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The Fifths Tuning Club

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by ~M.o.M~, Apr 14, 2013.


  1. Jhclark

    Jhclark

    Jul 13, 2014
    Philadelphia
    Wait... So theoretically, one could string up a piccolo bass in 5ths and actually have the same tuning as a cello? (I'm a cellist)

    I think most music is in those keys because those are the strings on cello/viola. And/or they were common from pipe organs, so when Montagnana and Stradivarius were developing their craft, they decided on those tunings? Or both, because if you look at Bach, he wrote in every key, but for cello, they're mostly in the cello keys (except for Eb 4th suite which really is a bitch to perform the entire suite, what an endurance test!). Vivaldi? Gonna be in the key of some open string on a cello/violin (or a relative minor of one of the strings, or relative major of one of the open minor keys, so Fmaj (from Dmin) and Bmin (from Dmaj) etc).

    If you look at symphonic music composed by brass players, or for heavy brass sections, you'll find keys that are brass friendly, and nothing will be in C/G/D/A which is also a pain for cellists!

    Then look further into modern music where guitars are involved - lots of music in the keys of E, F#min, etc because of the convenience of those keys on guitar/bass (4ths tuned instruments) and when there's a song in Eb (stevie wonder superstitious?) bassists go "can't we play it in E? I don't have a 5 string" haha

    So depending on what genre you play, C/G/D/A are not always the most common key signatures.

    I've played cello in more than a couple rock bands, and it becomes a real pain in the @$$ when a guitarist uses a capo and doesn't know what the chords are, then asks if I have a cello capo... No, there is no such thing as a cello capo... (and omg, please if someone has ever seen one, let me know?)
     
    coyoteboy and Shanannigan like this.
  2. jharms80439

    jharms80439 Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Evergreen, CO
    @Jhclark

    Yes, CGDA on a bass is normally an octave below cello. Piccolo will be the same as a cello. Kalium Strings has a piccolo string set waiting for you.

    (And) Yes, sometimes playing in 5ths is a pain when gui****s aren't or the BL isn't thoughtful of what you playing in a different tuning from their guitars means (you've explained it right...?). I've had to learn (I've learnt?) a few guitar capo'd chords but it took me a bit - and I'm still not very good at it.

    FWIW, in my former group, we all were fairly thoughtful and communicated well, so song key changes were communicated before the set via chord charts or called out on the fly by the BL. Some of us transitioned to electronic gig books via an iPad and we made any temporary reminder notes there.

    Now days I don't play many open strings on a 5ths tuned bass unless a song starts in that key and I can't avoid it by dropping to a lower string. I guess that I have just gotten used to playing in 5ths for a few years. (And) Yes, playing in some keys, can get a bit of jumpy, but that's just me being out of practice. The transition to 5ths from 4ths, at least for me - range of CGDA as an octave below a cello in a 4-string package - has been worth it.

    John
     
  3. Shanannigan

    Shanannigan

    Feb 25, 2011
    Ontario
    @Jhclark

    According to this article (The Most Popular Keys of All Music on Spotify) that I read while deciding it may be due to those keys being easier to play in on the keyboard. G and C are also very common in a lot of singer/songwriter type songs.

    Regarding 5ths I took E as a key center into consideration since so much guitar heavy music relies on it. I found that E is much easier in CGDA than it was in BbFCG. In BbFCG the low E is the 6th fret of the Bb, which as I'm sure you know can be a pain to move around from both in major and minor keys. In CGDA the low is the 4th fret of the C, which poses the same issues in E major, but is really easy to in E minor since it incorporates more open strings.
     
    Jhclark likes this.
  4. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Yes, if you are happy with round wound strings from Kalium you can tune your bass any way you like. Kalium makes a wide range of string gauges but they are all round wounds. Other string brands that sell single strings may be able to cover a lot of tunings but few if any have the range that Kalium makes.

    You are not stuck with a 34 inch scale either. I've moved full time to short scale (30 inch) and I can easily tune an octave below a cello, or the same octave as a cello if I wanted. I've got a 25.5 inch Squier 51, a six string guitar that bears a superficial resemblance to a '51 P-Bass, that I converted to a four string bass tuned GDAE, about half an octave below a cello. Over the years various people have made 27 inch baritone guitars although I don't know if any are in production currently. New or used, however, if you snagged one of them and converted it to a CGDA four string you'd have yourself a horizontal, electric, fretted cello!
     
    Jhclark and jharms80439 like this.
  5. Shanannigan

    Shanannigan

    Feb 25, 2011
    Ontario
    Speaking of strings, my pack from Stringjoy came in yesterday. I had a bit of time to try them out and I like them so far. They seem much more mid-focused than Kalium Hybrids, which I prefer. Very even sound from string to string.

    I'll probably be ordering more to find the tension I want, I aimed on the lighter side but they still seem a bit heavier than I was expecting. Irrelevant to 4 string players, but they don't do plain strings for bass. The guitar plain strings are long enough, so I ordered some of those, but didn't consider that the ball ends would be too small for my bridge.

    Their prices are comparable to Kalium, but their shipping is a lot cheaper, the tradeoff is that the shipping is also slower. Though I'm in Canada, so I don't know how it is for domestic US customers.

    But I'm happy with them, they're more in line with the sound I prefer than I found Kalium strings to be. More mid focused, less bright.
     
