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Tuning down half a step?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by RichardW, Mar 7, 2017.

  1. RichardW


    Feb 25, 2016
    near Philly
    BL has proposed everyone (two guitars, keyboard, and bass) tune down half a step, arguing it will help with both lead and harmony vocals.My vocals can get a little pitchy in the higher range, so this might help.

    I'm just am curious if anyone has experience playing this way. Pros or cons? Things to be aware of?
    GKon, G RICH 5 and pjbassist like this.
  2. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    It's pretty common to do. I have found that many of my basses actually felt/played better 1/2 step down. Obviously, the strings will get a bit "floppier" and a tweak of the setup will be needed. It's nice to have a second bass (in standard tune) for wood-shedding and learning songs.

    I eventually started using a 5 string bass and I really enjoyed that much more. My guitarist played 5 different guitars with like 4 different tunings. So the 5'r was a no-brainier.
  3. tuba_samurai

    tuba_samurai Yamaha BB Club #123

    Oct 30, 2013
    If my group wanted to do this, I would go down a whole step to D standard so I didn't have to think in half steps.

    I use 110 gauge sets to do this to avoid low tension.
  4. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    As someone who usually gets stuck singing the highest harmony line, I don't believe a half step will actually make that much of a difference in vocals - so you are singing a G sharp rather than a G. Think about it.

    I think most people really do it because they read about it, and it sounds like a "cool" thing to do.
    Omega Monkey, fhm555, aprod and 11 others like this.
  5. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Just tune down to A 432 and you will be aligned with the universe :roflmao:
  6. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Backed a singer who requested tuning down 1/2 step.
    He said it makes a big difference for him on a gig.
    Less strain on the voice.
    I will suggest it to another band I work with.
    Lead singer has a limited range and it would help him.
    kartiste likes this.
  7. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    I have a bass specifically set up with DR DDTs for down-tuning. It's much quicker to do a quick swap than to retune. It also maintains the same string tension as my standard tuned basses. We don't do it for every tune, but sometimes it works well.
    fourstringgirl likes this.
  8. Ok, educate me here. Unless you're reading charts with a mixed bag of tunings from everyone else, why is tuning down a full step easier than a half step?

    If everyone is tuned the same an E or Gm will still be same, it will just sound a half step lower. No transposing on the fly necessary.
  9. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    If I understand it correctly, an Eb tuning is a pretty common blues tuning. A surprising number of rock bands used it both so the vocals were in the right range, and it give their music a little extra mood.
    If it helps your vocals, why not? A half step down barely changes the feeling of your instrument. As a listener I was drawn to several bands tuned a half step down without even realizing it. I say do it.
  10. tuba_samurai

    tuba_samurai Yamaha BB Club #123

    Oct 30, 2013
    It is easier for me. I do better thinking full steps. Also, If I go down a whole step, then I don't have to change the way I am thinking to play in standard tunings. I can play with the Eb group and a E group with no changes to the bass.

    You may have an easier time just going down the half step. :) Especially if you like the sound of open strings.
    Omega Monkey likes this.
  11. bass40hz

    bass40hz Cigar smoker, scotch drinker, American Patriot Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Sussex County, NJ
    no endorsements yet...Are you listening Spector, DR, GK, Line6?
    Being in a hard rock / heavy metal cover band, we tune down to match the original song...if the original band tunes to Eb, we do too...if you dont, things just dont sound right, at least to me, I know this is subjective...my lead singer also says it helps with his vocals.
    I do always bring 2 bass' with me, one tuned standard, one tuned Eb, as stated earlier, it is much easier to swap a bass than to re-tune..it also looks cooler and adds to the show ;-)
  12. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    I'm not about to down tune my bass and throw the setup out of wack(upright bass). I'd much prefer to accomplish this with a 5 string bass, and that is what i would do if in a band that needed the down tune.

    But doesn't down tuning really only help on certain songs, depending on the original key and where it is going down to? I suppose a lot of rock music does use the open E, so it makes some sense.
  13. What the heck, try it and see. If the band doesn't like it then go back to standard tuning.

    We tune down a half step in an 80's hair band tribute that plays Poison and Def Leppard, that sort of mindless crap. It works fine for that.
    Shifty722 likes this.
  14. MCS4


    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I tend to keep all of my basses down-tuned a full step unless my band situation requires standard tuning (rather than vice versa). I prefer the lower tension and access to a couple of extra low notes without going to a five string.
  15. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I used to have a "friend band" who did it, and it did make vocals easier. It's commonly done, and not a big deal. Do it! Have fun. I'm a stickler for being in the "right key," and I am also known for pitchiness, so take advantage of the 1/2 step.
  16. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I've been doing this for years. As a singer who doesn't have a great range, I can tell you that it absolutely does help. I never had to make any changes to my basses from tuning down 1/2 step, but it wouldn't hurt anything to do a setup after you tune down to make sure nothing changed.

    We also tune down a full step for a handful of songs, so I have one bass set up for that. I did need to make some adjustments on that bass. YMMV.

    There are other threads on this topic. I'm not sure why some people have such consternation about it.
  17. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I'm not sure why some people have such consternation about a lot of things. :)
  18. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    That reply gives me consternation. :D
  19. DavC

    DavC Supporting Member

    May 17, 2005
    Tallmadge , Ohio
    if everyone tunes down a 1/2 step ... for all intensive purposes , things are in the same key as before , with looser strings ... unless a sax player, or harp player might sit in .. !!??

    a 1/2 step might not seem like much vocal relief for 1 song ... but it will be felt over the course of a night ... !! my ' chest voice ' stops at a certain note , then ' head voice / falsetto ' ... so relearning that break point might sneak in .. ?

    gtr players can use slightly heavier gauges ... more metal , more sustain/tone ( SRV .! )

    luckily , us keyboardists have a Transpose button to make life much easier ... !! if your keyboard player has a Rhodes and B3 , he might not be to happy .. !?

    learning songs , ... i'd use a Capo ... or another bass tuned normally ...
    12BitSlab, kartiste and hrodbert696 like this.
  20. Beetfarm615


    Feb 15, 2017
    We do a whole set tuned down 1/2. It's where we place all the hair band tunes and it helps with the vocals for sure. Our vocalist is great but ending a 3hr show with GnR, Journey, Def Leppard etc. can wreck a voice in original keys.
    bdplaid likes this.

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