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Tuning a half step down

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Ancientangler, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. Ancientangler


    Jan 16, 2017
    While poking around Craigslist, I ran across a "Bass Wanted" ad which included the comment "We tune a half step down, like everyone else around here." Actually, everyone else doesn't. But I'm curious why some people would do this, and why it would matter to them how I manage my bass. The band in question plays classic rock.
  2. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    My BL does 5 gigs a week by himself so tuning a half step down relieves the pressure on his voice to hit those high notes.
  3. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Looking for a gig around East Islip, NY!

    Jan 13, 2008
    My band tunes down a half step. It sounds heavier for the more rocking tunes and it helps everyone who sings the higher parts.
  4. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    You could play along without downtuning obviously, but the parts would look and sound different.
    Leiria and Fat Steve like this.
  5. Ancientangler


    Jan 16, 2017
    If I'm interpreting this correctly, it seems there are two reasons:
    1) The timbre of the instruments. That's subjective, but understandable.
    2) The literal key in which a song is played. If a singer wants Bb instead of C, why do I need to tune down in order to do that?
    el_Bajo_Verde likes this.
  6. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Not as easy transposing from E to Eb on the fly for me. Tuning down keeps the positions the same.
  7. saltydude


    Aug 15, 2011
    boston CANADA
    It just makes things easier. I used to do it with an old band but currently we stick to performing the songs in the tuning in which they were originally recorded. Kind of a pain, but we're purists.

    For the most part. Songs that were originally recorded 1/2 step down performed in standard tuning sound off but it isn't as bad the other way around. So typically it's common for bands to play everything 1/2 step down. It's mostly for convince.. also vocals.
    wmhill likes this.
  8. viper4000


    Aug 17, 2010
    A lot of blues and classic rock does this. Stevie Ray did this, and with his heavy gauge strings it sounded really thick. I'm sure it helped his vocals too.

    If you play a 4 string, you should probably tune down with the guitars. Playing Eb an octave up just doesn't have the meat of the lower Eb. Yet, if you have a 5'er, you really do not need to tune down. Just move down a half step. On a 5, I don't even do Drop D, I just adjust.
    crentest, PsyDocHill, smogg and 4 others like this.
  9. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Is tuning down 1/2 step similar to going from 440 to 432?
    Max Blasto, Robb Fesig and jamro217 like this.
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Playing in drop tunings is a commonly-expected job skill for bassists in the year 2017. So they are just being up-front in their Craigslist ad and mentioning that this gig requires that skill. Just like if you were required to know how to read, or own a particular kind of gear, or be knowledgable about a particular genre, they would mention that in the ad, too. It's how they weed out the players who are wrong for the gig (i.e. you) and end up with a player who will be a good fit. ;)
    Fat Steve, mikew31 and Alex O like this.
  11. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    That's why I did it. We tuned a whole step down.
    Grumry likes this.
  12. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Only if you were going all the way to 415.3 Hz.
    Lobster11 and lz4005 like this.
  13. monsterthompson

    monsterthompson The Eighth Note Wonder Of The World

    Nov 25, 2008
    Chop off two of your fretting finger tips and tune down 3 semitones. It's worked before.
  14. gustobassman

    gustobassman I'm only here for the after party.. Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2011
    Sandy Eggo
    ^^ Agreed ^^

    I've been playing half-step down for a few years now. The projects I've been in do it because it helps the vocalists a little - that high E is a PITA if you arent a trained vocalist. I also prefer the feel of the strings, just slightly less tension and its a little darker than standard E tuning. In other words completely repeating what was quoted above me.
    markjazzbassist likes this.
  15. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    Leiria, smogg and /\/\3phist0 like this.
  16. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    my husband used to tune his guitars down half a step, but by the time i met him he always tuned down a full step. when i started playing with him, i tuned by 4 string to drop D.
    GKon likes this.
  17. mikeyjm2

    mikeyjm2 Keepin' it simple.

    Dec 31, 2014
    Houston, TX
    If you want to go after the spot but don't want to drop tune you could go for an option like this:


    Mine has worked out well for me.
  18. Many reasons...

    -A bass that's lived it's whole life in E is going to shift a lot when you put it into Eb.
    -Affords bands the opportunity to play songs that may normally be out of their singers range.
    -Allows bands to transpose without changing the song as much.
    -Allows audience to sing along easier when parts may be out of their given range.
    -Some songs just sound better in the low tuning.
    -Digitally transposing (through pedals or other gear) is expensive and can easily sound like garbage.
    -Manual transposing limits the amount of musicians available to play with you, or if you're a BL keeps you from having to re-write parts.

    Drop tuning is useful beyond metal and just sounding heavy. Proficiency in step down, drop, and open tunings is valuable in playing and songwriting.
  19. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    guitars can use slightly heavier strings ... more metal / fuller sound ... and still be able to bend them ...

    SRV comes to mind .. !

    not fun for keyboard players ... !! unless they have a transpose button .
    SLO Surfer likes this.
  20. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    I've played in groups that do this, and refusing to join them in their downtuned world will not be a fun time. They will invariably talk about the notes and keys as if they are the original key and the burden is on YOU to remember to transpose. Mucho annoying. You're also gonna be playing tons of "Es" (actually Eb) on second string sixth fret, instead of open bottom string where they would sound much better and sit easier fingering-wise.

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