Would you still call a 5 string bass tuned in F#1 to D3 (2 half steps above standard E) a bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JohnArnson, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    So I decided to tune my 5 string Ibanez Mikro 2 semi tones up to F#1 to D3, from previous using standard E tuning, E1 to C3, since with the way I use it, I guess more sort of like you would use a Bass VI type instrument or a baritone guitar, playing a lot of simple chords and harmonizing, often with several strings ringing at once, the higher tuning and increased tension, that is now closer to the kind of tension you would get from a 34" scale bass in standard E tuning, prevents it from getting muddy, but still has sufficient bottom end to support my compositions, and without it sounding too thin in any way.

    Improved the tone of my bass for how I use it a whole lot, as said, using a lot of chords, not playing it as you traditionally would play a bass, and splitting my signal in 2 parallel signal chains, one carrying my bass signal, and one running through an octaver, pitching it 1 octave up, giving me an effect similar to playing a 10 string octave bass (with 5 pairs of bass/octave strings), just with the advantage of me being able to run different effects on respectively the bass and 1 octave up signal.

    You can hear some samples of how it sounds, playing some of the compositions I use it for in this post by me from the "Stoner/Doom Bassists Thread": Stoner/Doom Bassists Thread, Part 90: Maxed Out

    Now to my question, would you still call it a bass tuned this way?

    I mean technically it is 1 semi tone closer to a bass tuned in standard E tuning than a baritone guitar tuned in standard A tuning, but does using the standard F# tuning, f#1 to D3, really make it more of a 5 string down tuned baritone guitar with wide string spacing than a bass?

    Though as an example standard F# tuning, F#1 to G2, is in fact actually fairly commonly used for more solo oriented pieces for classical music on upright bass.

    I know it doesn't really matter what it is called as long as it works for what I use it for, just curious of people's opinions on the matter.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
  2. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member


    Why wouldn’t I?
    PiecesOfQuiet, eddododo, rtav and 2 others like this.
  3. thewildest


    May 25, 2011
    Florida, USA
    If a type of fish gets to be called “Bass”, why would you deprive that instrument to be called whatever it wants?

    Jokes apart, we sense sound by the frequency air vibrates; the spectrum of “sound” expands massively beyond our capabilities to hear it. There are sounds so grave that are measured only by Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatories.

    Whatever produces a ripple effect in gravity across space, to be fair, is what we should really call “Bass”.

    I call it “F-Bass”
    andruca and pellomoco14 like this.
  4. Bassaga


    Sep 4, 2015
    I'd still call that a bass. I had a long fling of researching baritone guitars a while back, and found an awful lot of disunity on what their standard tuning is. In the end, most folks say the low and high strings are tuned either A or B. That being a whole step, the same interval between E and F#, I figure that's enough legal precedent to prove an instrument can still retain its usual name.
  5. Trouztrouz


    Feb 6, 2013
    Sure. Who's going to bother to come up with a whole new name for a bass that's just tuned up a step?
  6. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    If it has 5 strings on it, what else would you call it?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2019
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  7. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    Bass is not the only string instrument with 5 strings, a banjo for instance, also as I suggested the tuning could suggest that it in fact rather was a down tuned 5 string baritone guitar with wide string spacing, though admittedly just calling it a bass is both a little faster and much easier.
  8. 4stringfarley

    4stringfarley Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2015
    Cajun Country
    Ive tuned acoustics to f. Only thing that changed was the tuning. If I drop tune my bass it dosent change the instrument why would up tuning it?
    Dudaronamous likes this.
  9. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    Well to those who ask why someone would want to call it something other than a bass:

    Well to me an instrument being a bass instrument is closely linked to the pitch is is capable of producing, to me stringing an electric guitar with 4 strings tuned like a bass would actually make it a bass and not a guitar.

    It's kind of in the actual definition of the word "bass".

    Also there seems to be a fair share of people who refuse to call Bass VI type instruments basses, I guess because of the 2 extra upper strings and the close string spacing making them look more like over sized guitars.

    So even if I totally agree that in the essence it doesn't really matter whatever you chose to call it, I think my question is still quite valid.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
  10. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    The name of the instrument doesn't change because of the way it's tuned.
    Ekulati likes this.
  11. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    Well, there is a reason why it is called a bass, and that is the definition of the word "bass", meaning low frequency.

    A tenor saxophone that sounds like an alt saxophone would in fact be an alt saxophone not a tenor saxophone.

    Some things actually are named after their function and if that function change they might actually be called something different more fitting for that other function instead.

    You wouldn't hire a tenor to sing in a choir as a bass just because he looks more like a bass kind of singer to you, you would hire him based on the actual voice he had, and according to the range of his vocal.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
    40Hz likes this.
  12. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I'm just stating my opinion answering the question. You are free to have another opinion. Not going to argue with you. It's a bass, I'll call it a bass. Tuning up or down doesn't change anything.

    And a tenor sax is a tenor sax is a tenor sax. Don't care what it sounds like much.

    That's just me.
  13. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Phil Keaggy can make a guitar sound like bagpipes. However, the guitar is not bagpipes, it remains, and is still called, a guitar.
  14. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    I doubt that is his guitar's main function though, and that it'll still sounds like a guitar if you play it like one.

    Also, unlike a bass, a guitar is not named after it's frequency range but more after a form factor, just like an electric bass is actually usually also called a bass guitar, essentially meaning a guitar with a bass frequency range.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2019
  15. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    We're just going to have to disagree on this one.
    Ekulati likes this.
  16. steelbed45

    steelbed45 34 on Ignore Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2011
    Nolanville, TX
    You state this, yet take on all-comers like its British Parliament.

    Just saying.
    pellomoco14 likes this.
  17. Rayjay

    Rayjay If that’s even my real name..

    Sep 27, 2014
    Lahaina, Maui, HI
    In the Double Bass world, that would be called "solo tuning 5 string with a high D." (Solo tuning is usually a 4 string tuned up a whole step)
  18. Who cares? IF you're fulfilling the role as a bassist in your situations, that's what you are, regardless of the axe or tuning. Folks worry about labels way too much.

    Here's Ibanez' version of a Bass VI: Is this a bass? IF you use it as a bassist would, it is.

    SRC6 | SR | ELECTRIC BASSES | PRODUCTS | Ibanez guitars
    40Hz likes this.
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Tune it like a 5-string banjo for all I care. Life's too short to worry about stuff like that.
  20. nnnnnn


    Oct 27, 2018
    If you take all of the strings off is it still a bass, or does it become Schrodinger's Guitar until new strings are installed?
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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