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Tuning Down

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by lilcrate, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. lilcrate

    lilcrate Tortdaddy

    Sep 9, 2013
    St. Louis
    Is there really a reason to tune down when playing the bass?

    My guitar player likes to play in Eb and sometimes D standard. Why would I need to tune down unless I really wanted to use open strings? Can't I just play the notes being played or am I missing something?

    Still new to bass so sorry for a the newb question.
  2. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I've wondered that myself. My guess is the availability of lower notes in the common positions, like frets 2-7 and being able to fret a Low E rather than having it only as an open string, in addition to having a low D and E flat.

    Just a guess.
  3. tkonbass

    tkonbass I'm just one of the out-of-focus guys. Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2012
    Mobile, Alabama, USA
    Yes but sometimes you may find it easier to just tune the same as the GP.
  4. No reason at all to tune down, provided you can still play the parts comfortably. For example:

    Starseed by OLP - the guitarists are tuned down to Eb. Since I play it all in closed positions, no open strings, I don't tune down.

    Slither by Velvet Revolver - I can't imagine anyone playing this riff without an open D string. I drop my E to D to play it properly.

    Often, bass parts duplicate guitar riffs which use open strings. Some can be played without tuning down. Here's another example:

    Shine by Collective Soul - Guitarists in the band I perform this one with tune to Eb. There's a distinctive guitar riff before the chorus, based on an open E string. I actually play it in Eb. It's not as easy to play that way, but it's easier than tuning down!

    So experiment. There's no hard a fast rule.
  5. maverick49

    maverick49 Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2012
    Southern California
    My cover band plays a lot of 80s rock that is tuned down to Eb. I keep my second bass (when we gig) already tuned to this. In my opinion, while anything short of the Eb open can be played in standard, it just doesn't sound right if you do not. To my ear, there is a discernible tonal difference trying to play everything in standard. Play VH's "Running with the Devil" in standard and you will see what I mean. You end up playing an octave higher to get that Eb and it sounds like a fart. Don't get me started on the those Motley Crue songs tuned to D.

    That being said, whatever works for you. I am just OCD. ;)
  6. gard0300

    gard0300 Supporting Member

    Jan 10, 2011
    Vandalia, Ohio
    In theory, there is no reason. You can always play an octave up from the original recording. But if your looking for those low notes to boost a heavy part, you will need to tune down to stay in key.
  7. lilcrate

    lilcrate Tortdaddy

    Sep 9, 2013
    St. Louis
    But if there is no use of the open string (I understand when using open strings), then aren't all the notes in the same octave? Or am I thinking about it wrong? The way I'm seeing it, and I could be wrong, is I'm simply adding one note (half step down/open) and taking one note off the end of the fretboard.
  8. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    If your guitar player tunes to D standard and want to hit a low D at some point, you'll need to down tune. Sure, you could play a D at the 5th fret on the A string but it's not the same octave.
  9. Anthony Fury

    Anthony Fury

    Jan 20, 2009
    I totally agree with this - doing straight up covers of songs except in different keys changes their "color." Or something. They just don't sound right.

    Our band used to play straight tuning but then gradually morphed to Eb tuning - this was to make it easier on the vocalists and not for instrumental mechanics. Every high note in every song is now automatically 1/2 step lower and (I presume) a skoash easier to hit. Constantly having to de-tune and re-tune my bass for other bands was a pain but my Warmoth neck DGAF.
  10. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Guitar player was getting all disjointed trying to tune down & figure out Jason Aldean's She's Country. Nothing Young Country listeners haven't heard before and fairly common for today's genre, fine song...all that.

    I showed him how the guitar riffs went by playing them on my 5-String Precision (bass doubles them here & there), told him; go buy an 8 string, learn it in an hour.
  11. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    If you play a 5 string, there really isn't a reason to tune down. If you play a 4, you might want to tune down so you can hit the lower Eb or low D that the guitar tunes to.
  12. GK Growl

    GK Growl

    Dec 31, 2011
    I see this statement quite a bit but this is really dependent on the type of music being played. Some songs require the open low note (D or Db for example) be played quickly with a lot of quick hammer ons etc. Try doing this fretted at the 3rd or 4th fret on a B string versus having an open note. Not fun, and doesn't properly replicate the sound.
  13. ficsci


    Sep 3, 2012
    Sometimes you want to play open harmonics in certain notes, which can be hard to do if you need to also fret a string with one of your hands.
  14. Okay. Let's see you play Slither, by Velvet Revolver. On either a 4 or a 5 string, without detuning. It's in D by the way.;)
  15. I guess on a 5er , theres not much need , but on a 4 ,there are plenty of times I crank an open E string. My bands both tune Eb and so do I.