The Best Bass for Detuning?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Gare Boo, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. Gare Boo

    Gare Boo

    Jun 16, 2019

    Are there any basses that would still maintain a good sound and tight string tension when the E string is detuned to D or B? I suppose a multi scale 4 string would be able to do it but the longer scale under the E string makes me afraid if a longer reach.

    How about a reverse headstock and string thru body, it makes the E string longer on the bass though the scale length is still the same.

    Anyway, I wonder what bass sounds good and feels tight when when the E string is detuned. Thank you!
  2. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    There is zero actual evidence that either stringing through the body and reversing the headstock will increase the tension of the string. The physical string is longer but the speaking length of the string is determined solely by where the string crosses the bridge and where it crosses the nut. The only way to make the string tighter is higher pitch or longer scale length.

    The type of strings will matter more for this than the type of bass. That said I have always had luck drop tuning my neck through Warwick Basses.

    There is a compromise needed to be done in bass setup as well. If you are planning on drop tuning all the way down to B you can not have the optimal setup for the same string tuned to E. Finding the sweet spot between a too tight E and a too loose D or way loose B is the challenge. I do not believe there is a bass alone that will solve these issues.
  3. Jackcrow


    Jul 10, 2017
    North Dakota
    If you can find a 35” scale bass it will have slightly more tension with all strings that you use. I use 34” scale basses mostly for my band, which plays in D standard tuning. I just adjust the strings I use to increase the tension. I’ve found that DR Lo Rider 45-105 work well for me tuned to D as well as DR Hi Beam 50-110.
    Bodeeni likes this.
  4. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    If you want to maintain EADG feel at lower pitches, a change of strings will get you there faster, cheaper, and more effectively than a change of bass. New basses are more fun, though …

    … my new-to-me ‘84 Peavey Fury drops from EADG to CGCF without need of a truss rod adjustment. The feel and tone change, of course; but the playability and quality of sound don’t. There’s something to be said for very stable necks. If you’ve got the budget to look into aluminum or graphite, you might want to do that.
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
    Outshined91 likes this.
  5. Its going to be more string tension than anything. Higher tension strings will have a firmer feel to them at lower tuning than lighter tension.
  6. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Have never tried one but Dingwall or some other fan fret would be my bet.
    Dr. Cheese, Nephilymbass and Ryno1330 like this.
  7. kevin wells

    kevin wells

    Aug 11, 2016
    Two of my T birds are in drop D, another in C. All three strung with Rotosounds, play great with no floppiness
    npbassman likes this.
  8. Thegrandwazoo

    Thegrandwazoo Supporting Member

    Sep 8, 2013
    West Virginia
    Probably fanned-fret basses, but since I personally can't play them worth a copper cent and sorta hate looking at them, I'd suggest a 35" scale 4-string. I'm sure some folks around here know several outfits that make them, I can't recall any except the old Peavey G Bass (awesome basses, US-made, pretty good preamp, very good pickup, Modulus Graphite neck, and can be had CHEAP here and there) right now. I'm actually casually on the hunt for one someday for exactly that purpose.
  9. kalle74


    Aug 27, 2004
    It isn't so much a "bass" (as in manufacturer or construction method) issue, but rather an equation of string gauge, scale length and build quality. Having a bass that combines all of these qualities will prosper when downtuned. Almost all makes have such basses nowadays.

    I recommend several basses if you need several tunings, at least if you have to tune more than 1 semitone either way. Beyond that, the changed tuning will affect string tension and even neck relief too much. I know I'm picky about these things, though...
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
    wardak likes this.
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Captain Obvious here to point out that if you want to de-tune to B, it would be much easier just to get a 5-string bass.
    Voyevoda, BB Brian, Jhengsman and 2 others like this.
  11. Agree, or set up for BEAD and get strings appropriate for that tuning. Drop D is pretty doable, but string that sound and play decent in E standard will be sub optimal at best when tuned to B.
    nuage420b, Jhengsman and Lobster11 like this.
  12. Ryno1330


    Jan 14, 2020
    Dingwalls or other extended scales are made for this.
    IngloriousOz and Nephilymbass like this.
  13. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    You could try a Kubicki X Factor bass. I had one and the dropped D was as tense as any E.
    If you get tired of the way it looks sell it to me.
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  14. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    You don't need a special bass for drop-D. It's not the bass or even the string; the key is good technique that deals with the lowered tension. Just pluck closer to the bridge in drop-D and any bass will be acceptable. Even the humble 33" scale rickenbacker 4003 sounds great in drop-D as long as you pluck over the bridge PU or use a pick.

    The moral of this story - don't go buying a bunch of new basses just to play in drop-D. Maybe get a thicker gauge E string if you do it all the time, but otherwise, just detune the bass you have and enjoy.

    I've played my jaco jazz bass in drop-D some this weekend with the stock Fender flats on it and it sounds fine, though plucked only over the bridge PU where I spend 98% of my time anyway. The string does start to disappear somewhat if I start moving towards the neck, so I don't do that.

    A good compressor will help too.

    Finally, you may find your relief goes a little "negative" due to the reduced tension. If you play with a very low action (like I do), you might notice this.

    Methaneman likes this.
  15. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    Oh PS: for dropping to B, I agree with the other guys, you'll need to go BEAD, generally. That means a new nut or dig out the current one which is a moderately complex job. And the bridge saddles might need modification too depending on your bridge.

    Personally at that point, then I'd just go ahead and start expecting to have to spending money. I personally hate playing in drop-D (unless the song is specifically done in drop-D), so even a D would mean a 5, or more, string bass for me. That's also expensive and will require getting used to playing a 5+, new muting technique, narrower string spacing possibly, etc.

    In other words, a low D is generally FOC involving the bass you already have, but going lower than that generally isn't..... :)

    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
    Lobster11 likes this.
  16. npbassman

    npbassman Supporting Member

    Apr 25, 2002
    @Gare Boo , thanks for starting this thread as I am pondering this very question at the moment. I am involved in a King's X project that requires standard, drop D, Drop C and BEAD tunings on a 4.

    @kevin wells, thanks for your reply as I was thinking a T-bird is a prime candidate for this!
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2020
  17. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    My Steinberger L2 can handle a drop from standard (EADG with a standard .45-.105 set) all the way down to BEAD, just have to play it a little bit lighter. I have never found another bass that could do that. Since I don't play my Steinberger out anymore, I just bring two basses, one in standard and one in BEAD (yes, I know I should get a fiver, but I have never found one that is comfortable on the hand).
    Thegrandwazoo likes this.
  18. "Maybe" on the nut and bridge. I tried using a 5 string Labella Low Tension Flat set(using only the lowest 4 strings) on my Roadworn Fender P and it worked fine as far as the nut and bridge needing no modification to accommodate the thicker strings. I played it for about 15 minutes and switched it back to standard tuning because I didn't care at all for how it sounded, but setup wise it was no problem. Of course some basses will require the mods you mentioned, but just chiming in to say, not always. I've done the same thing with a MIM Strat, put on some 13-63 DR's and tuned it like a Baritone(B-B) and it worked fine with no mods. YMMV.
  19. bassinflorida

    bassinflorida turn that dang thing down

    Jan 27, 2014
    Tampa, FL
    It depends on what detune is