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Who needs a five string bass to only use four

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DCPhillips, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. DCPhillips


    Nov 25, 2018
    This is DC Phillips bassist from Magg Dylan in Virginia Beach
    My guitarist needed a bass player to play a five string bass with the " B " string tuned
    down to a "G#". He also needed the string configuration to be as follows, ; at least the first 4 strings: G# D# G# C#. Some of you probably know of people who have attempted this, but have they been successful with our screwing up the neck?
    Weird? Highly unlikely that would work? YES to both, but I found a way.
    first, this can only be done with an over-length bass. I'm using an Epiphone Thunderbird.

    i talked to my guitar tech, and said it is theoretically possible but not to take a chance on an expensive bass; that's why an Epiphone was used and not a Gibson.
    He recommended to use the highest gauge "B" string set so that it would give maximum range and with minimum wobble and sloppiness. So we used Ernie Ball Power Slinky Bass 5 strings.
    Gauges 135, 105. 85, 70. He re-cut the nut, obviously,adjusted the neck and action, and it plays like butter. Bassist Bryan Beller did this to his Gibson thunderbird but used a 130 gauge and tyned it to "C"
    So you do not have to alter your playing a bass to a 5 string just because you want that lower bass end. Any questions, please respond to this thread.

    Attached Files:

  2. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Some of us use all five strings. Some more.

    Welcome to TalkBass!
  3. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    I just play my 5 string. I's pretty easy that way.
  4. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Yeah, setting up a 4 string to be tuned BEAD (or thereabouts, in your case) is a good way to get the extended lower range that many modern styles use without going to a 5 string.

    Gotta make sure you can live without a G string, though. That part's a deal breaker for me; I don't play a lot of high/melodic/jazz type stuff, but there's a lot of times I want to be able to get an octave up accent note from notes played on the A string. I tried the BEAD thing a long time ago and found it too limiting.

    I still have a couple of 4 strings, but I've been playing 5s almost exclusively for a long, long time now.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
    Gougedeye, DJ Bebop and Element Zero like this.
  5. DCPhillips


    Nov 25, 2018
    Hey Bruce,
    I don't use it exclusively, only for one band. This band I am in is musically set with super low tuning, so it was basically because of economics that i created this idea. I do have a standard 4 string Fender Jazz I do use with other music. This idea could be used for those who want to think outside the box without having to change the spacing in between strings. Thanks for the post!
  6. Nashrakh


    Aug 16, 2008
    Hamburg, Germany
    You can change your tuning by changing the strings? Shocker!

    I play BEAD on my own Fender P myself, but the idea itself isn't new (especially with the Djent or Doom crowd). String sets that accommodate extremely low tunings have been around for a while - some would argue that 135 would still be too low a gauge for G#, better try something like 150 or over. Totally subjective, I don't mind some flop.
  7. dabbler


    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    How good was the low G#? Bass amps and speakers have less reponse as you go below a normal low B, or so I've been told.
  8. Usidore T Blue

    Usidore T Blue

    Jun 28, 2017
    I thought this was going to be about using the low B as a sort of thumb rest or something like thtt.
  9. el_Bajo_Verde


    May 18, 2016
    I honestly think you need way fatter strings.
    Quantized Harmonic likes this.
  10. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    I’ll join the dogpile. I think you could go heavier gauge than the .135
    Quantized Harmonic likes this.
  11. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I'll be honest: I lost it at "he needed the string configuration to be as follows..."

    No, he didn't.

    Music is not made of string configurations. Music is not made of tunings.

    Music is made of NOTES. What you NEED is an instrument that enables to play the NOTES you need.

    Now, if you need your lowest string tuned down to G# because the music needs a low G#, well and good. If you want to tune your other strings some way other than standard, because the particular bass line you're going to play can only be done (or most easily done) with that particular tuning, well and good.

