Tuning lower than B question

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by kcducttaper, Aug 9, 2019.

  1. kcducttaper


    Jul 1, 2019
    I exclusively play 5-stringers, so my low B is already 32Hz. Most PA's start rolling off and become muddy somewhere in the mid 30's (somewhere around a 'D'), so I'm often somewhat limited on how low I can go on my regularly tuned bass just due to PA/acoustics. For home practice, I run through a mixer and into some custom speakers that I've designed, and built, that hit flat to 20Hz, so I have no troubles with this at home. My question is, with all of the lower tunings these days (drop A, G, F#, and such), how do you bassists handle it so you still get a nice thick sound on the super low notes without turning into mud city from PA/acoustic issues?
  2. lowtom


    Jul 12, 2005
    I use two tuninigs. 4 string standard (E-A-D-G) and 5 string all strings tuned down a whole step (so its A-D-G-C-F)
    my amp is a Trace Elliot AH-12. i use status basses. everything on the bass is up to max.
    i use the EQ on the amp to cut the 30H to 60HZ a lot.
    you get enough low frequencies just through the bass. if you use too much of the low frequencies or even boost 30, 40 or 60Hz, it will just freak out the speakers.
    and for me, you hear the lowest string much better in the mix.
    try to cut the low frequencies under 100Hz and see if it works for you.
  3. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Maybe this thread will shine some light on the answer: Bass frequency/waterfall plots: what they mean to rigs
    Marcus Willett, Geri O and lowtom like this.
  4. Have no fear – you’re in no danger of poor performance from a sound system that’s rolling out below 35 Hz. Fortunately, our ears are very forgiving.

    I’ve recently found this out when I took some measurements at the little church I play at. I was shocked to find that my highly regarded Aguilar GS-112 cabinet falls like a brick below ~160 Hz, and is ~18 dB down at 40 Hz. This from a cabinet spec’d at 40 Hz.

    However, you can hear the low notes just fine playing a 5-string bass (standard tuning).

    This is because bass guitar notes are complex tones comprised of the fundamental, along with overtones, harmonics, subharmonics, and I’m sure other stuff I’m not even aware of. The reason you can hear low bass notes from a cabinet that rolls out below 160 Hz is that even though you can’t hear the fundamental, there is plenty enough of the other information to fill in the blanks, and the ear fills in the rest.

    Point is, even if the house system can only get down to 35 Hz, people will still be able to hear – and feel – the low bass notes. And actually, with the lowest notes, less of the fundamental gets you more definition.

    Wayne A. Pflughaupt

    Ecclesia: Unique Arrangements of Hymns, P&W Standards, and Original Tunes
    Administrator, Pedulla Club #45
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    My Rig: Stage and FOH Friendly
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    John6, walterw and Geri O like this.
  5. Trying to play an octave below guitars gets ridiculous when they downtune most of the way there already.
  6. Geri O

    Geri O Endorsing Artist, Mike Lull Guitars and Basses Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    Wasnex, I'm not quoting you to comment per se, just referring to the plots in the link. Mostly to say, I looked at them a while back so I could accurately answer a silly question about our subs (24 EAW SB1000s) from an artist's relative posing as a sound guy. I could tell I was dealing with a poseur and wanted to be fresh and well-armed.

    I equip all of my 5-string basses with Hipshot D tuners on the B string so I can bump down to low A when appropriate. It's handy for some of the Contemporary Christian tunes that use synth bass in the track. I'm careful to not over-use the low A. We don't have great subs in the worship center, but they are adequate and I get a big grin from the audio guys when I use the low A.

    I use it occasionally on my other gigs (country, R&B 14-pc horn band, etc) and the results can vary from "Nice, dude!" and a good feel from the PA to "Hey, don't blow up my subs, bro!" and feeling the A from my amp or my ears only. Again, careful to not over-use.
    Wasnex likes this.
  7. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    nah, that's not a limit at all.

    like folks are saying, your "32Hz" low B string is really mostly putting out the 64Hz octave frequency. the "limit" is really the string itself, you can only tune so low for a given scale length before the string is just putting out upper harmonics and noise, and you can only compensate by making the string so much thicker before it starts to get too stiff to vibrate right, giving you sour upper harmonics and noise.

    longer scale lengths will let you get lower and still have a cohesive note, but it's still gonna be "centered" in the upper harmonics that will come through regular bass rigs and PAs just fine.
    Geri O and WayneP like this.
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