1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Tuning down half step

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by TJCIII, Oct 18, 2019.



    Oct 8, 2019
    Hey playing in a cover band and they're looking to tune down a 1/2 step for the whole setlist. Any advice such as changing string gauge, will truss adjustment likely be necessary, is a short scale bass a better choice, etc. Just axing! TJCIII
    Smooth_bass88 likes this.
  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    No changes necessary in my experience. I change tunings often, sometimes between songs. You might want to pluck a bit closer to the bridge, and use a slightly lighter touch than usual. :)
  3. Very little difference.

    Slight looseness in strings -> playing closer to bridge will elicit the equivalent tension.

    Maybe slightly more fretbuzz -> lighter touch will fix this. Otherwise slightly increase in action height if you love to smack those strings. :woot:
  4. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    I bring 2 basses, one 1/2 step down, the other tuned standard. No adjustments needed for me.
  5. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    A short-scale bass will be a worse choice. In regards to string gauge and truss-rod adjustment, you will not know whether to address either until a day or so after you have changed your tuning.
    TheSeagoats, lomo, MDBass and 3 others like this.
  6. Malcolm35


    Aug 7, 2018
    I asked why do some bands do this and got this answer; "People sing flat so we go down a half step to match (help) their "flatness".....:rollno:

    Never had a band I was with to do this, but, if I was faced with it I think I'd just work it out with a capo and stay in standard tuning.

    Point of interest: I just stayed in standard tuning and let the guitar guys do what they wanted, I asked the keyboard what key she was going to use and I did the same.
    gebass6 likes this.
  7. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    I never had an issue when I tuned down. Sure the strings were a bit looser but not terrible. My bass at the time had a rather chunky and extremely stable neck so I didn’t have to adjust it. Just try it WELL BEFORE your gig and see how it feels.
    DrThumpenstein likes this.
  8. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    The tension will drop about 12 percent from tuning down a semitone. Changing your G string fro a 40 to a 45 will more than compensate - you're probably OK sticking with what you have on that end. I would likely change the E and maybe A string up .005 - in that range, that'll compensate pretty well for the drop in tuning. You may find you 're OK without any changes, however - try that first.
    sikamikanico, Jhu32 and Element Zero like this.
  9. corganmurray


    Feb 10, 2012
    One of my old bands decided to switch to this tuning after a couple years of gigging, as our singers voice had changed a bit and it was easier to hit some of the high notes on our record. It ****** me up so bad, because I was hearing the songs in standard in my head for weeks, super weird experience for me, but the other guys didn't have that problem at all. Strings felt a little looser, and that low Eb sounded so much bigger than an open E, though!
  10. DanGroove


    Apr 27, 2017
    If I am working in a band that always detunes, I don't change string guage or anything but I DO use a fresh set of strings that haven't been stretched to standard tuning, and then evaluate whether any setup adjustment is necessary. Probably won't need any adjustment other than possibly intonation for a half step.
  11. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    Depends on the bass, but I use .105 to .045 for half step down and dropped D. You will most likely have to give the neck a little relief though in most cases. If you are dropping D too, you may end up wanting to use a .110 set. Just depends on the bass and how it reacts to the tuning and or your preference. I know all my Fenders require me to make adjustments. My ATK though, I can tune that bass to almost anything and it'll normally not need any adjustment.

    So it just depends. I tend to also like the brighter sounds of .105 sets. once you start going to .110 and up it's starts darkening your tone. I could go without that. That's just my exp anyway...
    DrThumpenstein likes this.
  12. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    If I were faced with this, I would look for another band.
    2112 and instrumentalist like this.
  13. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Our band plays down a half step. I found that at first, on my Aerodyne, which I had set up with really low action, I was getting some buzz on the E string and occasionally on the A string, so I tweaked the truss rod and string height while in the lower tuning, which fixed the buzz. When I go back to standard tuning, it still plays fine, and now I can go back and forth without issues. Labella light gauge Deep Talking Bass flats on that bass.

    For whatever reason, my Lakland jazz, which I also set up with low action, moves back and forth between tunings without issues. Light gauge D'Addario Chrome flats on that one.

    It makes sense that at least a couple of factors influence the way a particular bass might respond. Just how low the action is to begin with, string type and tension, neck stiffness and stability, and playing technique can affect this transition.

    As far as our band's reason for downtuning, LS has an easier time with the high notes if we're down a half step. She's just as flat whether we're in standard or down a half!:D
    Stumbo and design like this.
  14. DrThumpenstein

    DrThumpenstein Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2015
    St Louis, MO
    Seriously? There are a LOT of bands that use E flat tuning: Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Van Halen, Bruno Mars, Peter Gabriel, and Creedence off the top of my head. I'm sure you didn't intend it this way, but your post almost reads like you're advising the OP to quit his band over this?

    Once you're dialed in, your bass plays the same either way. I'm having a blast playing with my band in E flat.
  15. DrewinHouston

    DrewinHouston Not currently practicing Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Disclosure: I am not a great bass player
    I've tuned down and I've used a 5er, if you have a four-string you'll need to tune down at least one string to get a low Eb. Some material lends itself to open strings, in that case I tune down. I wouldn't use a capo, that's generally not needed on bass and generally for tuning up not down.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  16. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Agreed. Off the top of my head, Hendrix played in Eb at Woodstock, the Beatles played in Eb on the Ed Sullivan show, and U2 played in Eb at Live Aid. Those are the kind of iconic dream gigs I would kick myself the rest of life, if I turned down the opportunity.
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
    ruju, Kevnn4 and DrThumpenstein like this.
  17. ugly_bassplayer

    ugly_bassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Wow. Ok then. Tuning down 1/2 step is nothing. Very common to tune down in all types of music. Jeez.....even gospel dudes drop down with a low A.
    FRoss6788 and DrThumpenstein like this.
  18. Medicine Man

    Medicine Man

    Apr 10, 2015
    I don't like E flat as much as 440, but many singers claim that every note being down a half step saves their voice over long gigs. First rule of bands: cater to your prima donna singer.
    thanos k and Stumbo like this.
  19. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    You misunderstand: My statement referred to the case (quoted in my post) where the singers are singing flat. I don't care what key you're in - if you're singing flat, I'm looking for another band.
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    At the risk of stating the obvious: Eb and A440 are not mutually exclusive. ;)

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.