    But it is always a red flag for me when someone playing a different instrument thinks they can tell me how I'm supposed to tune my bass. It invariably means they neither know what notes they're playing nor do they respect my musicianship enough to let me figure out how to reach the notes I need.
  12. Yools


    Jul 24, 2009
    Deepinaharta, TX
    Doing drop-G# tuning on a 4-string bass is most certainly possible, and there's no reason to think that it would screw up the neck. As stated by the OP, the key is to get the right gauge of strings (i.e., heavier, to get the right tension at pitch) and a proper setup for that tuning/string gauge that will include proper intonation, filing out the nut slots, and setting the proper action. If someone else wants to do this, I suggest you look at the Drop Tuned sets from Kalium Strings - they specialize in string sets that balance the tension for specific tunings. Their heavier strings are also taper-wound, so they have a better "connection" with the instrument at the saddle and produce a brighter tone. For this specific tuning I suggest either the .142 set or the .150 set - the heavier set will be a bit tighter, but either should work. With these string gauges, there's also no need for a scale length beyond the standard 34" inches - adding another inch to the scale length actually only adds 1 to 1.5 lbs tension at pitch, so string gauge is really more critical unless one wants to got to 36-40" scale lengths.

    FYI... my main bass for my metal band is a 34"-scale 5-string tuned down 3 half-steps from standard, so the open strings are G#0, C#1, F#1, B2, E2. I use a really heavy gauge (0.150, 0.112, 0.082, 0.061, 0.045) balanced tuning set from Kalium, and the tone and tension are great, even on the lowest string. I've actually had two people play my bass and insist that it must have a longer scale because the tension of the low string is so solid. In terms of sound reproduction at the amp, I found that mixing some overdrive with a clean signal at my pedalboard produces enough upper harmonics to make the lowest notes heard and felt. There will be some loss of the fundamental at pitches below low-B, but those sub-contra notes can most certainly still be heard and felt with a decent amp setup.

    Larchi, HolmeBass and Skillet like this.
  13. Chrisk-K


    Jan 20, 2010
    Maryland, USA
    The coorect way is Ab Eb Ab Db.
  14. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member


    That’s where it stands with me too.

    Tell me what you want and I’ll deliver it. And as long as I can do that, do not presume to tell me how to do it. That’s my job - and my prerogative.
  15. There's a search feature, there's plenty of threads discussing low range 4 strings. I'd suggest maybe the nut might need filling and a good set up on it wouldn't go down too badly.
  16. mark roberts

    mark roberts Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2004
    Lawrence, KS
    I agree. And perhaps if he would have shown up with a 7, 8, 9 or 10 string single course extended range bass he may have gotten a taste of even more bigotry and dogma before he could demonstrate his ability to play what was required. And, yeah, I am well aware of the “bass should have a certain look” enigma. We live an age of extreme micro-management now fertilized by tendencies to create crises where they don’t need to exist...it is that way because that is the “easy” way to either create immediate value or crash and burn. Such management may somehow reach an immediate goal through trials and tribulations, but will do nothing to sustain participation. And it will grind down otherwise artist hopefuls. It is one thing to capitulate and adjust for guaranteed compensation in a day job that helps to make personal or family economies be successful, but it only takes a few bad experiences now, to ruin the heart and perseverance of an up-and-coming artist under even slightly different circumstances.
    Ekulati and hrodbert696 like this.
  17. ezstep


    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    Nah, can't do it. I find myself up around the 10th-12th fret on the G too many times to simply remove that strings. Besides, if you play only four strings, then play only four strings. Don't assume that five- or six-string players play only four of them. Wide paintbrush.

    My suggestion would be to use a Knuckle Guitar Works "Quake" bass. Standard tuning, but it does one octave lower than a traditional bass, although most people tend to use the low-B and then even lower-F#. No need to change the tuning.
  18. ficelles


    Feb 28, 2010
    Devon, England
    Not sure I'd want to physically mod a 4-stringer when a 5-stringer can likely take a fatter gauge for detuning without mods.

    That Ab/G# is down below 26Hz... how well does your bass rig handle that?

    Btw my B on my fretless 5 is .130 and that is one fat string... the B on my fretted 5 is only .118, feels nicer but not as much sustain. Flats on both basses not rounds.
    rockinrayduke and saabfender like this.
  19. saabfender

    saabfender Banned

    Jan 10, 2018
    Grr. Guitarists do not get to tell bassists how to tune their instrument. Otherwise they come up with ignint shht like this “Drop G#” tuning. Not a thing. You can tell him he’s a musical idiot on all our behalves.
  20. nilorius


    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    I don't know about thos down/up tunings of 5th or other strings, but I play my fretless 5 string and use the standart tuning, as to the 5th string - i play it quite often. That's why i bought 5 string.

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