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Tuning to g# standard on a 4 string

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Kevin mifsud, Sep 25, 2018.

  1. Kevin mifsud

    Kevin mifsud

    Sep 25, 2018
    Originally I am a guitarist but play some occasional bass too. Recently I have been asked to join my friend's death metal band as a bassist but soon realised they tune to g# standard and use 5 strings. I have an ibanez 4 string ergodyne bass and was wondering if it could handle it if I got some super thick gauge strings. The brands available near me are probably d'addario, rotosound, Ernie ball or elixir. Will my little ibanez handle such gauges and tension or will it be a sloppy clanky mess? Any advice would be appreciated also any suggestions on what to do to get the best sound :) thanks!
  2. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I don't know...

    I think you'd have to at the very least re-cut the nut slots. As for the tension, sound, and playability I guess it depends on the strings. Even on a 5 string it would be problematic at best.
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    If you get the right gauges the tension will stay the same.
  4. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    Isn’t a bass an octave lower than a guitar? So if they tune down to G# they are missing covering only 4 notes of a standard bass. They don’t need a bass player. Especially since they probably have everything EQ’d with a lot of bass and sonic sludge.

    You should just play very high with a lot of distortion and a pick. Play power chords too. Do something different! There’s no room down below.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  5. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    I would guess around a .145 for the lowest string? and then go up from there in increments of .20. You might get away with the bottom 4 strings of a .135 5-string set if you don't mind low tension.

    yes, the nut slot will need filing. top-loading bridges are often best with very thick strings but you might be fine.

    bear in mind as the tuning gets lower, the more speaker area you might need to keep up with the rest of the band. enjoy :)
  6. I played with a 7 string guitarist who played in drop G. When I asked WTH that was, he said “well, I drop the B string to A, and then drop it further to G”. I had my 4 string tuned to BEAD, and while that’s a few notes higher than the OP is looking for, I could not compete with this dude when he was chugging away on that lower string...

    So, whenever he did, I went high to be heard, and fill the that range since the guitarist was abandoning it. He was a bit of a meat-head and would usually start playing higher once he noticed what I was doing, and then I’d drop back down. When we had the chance to talk I told him to play guitar and allow me to play bass, but he was super annoyed. It was the last time I played with him.
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
    lz4005 and craigie like this.
  7. craigie


    Nov 11, 2015
    I love that he went back high! “Yo dude! I’m the guitarist!”
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  8. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Yes this completely possible, no reason why not, with the right gauges the tension will not change.
    Of course you'll need to file the nut slots wider (NOT deeper, be careful), an easy DIY job (i suggest a cheap curved diamond needle-file).
    Let us know what gauges you like for standard (or whatever tuning you are in).

    G# on 34"/35" is not problematic at all.
    D'Addario sell a single .160 which is good for G#, i hope it is available as a taperwound, try to make sure the lowest string is taperwound. Otherwise the D'Addario tapered .145 will just do it, at low tension.
    Rotosound sell a .175 but that's excessive for G# and is reported to not be a great string.
    Consider Kalium Strings (mailorder from USA) they are the specialists for big strings and have a variety of sets for G# standard 4 strings.

    No, that's not how you choose gauges, the tensions will be a mess.
    Too loose.

    30 pounds is a good lower limit for tension, see https://store.kaliummusic.com/TensionCalculator/tensionChart.php?scale_length=34
    That requires at least .145.
  9. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    Low tension is fine if you like it. And .20 per gauge works ok as a rule of thumb if you’re not going for balanced tension.
  10. grimjim


    Jan 26, 2014
    Chicago, Illinois
    Endorsing artist;DNA Amplification, GHS strings
    I run 45,65,85,110 and 135 for A standard on a 5 string. You can order the strings individually. I don't think you need to go to 160 but whatever works for you. It is definitely possible but as was said, will require a set up.
  11. grimjim


    Jan 26, 2014
    Chicago, Illinois
    Endorsing artist;DNA Amplification, GHS strings
    Oh, and welcome to the world of death metal bass.
  12. Kevin mifsud

    Kevin mifsud

    Sep 25, 2018
    Thanks for everyone's quick feedback! The thickest gauge I could find was 160 for 5 strings, will restring it tomorrow and see how it goes!

    Attached Files:

  13. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    That suggested you bought a gauge .160.

    A .135 will not be tight enough, the higher strings will be ok though. If you want to do this properly and not be disappointed you need at least a .145 for the lowest. You can use a .145 with the set you bought instead of that .135 and it will result in a much more tension balanced set. .145s don't come in sets, you need to buy a single .145 make sure it's taperwound.

    About steps of .020, that may roughly work for unbalanced EADG but the more you deviate from that the more unbalanced the tensions become. .020 .040 is very bottom-heavy and .180 .200 is very top-heavy. What is needed is multiplication of gauge, not addition.

    The correct physics-derived rough rule for a fourth interval is multiplying or dividing by 4/3 = 1.333.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  14. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Meh the long scale nickelplated .145 is non-tapered. The super long scale is tapered but may be too long for your bass.
    The .160 long scale comes as a tapered.
    Singles Single Strings | Bass Singles | D'Addario
    I guess the .135 in that set is non-tapered? If so a tapered will be better.

    Some data from D'Addario String Tension Pro String Tension Pro
    Showing a .145 G# as more balanced with a .105 C# than a .135 G#.
    And that a .135 G# is slightly less tension than a .085 E.
    Actually a .085 works fine for E but larger gauges need more tension to keep their mass under control.
    For the price of a 5 string set you can probably buy 4 singles that are more suitable and not waste a string.
    If you limit yourself to pre-packaged sets from mainstream brands nothing will be suitable. Although there are a few sets out there for F#BEA those are too heavy for G# standard.

    I used to tune a .135 to A0 on 35" and thought it was 'ok', then Skip of Kalium Strings insisted i would be happier with a .145, he was right.
    My experience was that for large strings (B or lower) 30 pounds was a rough lower limit for tension.
  15. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    We tune subsonic. We're awesome, we think
  16. I've got my Ibby SR setup for BEAD, and frequently play around with drop A, and G# is just a half lower. You'll have to do the same which requires filing the nut, changing the strings, and reset intonation, and action height. I suggest having a pro do the work, and make a new nut for the new string gauges rather than filing the stock nut so if you want to go back - you can. It only cost me $60, and he threw in a free fret polish.

    I'm using a Prosteels EPS300-5 (43, 63, 107T, 127T) which works just fine, but I do like lower tension strings.
  17. ugly_bassplayer


    Jan 21, 2009
    Ab not G#.
  18. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Better the OP does it themselves if they can. Nuts and diamond needle files are super cheap, you could mess it up twice and still save money compared to paying someone.

    A Prosteels .127 at A has 22.5lbs tension, less than a .085 E. For a string that big it will lose tonal quality, you probably find tone improves when you tune to B due to the higher tension.
    In drop A your E is at 36lbs, 50% tighter, causing a huge imbalance. In BEAD if you want tension balance that lowest gauge needs to be a .145. Since you are dropping to drop A often it's even more important to use a larger gauge.
  19. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    Maybe I’d try that on a 35”scale. Maybe. not on a 34”. The string gauge will be ridiculous.
  20. RickyT


    May 29, 2015
    Dee Why
    That's a 5 string set with a 135 NOT a 160.
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