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Old 06-08-2014, 01:43 PM   #1
guitarmageddon0
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Drop A# on a fender p bass?

My band has written many songs in c minor in Drop C tuning, but my voice has gotten deeper and i'm having a lot of trouble hitting the higher notes. These songs are much easier for me if they are tuned down a whole step.

Unfortunately, even with heavy strings our 4 string bass is not handling this tuning very well. Money is kind of tight so having our bassist buy a 5 string is not really an option.

Are there any adjustments that we can make to a 4 string fender P bass that will make it play better in this tuning?
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Old 06-08-2014, 04:52 PM   #2
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Buy even heavier strings. Buy 5 string bass strings and cut the nut. Play stuff one octave higher. Don't just drop the lowest strings, drop them all. Borrow a 5 string bass. Hire a keyboard player if you're desperate.
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Old 06-10-2014, 05:43 PM   #3
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Man; Drop-A is asking a lot from a 34" scale bass. You can try DR Strings' DDT (Drop-Down Tuning) strings, but even then, I fear you will have one very floppy set of strings on your hands!
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Old 06-10-2014, 07:12 PM   #4
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Hmmmm

Why not simply buy a 5 string set, and only use BEAD? Tuning B down to Bb/A# of course (half step drop)

Is it essential that he be able to tune back to EADG?
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Old 06-10-2014, 07:42 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by FatalGear41
Man; Drop-A is asking a lot from a 34" scale bass. You can try DR Strings' DDT (Drop-Down Tuning) strings, but even then, I fear you will have one very floppy set of strings on your hands!

Not really, My 34" scale 5 string is tuned in half step and I have no issues with the A# or any string being floppy. I use Ernie Ball 50-70-85-105-135 gauge (or maybe 40-60-75-95-125 I don't remember ha, it's the purpleish pack at the local shop)

I don't see why a 4 string can't be tuned like that without issue, though it will need the nut slots enlarged or a new nut to fit the strings and going back to standard won't really be a viable option.

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Old 06-13-2014, 08:31 PM   #6
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The best idea is to NOT re-tune the bass guitar. Learn to transpose.
There's generally little point in retuning a bass guitar simply to handle drop tunings.
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Old 06-14-2014, 05:50 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dspellman
The best idea is to NOT re-tune the bass guitar. Learn to transpose.
There's generally little point in retuning a bass guitar simply to handle drop tunings.

But transposing means you have to play the riffs an octave higher. If you tune to drop Bb, it's pretty clear that the lowest string will be used a lot. It just doesn't sound the same if you play it an octave higher.
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Old 06-14-2014, 11:29 AM   #8
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those pickups aren't gonna handle that frequency very well.
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Old 06-25-2014, 12:28 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
But transposing means you have to play the riffs an octave higher. If you tune to drop Bb, it's pretty clear that the lowest string will be used a lot. It just doesn't sound the same if you play it an octave higher.


Here's the thing... You don't get to hear the fundamental anyway.

If you've got a great bass amp, you'll MAYBE hear a fundamental at 50Hz. In case you can't relate that to bass frequencies, a low open E on a bass is around 41Hz (it's exactly an octave below the 82Hz of a low open E on a guitar). Most bass amps are falling off rapidly below 50Hz (they'll give you a response curve that's minus 10 dB...)

A Bb below that is right around 29Hz, and I can pretty much guarantee you that there's only the occasional subwoofer (and hope that you've got about 2000W to spare) that will even get close to that, and pretty much no bass amps reproduce it. You do hear *something*, of course, but what you hear are a set of harmonics that "indicate" the low note. Attempting to hear the fundamental of that note usually just wastes amp power.

Oh -- amp power is another issue. Dropping an octave means that a speaker will need to move at least four times the volume of air in order to reproduce that note *at the same volume.* You're talking four times the speaker cone area, or a helluva lot of XMax (speaker cone excursion), and you're definitely talking a whole lot more amp power. You've already indicated you don't have budget to get a new guitar, much less ramp up the rest of the rig to support it.

