauge/setup tips for something like this?

    (And please, no comments on how stupid it is to tune this low, we're aware :) What we're doing with it sounds cool, I promise!)
  2. Pumpkin


    May 19, 2016
    Washington, DC
    Hey! I'll be your first buzz kill. If the plan is to aim for an F# below a low B, you're aiming for a pitch too low to actually hear the fundamental. You can make it work mechanically with fat strings and a long neck, but building an amp that can reproduce that low a tone will be difficult. Even if it does, you won't hear it.
    Lobster11 and colantalas like this.
  3. I've been tuning to a low F# since September 1999. Getting the F# to play and sound right is not that hard, getting it to match the other string, can be. Be ready to re-slot the nut, drill out the bridge, possibly rewire your pickups.
    For strings: the F#-string should be about 1 and 1/3 the gauge of the B-string and the same brand/line.
    I use Home page
    Nut and bridge fitting: just be careful or have someone else do it.
    Pickup and electronics: don't need to be anything fancy, but pickups in series might not retain the low frequencies as well as parallel YMMV.
    I use 2 Carvin HB6 pickups passive, but I had 156 pickup combinations(fun but completely unnecessary).
    colantalas and tlc1976 like this.
  4. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Common misconceptions usually appear when discussing ERB.
    The fundamental is at 23Hz, borderline hearable, but that is irrelevant, it's of no importance to reproduce a fundamental frequency that low, most of the energy, and all of the tone, is in the 2nd harmonic and up.
    Irrelevant because of the above. There are videos of F# bass strings and they sound great even over the internet, because the fundamental is of no importance and doesn't need reproduction at all, in fact it's best to EQ it out completely.
    Lenny JG likes this.
  5. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Does your Stingray have a top-loading bridge? And is it slot-loading?
    Top-slot-load makes using big taperwound strings easy.
    Top-load through a hole may mean widening the hole a little (insert largest drill bit that fits in the hole then gently ream out the inner edge of the hole with gentle outward pressure).
    String-through body could be a problem, the tapered part of the string may not sit on the saddle and the string-through ferrule may need widening.
    34" is fine for F#, 35" helps but is not essential.
    B string gauge * 1.333 is correct for equal tension. Or, double the gauge of the higher F# string for equal tension.
    It might help to use the lowest practical tension (around 30lbs) on the F#, so gauge should be at least .160-.165.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  6. tlc1976


    Aug 2, 2016
    I had to file out some of my bridge slot on my 7 string. Widening the nut is a given.

    D Addario sells singles up to .170. I first used a .160 non tapered. Then a .170 tapered. I like the feel of the .160 better but the .170 has a tad more volume.
  7. colantalas


    Mar 26, 2014
    Thanks everyone for the helpful responses! I was expecting to file down the nut and the bridge for this, so that's not a big surprise. I use daddarios ordinarily so I'll check out the .160 gauge that @tlc1976 recommended, .170 might not be comfortable for me.

    We had rehearsal last night and discussed it a little more. I might instead opt for F#BEAD, so I could use it for our other songs too. So I'll just grab my usual five string set, order that low single string, file out the hardware and give it a setup. Thanks for the tips!
  8. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    Rotosound Drop Zone strings are designed for the tuning you describe. I think the low string is .175

    you've need to do the usual filing of the nut and possibly saddles and the string hole on the bridge.
  9. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    I highly recommend a taperwound string for brightness and clarity, but also because you won't need to move the saddle back as far to intonate it (you might run out of saddle adjustment with a non-tapereed), and it will be easier to fit in the bridge.
    Lenny JG and colantalas like this.
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