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the unpopular FIFTHS tuning

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by hemhaw, Nov 2, 2004.

  1. hemhaw


    Dec 12, 2003
    Chicago, Illinois
    So I'm making the plunged; I'm switching to the fifths tuning.
    All types of help would be appreciated.
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Good luck?! :smug:

    Especially on walking bass lines. I admire your courage...let us know how it goes.
  3. bdengler


    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    It's my understanding that Red Mitchell played his bass tuned in 5ths. Velvet, the maker of strings, I believe offers a "Red Mitchell" set tuned in 5ths. The principal bassist of the Montreal Symphony tunes in 5ths, and Dennis Masuzzo offers a method book in playing an upright tuned in 5ths at http://www.dennismasuzzo.com/index.htm.

    Good luck; it seems it would be hard. :eek:
  4. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    I have no experience with 5ths tuning, but If I were you I would:

    listen and transcribe Red Mitchell playing

    get Cello Method books

    get in touch with Joel Quarrington at joel@quarrington.org [don't know if this email still works]

    Good luck!!
  5. One thing you can do which is less of a plunge, is to tune down your A and E strings to G and C, and try it out. I do this sometimes for orchestral music since I don't have an extension, and it seems to work OK. It's an interesting experience. The fingering is workable, but you have to shift a lot which can be a problem for fast passages at the lower end of the instrument. What I do is just play some scales with the new tuning to get used to it, then just be careful and think about where the notes are at first. I don't recomend cello fingering except at fourth position because of the stretches involved. Simandl fingering works fine in most cases but as I stated before, shifting is key.

  6. student


    May 15, 2005
  7. I haven't heard about the Velvets making Fifths. Thomastik sells sets of Reds fifth strings.
    Dennis sent me some pages out of his book, just before it was published...it's excellent. ( I was going to take the plunge a few years ago, but i'm just too damn old)
    Do the Quarrington....
    Do a search on Red Mitchell. We've done tons of talking about fifth tuning on TBDB. Arm yourself with lots of Red Mitchell to hear what's possible.
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I played for a few weeks with my E string down a step, which puts the bottom strings at a 5th. What I found that got me back out of it are that major thirds are a hassle, and major thirds are something that one plays a lot.
  9. The one thing you will notice I think, judging from what the fifths players i've talked to have said, is the difference in the sound and feel. My friend, Larry Holloway, up in the Northwest...he won that Red Mitchell fifth tuning award that Red's wife Diane gave to the most deserving fifth tuning bassist or sumpin' like that...said that once he got goin' the feel and the sound of his bass just opened up like he couldn't believe. Red told me the same as did Dennis.
    Ray, did you notice that tuning your E down had any effect on the sound of the other strings on your axe?
  10. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    I have seen Dennis Masuzzo's book and it is most excellent. Anyone attempting to learn this alternate tuning would benefit greatly from it.
  11. ryco


    Apr 24, 2005
    It makes the webs between my fingers hurt just thinking about it!
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The bass rings differently when the bass is in 5ths. I've put it all in 5ths in the proctice room a few times. Tuning perfect 4th between the strings has a similar effect, but more subtle. I think it has to do with the sympathetic vibrations of the other strings, etc.

    Just tuning the one string down didn't make much or a difference as far as this.
  13. Tuning in fifths gives a very different sound on a bass. The resonances are simply wonderful.

    I have been playing bass tuned in fifths for about a year. I spent a year with my Pollman tuned in 4ths and a Chinese laminated bass with a set of Thomastic Red Mitchell's for 5th tuning. The Chinese bass has a gorgeous sound when tuned in fifths. I played the spring season with the Blue Ridge Symphony (Asheville NC) on my bass in fifths and my local orchestra while tuned in 4ths. The switching was no joke, but once you become proficient, Dennis Masuzzo tells me it is fairly easy to switch back and forth.

    I have had serious surgery on the tendon sheath on the middle finger of my left hand and that hand has given me no problems with playing in fifths. So the guy who said it made his finger webs hurt can put that to rest. You do have to use the "pivoting" technique (see Rabbath), and be very good at shifting, but you have to be good at shifting for the bass in fourths too.

    Dennis Masuzzo sent me a good bit of his book in manuscript before it was published (Lemur has it). When it was published, I bought Dennis' book. It is printed on recycled paper, and is very easy to read. Musically, it is exactly what any bassist who wants to get started with tuning in fifths should have.

    Silvio Dalla Torre (sivliodallatorre.com) also has a forthcoming book that I have seen in prepublicaion, on 4 finger technique. It is addressed to bass in fourths, but it adapts readily to bass in fifths.

    If I can help anyone with swithching to tuning in fifths, please reply to this message, or email to teague@jackson.main.nc.us

    Low Notes to you all,
    David Teague
    Sometimes I wonder whether the world is
    being run by smart people who are putting
    us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.
    --Mark Twain
    Clearly, it's the imbeciles. And they really mean it.
  14. The web site for Silvio Dalla Torre was misspelled in my last message.
    I hope you caught the errors: I misspelled silvio, and I left off the www:


    If you leave off the www, using just silviodallatorre.com you get the german site.

  15. I know a guy who switched from cello to bass and didn't bother to learn it in fourths. It's kind of cool.
  16. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    I have a doubleneck electric bass with one neck tuned in fifths. I used to play mandolin, mandocello etc. so it's not a problem. I'm not brave enough to try it on the big bass, though.
  17. salbassrock


    Mar 9, 2012
    been practicing for a few weeks in 5ths and loving every minute. i went over the Mahler 6 (finale), every right note AND mistake resulted in smiles :bassist: