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tuning a 6 string like a guitar

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by seventhson, Aug 12, 2005.

  1. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    Has anyone ever heard of tuning a 6 string bass like a guitar BEADF#B with the interval between the 3rd and 2nd string being a major 3rd?

    I've heard that some bassists tune it like a 7 string guitar with the missing high E as in BEADGB.

    The former has the advantage that all scale and chord shapes are exactly like with the guitar except everything transposed down a 4th. The latter has the advantage that the actual notes are exactly the same as you navigate the major 3rd interval between the G and B string.

    I'm a guitar player and I want to pick up a six string bass, but I'm thinking the tuning in 4ths will mess with my head.

    And, yes, I do plan on playing figerstyle. :bassist:
  2. I think it's pretty pointless to tune a six string bass with the third in there. On a guitar, as you know, that third is a life saver when you play big chords, especially barre chords. Since you don't do so much of that on the bass I don't see the point. Usually chords work out better on the bass with fewer notes, so you have enough fingers when you're tuned in straight fourths. On the other hand if you're really used to the way you do it on the guitar, there's no big reason not to tune with the third in there. The only problem will be that bass tabs using the G string will be off. Of course you can tune differently for that, so it's no big deal.
  3. Actually, as a BEADGB guy, I find it quite useful. I can use guitar fingering, and that's helpful. I can also play a major triad on the upper three strings (or a major third on the top two) in natural harmonics if I feel like it, though that's not something I use all the time. I do use two and three note blocks fairly often up on the higher strings, and I actually find it easier with a high B. Also, I can do closer intervals, like a minor 2nd, more easily. I don't care about tabs, because I never use them--and actually, the fact that tabs would be an issue with a different tuning indicates that it's tabs that are the problem, not the alternate tuning.

    Also, I've posted this before, but for me there's something that just works better about a tuning where there aren't such discordant intervals as the one between the B and the C. I did a little research (though I don't claim it's in any sense exhaustive), and I couldn't find a single other case of a stringed instrument tuned so as to produce such a harsh interval. Every 6 string I could find incorporated some slightly irregular interval to make the sounds of the open strings at least somewhat concordant with each other.

    Another reason for BEADGB was given by Tim Bogert: "ten million guitars players can't be wrong!" (This is of course incorrect, but it sounds good.;) )
  4. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    The first 6 string basses were tuned EADGBE. Like a guitar but an octave lower. One of these was featured in last months BassPlayer.

    Anyway, Steventhson, what kind of music do you play? Will you have to read? These are factors you probably want to consider. I changed the tuning on my bass a few months ago and I'm only now feeling really comfortable with it. You probably use more rote muscle-memory than you realize.

    Best of luck.
  5. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast

    Jul 16, 2005
    Belfast, UK
    I tried it only to learn some guitar solo's without having to transpose to BEADGC. Pointless to me, but maybe it'll work for you.
  6. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    Oh, for sure, I am one of those dime-a-dozen box scale pattern guitar players. Maybe it might make sense to rock the boat and switch to use standard 6 string bass tuning. What the heck...it's not like my current playing is setting the world on fire.

    I'm just an amateur rock and roller who's one talent is that I can pretty much figure out how to play anything complex given enough time since I have infinite patience and actually enjoy endless repetition of hard **** until I nail it. Eruption by EVH? Bring it on, baby! 2 hand tapping? Been there!

    With regards to bass, I want to jam on some Les Claypool/Primus songs on a six string bass and don't want to fry any of my remaining nuerons any more than I have to. That's why I'm thinking about just stringing it up like a guitar.

    I know, I know, I'm a pretty sad excuse for a musician, but non-musicians enjoy hearing me play cool ****, and I like to play cool **** for them. Anyway, I've been reading some of the stickies and it's inspiring me to explore other aspects of musicianship. Thanks for all the good feedback!
  7. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Cool man. Do whatever feels good. I think learning to play an instrument tuned differently will help you look at music from different perspectives, definitely enhancing your ability, not frying your brain cells.

    p.s. Don't know if your planning on doing any more posting here, but filling out your profile will make things easier.
  8. seventhson

    seventhson Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    Done...thanks for all your help!