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Tuning an upright down a whole step

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by onthebass, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. onthebass


    May 11, 2011
    Portsmouth, NH
    Hi there,

    I couldn't find anything on this...

    If I tune down a whole step on all strings, do I need to adjust the bridge location, for proper scaling, or just adjust the action to compensate for the lower string tension?

    Thanks in advance
  2. Same bridge location.
    You might need to raise your action because of the lower tension (about 20 to 25% lower!) of the strings which leads to larger amlitudes.

    You might even want a set of higher tension strings, specially if your current set already has a lower tension.

    And it might take up to two weeks until the bass settles because of the reduced top pressure. You might get unexpected wolfes that may vanish during that time (but that might not happen).
  3. Some basses handle detuning easily, they adjust quickly and without fuss (mine does). Others will be a pain, the tuning will be unstable for weeks and they get wolfs and other strange sounds. Try yours, and see what happens, but don't be surprised if it doesn't like it.

    As has been said, don't move the bridge, raising it a bit might be necessary to get rid of the rattles.
  4. onthebass


    May 11, 2011
    Portsmouth, NH
    Thanks for the input!

    What are wolfes? Just string noise?
  5. Phil Rowan

    Phil Rowan Supporting Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    Wolf tones happen when the bass is overloaded with a certain vibration, i.e. when you play on one note (for me it's usually the Bb on the D string). It's more than string noise.. it makes it tough to bow smoothly as the string is bouncing erratically. So rather than a smooth -------------------- sound you would get -- --- -- -- -- -- -- -- --. Not sure if that visual makes any sense. It's enough of a pain having just one wolf tone.
  6. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Just curious, and no disrespect intended, but why would you want to tune down a whole step?
  7. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    [2^(2/12)]^2, or @ 26% less tension.

    Again, why? The conventional solution is either a 5-string or have an extension fitted to the E string.
  8. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    If it's a matter of tension, one can use solo strings tuned down from A to G, etc. I know this is no new revelation.
    Steve Gilmore does this. I briefly played his bass (several years ago) and they felt just fine.
  9. dfp


    Sep 28, 2004
    if one is not playing canonical music, and is free to try new things, it can really open up some new sounds. a bass w/ medium Spirocores, tuned DGCF, is a whole lot of fun some times. very useful now and then in studio projects, unique band situations, etc.
  10. bobsax


    Jan 16, 2011
    Southern Oregon
    W0 Really? Always?
    I'm transcribing one of his bass lines from Aebersold vol 40 and was thinking I was tuning up to his open strings when he played an A and a D.
    It sounded like he was playing traditional tuning but I guess I'll find out later if I hear some low D's or Eb's
  11. Karl Kaminski

    Karl Kaminski Supporting Member

    Aug 26, 2008
    I believe he means solo set F#BEA tuned down to standard EADG. This is a way to get even less tension than a conventional set of strings. Though I found I enjoy almost all of my heavier sets tuned down to DGCF. But drop tuning isn't very convenient in a traditional setting.
  12. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010

    Your right, chapito. That's exactly what he does: EADG. He doesn't use drop tuning. The strings did feel softer. Also, I noticed that his strings were spaced closer together than I like. I didn't ask him about it, but I 'm sure he did the work on the bridge and nut himself. He's pretty handy and knowledgeable when it comes to set-ups.
  13. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    Why drop tuning? Consider what DGCF would do for jazz standards. Most are in flat keys, yes? You would have a low Eb, open strings which are more often roots or fifths than with standard tuning, and an increased number of useful natural harmonics. I have a fretless P-Bass which I converted to 5-string and tune D-G-C-F-Bb. It's a blast when I want to act out my Jaco fantasy, although naturally I don't use it much on actual gigs.

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