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Tuning a 4-String P-Bass Down to C...

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by JackieStarr, May 18, 2005.

  1. JackieStarr


    May 18, 2005
    I got a new gig with a band that plays 70's riff rock tuned down to C. So it looks like I gotta tune my old 4-string P-Bass down for awhile. I play mostly with a pick for this stuff. I like heavy roundwounds normally (when I'm tuned to E, the way god intended it to be) but I gotta try a heavier gauge as my strings are flopping around way too much.

    For now, I'm playing back at the bridge, but I don't like that sound for this kinda music. I currently use 50-110's. Anbody have suggestions on a fatter sting diameter? I have a set laying around that goes from 60-128 but I'm guessing that is too heavy...
  2. JackieStarr


    May 18, 2005
    I tried the 65-128 set tuned to C. It looks like I will have to file my nut as the strings don't quite fit. Action is to high now so I will have to lower the saddles too. I think I will try a smaller gauge. This are too tight. I feel like Goldy Locks...

    PS- Death to Nu-Metal
    PPS- Hey if there any Nu-Metalers out there, let me know what string gauges you are using. Thanks!
  3. SubMonkey


    May 3, 2004
    Denver, CO
    Sounds like you've already tried something close to my next suggestion....

    I myself play mainly 4 strings tuned B-E-A-D using the lowest 4 from a set of Ernie Ball regular slinky 5's at 130, 100, 80, and 65 (I know, this isn't the "tuned to C" answer you're looking for, but bear with me)

    I do this on two basses, one of which is a J-parts-bass, so we're close to the same territory as your P-bass. (build and hardware wise) To make this happy and stable, took a truss rod adjustment, filing the nut to accomodate larger strings minor drilling at the bridge (to accomodate the B string in the E receptacle) more filing at the saddles, and action and intonation adjustments at the saddles. So, unless you're very lucky, your bass is gonna need a good setup job to play "right" with a heavier set of strings.

    Why B instead of C ??? Well, it's the pitch the strings were designed for at 34", so the playing tension stays close to standard, thereby avoiding that floppy-string business you have when using a regular E string tuned to C, or the way-too-tight problem of a B tuned up to C. You still have the range necessary to play with your guitar guys tuned to C, you just have to transpose your fingerings a bit...

    Anyway, my point is that I can play this instrument without changing strings, or re-tuning with bands tuned to C, drop D, or even...

    Of course individual results will vary®

  4. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I dunno. Call me a traditionalist, but personally I just wouldn't be comfortable with such a situation - it sounds like a real hassle. I don't even like medium-gauge strings, let alone heavy-gauge - and certainly not super-heavy gauge. How about...

    a) Telling the guys in the band that, no, you just won't play a four-string that violates the laws of nature; or

    b) Getting a five-string - then playing it in standard tuning (the guitarists play in their positions; you play in yours - kind of as SubMonkey suggested, except with a five rather than a four)...

  5. JackieStarr


    May 18, 2005
    Thanks for the input. I'll be looking for some 120's for the E-string. As for switching to a five string, I have issues there- least of which is that my first gig is tomorrow, tomorrow... And as for tuning to B and transposing on the fly to the key of C, that might work if I was playing with Kenny G but this is southern-fried BOOGIE rock riffs written for C. I need those open strings to stay right where they are. Plus transposing on the fly would be tough for me anyhow, I've only been playing for 25 years, smoking for that long too of course.

    Looks & chops 4 ever, J. Starr

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