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Switching between 5's tuned B-G and E-C

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jasonbraatz, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    I've been playing "normal" five-strings for about 15 years, and I've always been able to switch between a four and a five without issue, as I think most people can. I've owned one six string so far, a fretless, unlined Warwick about 10 years ago. It was too much bass for me at the time and I never got used to the C string.

    Recently, I've switched one of my 5-string Stambaugh's to E-C tuning and it only took a few days for the C string to start to click, but now switching back to one of my B-G fiver's seems foreign and clunky. I want to put more time into getting the C string down and I think it would open up lots of stuff for me melodically, but I can't start getting clunky with the B-G fiver as that's what I play all my gigs with.

    Fours and fives "feel" different, so mentally it's easier to switch gears for me. Has anyone else experienced this? I know with enough practice anything is possible, but I'm curious whether many people have both E-C and B-G fivers or whether they stick with one or the other, or if most people end up going to a six.
  2. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I had two four strings tuned a fifth apart for a while. I did not have any particular trouble switching back and forth between them. One does have a slightly thicker neck than the other so perhaps that was enough of a subconscious clue to which one I was playing? The experiment was successful enough that I did get a five string to try so that I would have both tunings at the same time, more or less what you are thinking. The down side is that it is harder to reach that bottom string. The lower tuned four string plays much better than the five.

  3. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    I must not be normal. I can switch between any number of strings just as long as the string closest to my
    Chin is tuned to B.
    Simply put, from low to high,I'm oriented from B to infinity.
    I tolerate my Kay upright because she's beautiful in all ways and it might ruin her to convert to 5 string.
  4. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    A 4 is not a 5 and a 5 is not a 6. Some people can switch seamlessly between them but I think either they spend a lot of time wood shedding to do that or it isn't as seamless as they think. :D

    Lots of variables. I used to think that I keyed everything off the "fattest string" but in playing 4 and 5 E-C a lot lately, for me it isn't that simple. I treat them as different instruments and I approach them differently. In reality my waypoints on the instrument depend on the techniques I'm doing and the music I'm playing. I don't own a bass with a B string at the moment (used to play nothing but B-G), but may pick up another 5'er strung B-G to do the experiment. 6 intrigues me but in order to do it right I'd need to abandon my other basses and focus on it for some period of time. Regularly gigging in 5 different bands doesn't really allow that. I have a couple of "to the grave" 4-strings, so I'm not willing to commit to 6 as I've got other aspects of my playing I'm working on and needing a B-string hasn't hounded me yet.
  5. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    I have a Stambaugh 5 strung E-C. My other basses are B-G.
    It's not hard to play either but the main issue is to remember which one you are on.
    I often make mistakes thinking the E is a B and C is a G.
    I teach a 4 string bassist on my E-C bass and that helps to get it more familiar.
    I'm sure if you were switching on a gig it would be a challenge.
  6. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Maybe not as seamless as you think. I had my Carvin AC50 tuned E-C for quite some time because I wanted the high end for solos. And it worked out great for that. Of course what I really wanted was a 6 but this had two problems. One was Carvin only makes the semi-hollow in a 5er and the other were the blues Nazis who took a fit everytime I tried to bring a 6er. Hence the E-C.

    Wasn't bad. It's all just a matter of getting your mind right for each bass. A 4 isn't a 5 and a 5 isn't a 6 and an E-C isn't a B-G. Right now it's back to B-G again. The solo thing was great but the price you pay doing that E-C rather than a 6er is that you you lose the B and ability to shift keys easily. It makes the bass have all the problems of a 4 banger like dealing with horn keys and the like.

    So lazy me, I switched it back to B-G to make life easier for myself. No problems either way. But I never was a player who keys off the lowest string like some like to do. Since I began playing 6ers I had to switch to the "floating thumb" damping technique which takes you away from a habit of using the B string as a thumbrest. (although my real habit was using the pickup as a thumbrest) Thus, since your hand is "floating" anyway, you simply move it up or down to center it over the appropriate strings and you don't get thrown off so much by a low or high string being missing.
  7. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    But then the challenges is damping the B (and E and possibly A) when you play the skinny strings. Depends on your wrist angle and other technique variables but I've always played floating thumb and with a B-G setup, I would have issues with the B starting to ring when playing on D or G string (because my thumb is then on E or A). I modified my technique to deal with it, but prefer the angles that allow the strings to ring.

    That issue depends on the player and the instrument though...
  8. tkozal


    Feb 16, 2006
    New York City
    I used to switch back and forth all the time. No real issues, as they were for very different gigs. Then I gradually realized, I really didnt need the low B, so that one recently got converted to E-C ( a stealth Bongo HH)
  9. The first 5 string I remember was the mid 60 Fender bass 5 tuned E-C.