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Using alternative tunings on your bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by RiseOfTheWooten, Apr 19, 2006.

  1. Can I have some insight from those of you who use alternative tunings on your bass. If I used alt tunings I would be confused as to which note I'm playing, since any given fret would not represent the note I am used to playing/seeing.

    What kind of alt tunings do you use, and how did you come to use that particular alt tuning?

    How many basses do you play and do you interchange between them? If you have more than one bass, how many of them do you tune alternatively?

    With your alt tunings, are all your strings still tuned in 5ths?

    While using alt tunings, are you fully aware of where you are on the fretboard (ie each note played), or do you visualise 'shapes' on the fretboard? For example, if your regular bass broke down and you were handed a bass with normal tunings as a last minute option, would you be able to adapt your playing to regular tuning or would you absolutely have to re-tune the strings before you can 'find your way' on familiar ground?
  2. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    I think you'd get a lot more response to this if you put it on Michael Manring's forum.

    Interesting question, but I am not a regular with "weird" tunings.
  3. Basses are normally tuned in fourths not fifths.

    I sometimes experiment with different tunings, recently I started making a composition in DGDA, but for me it is a matter of finding out what sounds good rather than knowing what notes I am playing. I use it mainly for different chordal and harmonic possibilties but I just experiment until it sounds good.
  4. I have some solo songs in EAEA, FGDF, DGDG, DAFA etc. but ive tried to explain it to people before. I dont think at all abotu the name of the notes im playing when I do. It was tricky at first to get the good notes but ive gotten used to finding my way around "odd" tunings. A class Jeff Scmidt taught he said something great along the lines of say you were an alien and didnt know waht you do know how would you play the bass. He then handed a kid his bass which was tuned like 5th 4th 3rd 4th and had him play. The kid struggled for like 15 seconds then got into a groove. Try not to think about the actual note names but more about the notes themselves in relation to the other notes.
  5. Hmm.. that's an idea. I'll give it another week before re-posting the question there.

    D'oh .. I knew it was 4ths..!

    Do you have to retune your bass each time you play those songs? Also, I'm not actually thinking about actual note names but how do you get used to thinking of notes in relation to other notes when the tuning keeps changing? It's a bit like if you were to change the keys around on a piano, I imagine it would be very confusing.
  6. Bassist4Life


    Dec 17, 2004
    Buffalo, NY
    I also think that you should check out Michael's forum AND his website. There are interviews with Michael on the web where you can learn about his use of altered tunings. His Zon Hyperbass was created for this purpose. It has HipShot extenders on each string, a bridge that alters the strings, and a 3 octave fretless fingerboard.

    My question is, why are you interested in altered tunings? I think exploring them is a lot of fun. When I change the tuning of my bass I don't play it the same way. I don't think about where every note is like I would normally do. I don't try to play the same way as I do in standard tuning; that defeats the purpose. I will often tune the strings to a chord and use harmonics and open strings to create a canvas of sound. Then, I improvise over it.

    Check out Michael's forum. Don't walk... run!

  7. I'm interested to hear about it because from what I gather on TB, there are quite a few of you who play around with it and I was curious how some of you approach finding a tuning you're happy with, and then adapt your playing to it.

    Also sometimes when I'm playing along with the radio or my CDs I come across a bass line is a little harder for my fingers to work out and I wonder if the bass player is using alt tunings.

    Thirdly yes I agree that with alt tunings you wouldn't play the same way, for the same reason I brought up in the previous paragraph.

    I'm still learning my way around the fretboard (esp on the fretless), I'd like to get to the point where I can close my eyes and know where I am and what I'm playing. So in that context, it's still hard for me to comprehend throwing my muscle memory out the window by playing around with alt tunings, after spending weeks/months/years practicing scales and arpeggios.

    I'm shooting over to Michael's forum right now.
  8. DigthemLows

    DigthemLows Supporting Member

    Oct 10, 2003
    Sacramento CA
    I use 3 different tunings during a set and bring two basses along.....If you memorized your board as patterns / notes then you just need to think what the alternate tuning changed. So on any given string you just remember that each note is "x" steps up or down and change the pattern accordingly. It's really fun to start messing with tunings, you can get some great open strings and really full sounding chords that are just impossible in standard.
  9. The only wierd tunning I use is DGCF, which really isnt that weird, its just a step below standard, and sumtimes i downtune teh D to C so its like a step below dropped D tunning,(I want a hipshot!) and i want a 5 string that goes DGCFA# which is just like E-C tunning for a 5 string a step down, I try to stick to 4ths but i like the differnt Open notes, and yes I can play most things on either bass tunnings and I don't have trouble finding what notes I am playing, like they said before, you think of the notes in relation to other notes, root 3rd, 5th etc. not C E G
  10. Yeah I retune every song. The thing is I dont gig as a solo bassist yet so when Im retuning its just for my computer to record. And like you said about the piano yeah at first it was confusing but you stumble a little then figure it out.

    and +1 on the tuning to a chord and using the natural harmonics. Alot of the tunings I use are created from chords so I can use more natural harmonics and do double stops with harmonics etc.

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