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Tuning down?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by coastie72, May 7, 2010.

  1. coastie72


    Apr 6, 2009
    Columbia SC
    Why do some bands tune down. I have an upcoming rehearsal with a band that say's they tune down. Can someone explain why they would do this and what if any are the benifits? :confused:
  2. It's probably metal or modern rock. That's what they do these days. They probably mention it because you can't just tune a guitar or bass from E to C on the spot and expect it to sound good.
  3. coastie72


    Apr 6, 2009
    Columbia SC
    Actually, this band does primarily Classic Rock. If I understand correctly they play the entire gigs this way. It's sort of confusing to me as to why.
  4. For classic rock? Very odd. Singer probably doesn't have a very good upper range.
  5. bassfart


    May 5, 2008
    They probably tune their instruments down so the singer can hit the high notes easier.
  6. How far do they tune down? Both Hendrix and SRV tuned down a half step.
  7. The F-Bomb

    The F-Bomb

    Mar 3, 2007
    Vancouver BC
    My guess would be it is because the singer can't hit certain notes & tuning down a half step eases the strain on his voice.

    Just a guess....
  8. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2004
    Yonkers, NY

    It's no big deal if its a half step or a whole step. More than that and you might want to look into a setup with heavy gauge strings (assuming you use light or standard gauge already)
  9. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    that's my guess. my main gig with tony www.tonyferrigno.com (shameless shill) tony likes to tune to Eb. Mostly as it makes it easier for him to sing a lot of the tunes. I hate it but only as I like a lot of string tension. I may have to (and you might) experiment with strings that have more tension inherently. I just got a tip that DR low riders tend to need more tension to get up to the right note as they have a big hex core or some such thing.

    Tuning down to D starts to get to be a bear. Other than that they may do a lot of songs in drop D which is another animal altogether. That bugs me but only because i need to get my drop D transposing chops better - :p
  10. coastie72


    Apr 6, 2009
    Columbia SC
    I was watching a video of them playing and trying to play along and found I had to play one fret up the neck towards the headstock to be in tune. So I assume that would be a half step.
  11. johnboy65


    May 22, 2009
    different people do it for different reasons. the easiest thing for me is to play in drop D (just be ready to transpose)

    Black Sabbath-the lead guitar player cut tops of his fingers off in an accedent...so they tuned down for less string resistance
    Nathan Watts (Stevie Wonder) liked having the Eb available
    Michael Jackson's songs are often down 1/2
    A lot of "older" bands are doing it so that the singer can still hit the high notes.

    Which brings me to what I think the answer is
    a) to accomidate the singer's range
    b) sonic range/preference
    c) to sound evil (but most of those guys are tuning down 2-3steps)
  12. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005
    You might want to check out Circle K Strings: https://circlekstrings.com/store/

    The owner participates here on TB and is a very intelligent (and cool) person. String tension is his specialty...very well thought out! (He also builds fantastic bass guitars:http://knuckleguitarworks.com/ )
  13. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    yes they're in Eb, and ps, that's "down the neck" in stringed instrument speak - ;)
  14. Barisaxman

    Barisaxman Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 17, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    As has been mentioned, playing down a half or whole step usually assists vocalists in hittin g notes. My country/rock band does it for this very reason. If we were playing one-nighters or short sets it wouldn't be an issue, but it really helps him when we're playing 2 or 3 nights in a row and he sings 40+ songs a night. I really hated it at first, and there are songs that I still think sound "off" when played down, but it works and 99% of the people we play for don't notice.
  15. yeah - for singers. personally I think it's a wuss move and it really annoyed me at first. It made my 5'r uncomfy to play. the B was like a rubberband. but I switched to primarily a 4 now and have come to terms w/ it . . . like so many things in this biz, it's just the way
  16. coastie72


    Apr 6, 2009
    Columbia SC
    First off, yep I knew that was down the neck, thanks for catching that error! Well I guess I'll get used to it if I end up making the cut with this band.
    How do you go about getting properly tuned. I'm not sure my tuner will tune in steps, I think I remember reading it does. Boss TU-2 ?
  17. rockstarbassist

    rockstarbassist Banned

    Apr 30, 2002
    The Woodlands, TX
    Endorsing Artist: HCAF
    Your TU-2 will tune to Eb, Ab, Db, Gb pretty easily...
  18. coastie72


    Apr 6, 2009
    Columbia SC
    Thanks fo the info!!!! :)
  19. I don't buy the excuse for so many bands tuning down a half-step being "it makes it easier for the vocalist to hit high notes." It's a half-freakin'-step!!! There is no way in hell that (1) so many people have a weird affliction that makes most recorded music a half step too high for comfort, or (2) artists in the past just happened to record most of their music a half-step too high for humans of the future to be able to sing comfortably along with. For 99% of singers, any benefit from a half step down-tune is psychological. The keys, high notes, and vocal ranges in recorded songs vary wildy from one song to the next, and the singing ranges of humans varies greatly from one person to the next. If we lived in a weird world where almost all people had a similar vocal range, and almost all recorded music had the same vocal limits, then I could believe that maybe at some point in time a mutant strain of human evolved with a half-step-lower vocal limit.

    People tune down primarily for the guitarists to be able to use different chord shapes and voicings that include open strings to form common chords found in songs. Sort of the same reason why many people use capos. Also, a lot of people downtune because they want to seem heavier and they are under the mistaken impression that downtuning = heavier.
  20. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I Grow Organic Carrots
    I find when I show up with a 5 string bass tuned BEADG it doesn't matter what the guitar player is tuned to. I have played with bands tuned EADGBE, drop D, Drop C, E flat or whatever, and BEADG covers it all.

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