Tuning Question

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by lyla1953, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    I'm noticing quite a few songs (Hendrix/SRV + others) tune down a half step. My question; is it okay to just maintain standard tuning and transpose/play in the intended key? Is one way better than the other?
    I play a 5er.
  2. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    Sure it's possible, but I wouldn't call it ''better than the other''. It will sound a bit different, since you are tuned to standard.
  3. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    Sure, you can play it anyway you want. Besides, you've got a 5'er. :)
  4. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    When playing a 5 string, I do not tune down.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    It will sound like crap (unless you convince the other members of your band to make the same adjustment) because you will be playing a half-step out with the guitar, vocals, keys, etc.
  6. INTP


    Nov 28, 2003
    Dallas, TX
    I think the question was about when playing with a guitar player who tunes 1/2 step low to either
    1) tune the bass (5 string) down 1/2 step as well, or
    2) use normal (BEADG) tuning

    In the first case, it's probably easier to play open strings so the feel of the riffs could be more "natural".
    In the second case, you just play 1 fret lower, but it changes the fingerings since you can't play an open sting for, say, Eb.

    My preference is for the second option, but I don't rely on open strings that much.

    If I were going to use a 4 string, tuned down, I'd use a dedicated instrument. I like low action, and I find that tuning down causes playing problems if the instrument isn't set up for that particular tuning.
  7. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Right on, Learn it and play it on the 5 string in standard tuning. If your guitarists are watching your left hand then it may confuse them. It's your call at that time to tune down or not to "Help" them out.
  8. lyla1953


    Jul 18, 2012
    Yea, my intent is not to play out of tune of course but to play in the correct key on a standard tuned (BEADG) 5er. Thanks guys you gave the answer that I wanted!
  9. Baird6869

    Baird6869 Supporting Member

    I tune down a 5er a 1/2 step for a couple of songs I like to play with access to open strings. I also play a couple of easier songs 1/2 step higher on the fretboard than my guitarists. Just because they are easy and they are the last 2 songs in a set and right after the downtuned songs. I hate changing basses every 2 songs.

    My guitarists don't bother to look at my hand positioning any more. I even order all of my basses without dots/blocks/markers on the fretboard.
  10. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Probably a good idea to down tune to the guitar so that you can utilize open strings. Down tuning may change the neck relief. Some basses are easier than others to adjust for relief.
  11. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    D'oh! Reading comprehension fail. :)
  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    there are only 2 reasons to ever tune non-standard:
    1. you like the sound
    2. the song has a signature riff that requires an open string
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Are you sure those are the only two reasons? What about:

    3. Alternate tunings change the pattern of notes on the fretboard, opening up new fingering possibilities.
    4. It changes the available series of natural harmonics.
    5. It changes the tension on the strings, affecting the feel/action of the instrument in your hands and possibly making it more comfortable for you to play your best.
    6. You are playing a genre of music where altered tunings are idiomatic to the style.
    7. The bandleader or producer asks you to.
    8. You are accommodating a singer's vocal range.
    9. You understand that there is no "standard" historical tuning for musical instruments; standards evolve over time.
    10. You've been playing bass for years and want to try something different/fun.
    11. Peer pressure from other TB'ers.
    12. You are Michael Manring.

    I think what you meant to say is that those are the only two valid reasons, in your opinion...
    mambo4 likes this.
  14. There seem to be a lot of musicians who do this half step down tuning on live recordings. Is there a particular reason for it? Example I can think of off the top of my head is the Metallica S&M recording. Every song is tuned down a half step over the studio recordings.
  15. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    One reason why a lot of bands do it is to give the singer's voice an easier time.
  16. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    accommodating the vocals is the most common reason for changing the key of a song.
    Often when singers age they can't hit the higher registers as easily, so when playing and old hit live, they drop the key.
  17. I'm seriously thinking about tuning my five string up to D, and then using a capo for E tuning when I need it. This is mostly to tighten the B string a bit and because I dont ever use the low B. D is the lowest I generally go and goes well with the singers I play with.