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Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by kimstevens, May 4, 2004.

  1. kimstevens


    Nov 12, 2002
    Hi Steve and Michael

    When you guys perform other people's music, such as for recording sessions, do you often use non-standard tunings? I'm particularly interested in whether you might use fifths tuning (such as C-G-D-A, low to high), and are comfortable enough with it to use while reading a chart.


  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi Kim,

    I've hardly experimented with altered tunings at all. I drop the E on my four string down to D or C or even B, and occasionally drop the E on my 6s to D as well, but I've not really taken it too far, and certainly wouldn't have any hope of being able to read in anything other than standard or drop D...

  3. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I tune CGDA, and I read fairly well. Unfortunately, most bass music is written with the mind set that it's to be played in standard tuning, so you run into some pretty crazy fret leaps every once in a while.

    The way I look at 5ths tuning is this: the notes that were further away in standard tuning are now closer together, and the close notes are now farther apart! It takes some getting used to, but once you do, you won't (or can't!) go back. I've tuned like this since 1998.
  4. pistonhead


    May 4, 2004
    Just getting started with a borrowed bass. I like LOW bass, so I've been looking for a used 5-string. Can a conventional 4-string be set up with B-E-A-D strings (like the Schecter Scorpion), or does that require modification & place too much strain on the neck?

  5. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
  6. Justyn


    Jun 24, 2002
    Richmond, VA
    Tim Commerford (RATM, Audioslave) tunes his Jazz Basses B-E-A-D, as do a few other notable players who like the low range of the 5-string but prefer the familiar feel of the 4.

    The only modification I can think of offhand is that your nut will need to be slotted properly to accept the thicker strings (.130 or thereabouts on the B as opposed to .100 or .105 on the E). Should be a quick and easy job for your local repair guy. Or if you've got a rattail file around you might be able to do it yourself if you're very careful though I'd recommend taking it to a professional as you'll also need a good trussrod adjusting and setup to accomodate the different tension.

    As far as altered tunings, the only think I've been experimenting with is tuning my five string (normally EADGC) down a whole step to DGCFBb. Gives me a little more low range without compromising the high chordal/melodic possibilities and drops the string tension a bit which I find more comfortable on my current set of medium gauge steel rounds.

    Or at least it does until I can afford a fretted six... ;)

  7. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I often use altered tunings for recording sessions, but for any serious reading I'll stick to standard. I've used many different tunings on sessions, including CGDA. It's nice to be able to have some different colors to offer and altered tunings are a good way to do that. The trick is to listen carefully to what the music needs and try to come up with ideas that enhance the overall vibe of the track.