  6. jharms80439

    jharms80439 Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Evergreen, CO
    @Shanannigan,

    Great to hear about Stringjoy's offerings! Just wish we had access to a flatwound manufacturer that offered stings a la Kalium/Stringjoy. There's not likely a whole lot of money in it for flatwound makers, but us flats players can dream... :)

    John
     
    Shanannigan likes this.
  7. kirkdickinson

    kirkdickinson Supporting Member

    I have run Kalium on my Dingwall and really liked them. Contacted Stringjoy to try them out, but they don't offer longer strings and aren't planning on adding them any time soon.
     
  8. Shanannigan

    Shanannigan

    Feb 25, 2011
    Ontario
    @kirkdickinson Damn, they definitely don't offer as much variety as Kalium does. As I mentioned they also don't have plain strings for bass, which was disappointing, so I still have Kalium strings for my two top strings.
     
    kirkdickinson likes this.
  9. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Cut the balls off some old bass strings and thread the guitar strings through them. They won't look as pretty but if that doesn't bother you they will work just fine!
     
    kirkdickinson and Jhclark like this.
  10. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Clever! I've castrated some guitar strings to turn them into loop-end banjo or mandolin strings, but never realized that threading guitars strings through bass balls will also work.
     
  11. Shanannigan

    Shanannigan

    Feb 25, 2011
    Ontario
    I did that with the high B string, but couldn't with the E. My bass is an Ibanez BTB, the style of the bridge is top-loading rather than sliding the string through. it only allows the ball the be slotted in vertically, it then locks in. Slipping the bass ball end onto the string leaves it in a horizontal position. The B string is thin enough that I was able to flex it to slip the bass ball into the bridge, but the E is too thick to do that without damaging the string.

    I tried some ways to wrap the ball end on the E to make it thicker, but it wasn't successful. It's okay though, I haven't noticed much of a difference between the plain B from Kalium to Stringjoy, so I'm fine leaving the E as is.
     

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  12. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    There's a shame! If you've a drill press and a fine drill bit I suppose you could drill a small hole crossways through the bass ball so that the guitar string could thread through with the ball vertical. Might work....
     
  13. Shanannigan

    Shanannigan

    Feb 25, 2011
    Ontario
    @khutch I was thinking of that too lol, but I don't think I have the necessary bits to do that on hand.
     
  14. Jhclark

    Jhclark

    Jul 13, 2014
    Philadelphia
    Shame I'm not happy with round wound strings haha - as a cellist, I'm quite accustomed to flatwound feel on the left hand.

    This is intriguing - If I hold a cello sideways, the scale is too long for the wrist to get a comfortable angle (much like bass guitars at 34" are much shorter than upright bass), so I wonder if I find a micro-bass with a 25" scale like you mention (close to guitar?) I could actually do that - and then tear the frets out and have a fretless 5 string sideways electric cello? You're giving me ideas, @khutch, my wife might not be thrilled, but I'm getting excited xD
     
  15. coyoteboy

    coyoteboy easy there, Ned Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Sactomato, CA
    Re: cello strings. I’m just about 95% there in gauging a set of ghs flats for e-cello. Happy to swap notes.
     
  16. Shanannigan

    Shanannigan

    Feb 25, 2011
    Ontario
    @Jhclark You have a point about the angle of the wrist. Since switching to 5ths tuning I've found that holding my bass more vertically is a lot more comfortable. I was already playing in a classical position, but it's become more vertical. For my ABG I actually play it completely vertically like a cello using a strap to achieve the position rather than a stand.
     
  17. Will_White

    Will_White

    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    Anyone tune GDAE, as in G0 to E2?
     
  18. masterzaffro

    masterzaffro

    Feb 17, 2019
    I recently bought Curt Mangan strings for my 5 string Jazz Bass. The gauges only come in multiples of 5 but it ended up being perfect for me. And the 20 gauge is nickelwound which i like. Custom sets are available here Customized Guitar & Bass String Sets

    I ended up going with a slightly descending tension system on the strings so I could get tight low notes (not a fan of the wobbly C) and a little play on the high notes for expressiveness. Here's the gauges for my string set.

    C 130
    G 85
    D 55
    A 35
    E 20

    Also a note to anyone having trouble stringing the high E. When I tried originally, as soon as I got it tightened to where I wanted it, it would slip out of the tuning peg (I guess because it was too thin to grip the sides). This was only a problem for the high E gauge 20. After the second or third time that happened I got pretty worried that this string wouldn't work. Then I tried to double over the string where it fits into the tuning peg and it worked! Here's a picture to make it clearer. Untitled-2.
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
    Shanannigan likes this.
  19. masterzaffro

    masterzaffro

    Feb 17, 2019
    BTW I only switched recently. I'm new to bass so it's not a hard change. Never was super tight in standard tuning anyways. :) Also never played cello but this concept just interested me. The range really feels like I can get weird in the ways I always wanted from a bass.

    On another note, has anyone found any resources for learning how to play the bass tuned in fifths? I haven't seen any videos online.

    P.S. This page was incredibly helpful when I was figuring out what I needed to do and how to do it. Thank you all so much!
     
  20. jharms80439

    jharms80439 Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Evergreen, CO
    masterzaffro likes this.

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