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Tuning down half step

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by petrus61, Jun 15, 2014.

  1. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    I'm not sure if I should be ashamed to admit, but I never had to do it in a pop/classic rock context. The list I was just given for my latest sub gig is pretty standard fare, by mostly stuff that is new to me playing wise, so I'll have to practice from home by ear.

    Is the half step down a minor adjustment for a quick fly gig, or are there any tips to practicing in tempo in the downtune key I should be hip to? The list is cake otherwise. I'm just used to being handed a set in the "studio" key.
  2. Hypnotaize


    Apr 10, 2014
    It's not a big change for me. I usually play in standard tuning, but one song my band is covering is half a step down. Since I usually have to let the guitarist borrow my capo, I use my piano as a reference and it takes about thirty seconds.
  3. I think you have been given some music in a key you are not used to playing. Not a big deal. Read on.

    I use Nashville numbers and the major scale box pattern and never have a problem with the flat keys or any key for that matter. I place my box on the tonic root - in doing that the "studio" notes AND OR flat notes are still in the same places they always are. The 5th is still up a string and over two frets, the 3rd is still up a string and back a fret, etc.

    So ---- after placing the box on the tonic root note the notes of that scale are just waiting on me. Using the box I just place the Box's R note on the tonic root note and the box takes care of the rest.

    Thought just un-loosened, yes it helps if you can look at fake chord and know what key the fake chord is written in..... Look at the last chord in the verse, if all verses end with that chord, that's your key.

    Google can find Nashville numbers and the box for you, if you need them or just ask here, someone will answer.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2014
    TonyP- and Plucky The Bassist like this.
  4. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I played in a traditional country band in standard tuning and an old school metal band that tuned down 1/2 step at the same time. I didn't have any problem going from one tuning to the next. I don't think I would try to retune on stage though. It probably makes more sense to have two basses - one for each tuning.
  5. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    Thanks. That was more or less the approach I was considering. Excellent way to think about it.
  6. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    The singer told me everything is tuned a half step down, so I don't think I'll need to re-tune. He's emailing me a set list today.
  7. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    That makes it easy.
  8. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    I keep the action fairly low and have little relief on my bass necks, and tuning down sometimes causes me problems with fret buzz. Depending on the bass, I may need to tweak the truss rod a bit when tuned down 1/2 step.

    This varies by bass, however. My VM Jaguar has a thin neck and it has more of this problem. Other basses with thicker necks (or harder woods) don't seem to need any adjustments.

    Generally, though, I think of tunes in terms of their interval relations rather than note names, so transposing is not as big of a deal. My internal map of the song is essentially a Nashville Number chart. Unless the song is in Eb and requires the lowest Eb, I prefer to adjust my playing rather than re-tuning.
  9. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    I was considering this also (adjusting my playing instead if retuning). For some reason it comes off as what would be easiest for me to do as opposed to messing with tuning. It's not like the band is dropping a whole step or anything crazy. Depending on my practice material and the songs themselves, if they can be done service without me retuning, that's definitely the way I'll go.
  10. Kragnorak


    Sep 20, 2008
    Depends on the style of music - If the music is guitar-based with lots of specific riffs with pull-offs to open strings then it is best to re-tune. If not, it might not make a difference. Personally if I'm learning a cover tune I prefer to use something close to the original tuning. Like, if I'm covering a Sabbath song I'll drop my E string down to C or C# even though I have a lower string. The reason is to get that dark floppy tone....
  11. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    Should I post a list of the songs from the email I was sent for the pickup gig? Pretty standard classic rock stuff.
  12. If it is, as you say, standard classic rock stuff and you follow the chord progression you should not have any problems.

    Have fun.

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