I have a five-string (Carvin LB75). I'm running 1500W worth of bass amp through a pair of fEARful 15/6/1s. If you need more volume than that combination produces, you should be running through the PA. Normal tuning on a 5-string gives you a B (30.8Hz) on the fifth string. I usually use an HPF that does a pretty rapid cut of anything below 35Hz, just to keep from wasting power by allowing the amp to try to reproduce notes that are sub-audible.

The main reason that a five-string exists is not necessarily to play lower notes than a low E -- it's mostly used to allow you to stay in a single position longer before forcing you to move down the neck.

In short, decking your four-string bass out with big thick strings so that you can tell people that you've downtuned the bass is not very productive. Transpose. And leave room for the kick to produce the punch at the bottom end. Otherwise your bass player will be found dead with a drumstick up his ...bass.

Last edited by dspellman : 06-25-2014 at 12:32 AM.
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Old 06-25-2014, 06:18 AM   #10
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The thing is, there are many people who play the low notes on a 5-string bass. And it does sound way different than playing the notes an octave higher.

What TS wants is basically a 5-string tuning on a 4-string bass. I don't see a problem.
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Old 06-25-2014, 10:43 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
The thing is, there are many people who play the low notes on a 5-string bass. And it does sound way different than playing the notes an octave higher.

What TS wants is basically a 5-string tuning on a 4-string bass. I don't see a problem.


Given the number of five string basses out there that run about $150 (http://www.rondomusic.com/product5714.html), and the fact that a set of cheap 5-string bass strings run about $25 (plus nut and possibly saddle work to make them work), I'd be less than inclined to modify a perfectly good 4-string for downtuning. Take a pass on Starbucks for a couple of months and you've got enough for a five-string bass.

It's not "way different" -- remember that I own a five-string. It is different, but I've also got tone controls, blend knobs, active pickups and both bass and treble boosts and they also sound "different" (and "way different" in some cases). A BOSS GEB-7 can tweak frequencies to sound "way different." My Pod XT Bass (cost me around $80 used) has enough amp and cab models to sound "way different."

But here's the point.

You've got a singer (the OP) who can't hit the HIGH notes. He needs the song down a whole step. You have no budget. No big deal. This is simple Orchestration 101. You don't need to add an 89th note to a piano keyboard. You don't need to go sub-audio on the bass just to follow the guitars. Trust me, you will lose NOTHING by not turning your fourstring into the bottom of a fivestring.

Transpose. Play it elsewhere on the neck.

You'll have more power available for the bass notes you CAN hear.

Guitar players don't get bass. They don't understand why the best bass speaker cabinets are often those that have wide, flat response all the way *up* to frequencies well above those on a standard guitar amp. They have no idea why you'd put an HPF on a bass amp in order to get *better* performance down low. Heck, newb bass players don't get that, either. Spend a bit of time with a good audio engineer and the physics of the whole thing will begin to shape your understanding.

Last edited by dspellman : 06-25-2014 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 06-25-2014, 03:58 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by dspellman
It's not "way different" -- remember that I own a five-string. It is different, but I've also got tone controls, blend knobs, active pickups and both bass and treble boosts and they also sound "different" (and "way different" in some cases). A BOSS GEB-7 can tweak frequencies to sound "way different." My Pod XT Bass (cost me around $80 used) has enough amp and cab models to sound "way different."


Well, since this is a matter of opinion, I do happen to think that it's way different.

Yes, I could fool with tone controls, blend knobs, pickups, EQ, and pedals to get a high B to sound the same as a low B. But I'd much prefer just being able to play said low B, and said high B, depending on what sound I'm going for.

Just because you primarily hear harmonics on those low notes does not mean they sound the same as higher octave notes.
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Old 06-25-2014, 05:23 PM   #13
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I also think that heavier music kind of requires lower notes. Playing it an octave higher just doesn't sound that heavy. It would work for other music styles but heavy stuff is heavy.

It's the same as saying that people shouldn't use drop tunings on guitar, they should transpose up because guitar amps can't really handle the low frequencies well. Playing low notes on a 7 string/drop tuned 6 string sounds way different than playing them an octave higher.

I agree that maybe in this case it could be easier to just transpose because you would have to modify your bass and get some custom gauge strings.
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Old 06-25-2014, 05:29 PM   #14
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Then there's also psychoacoustics- the listener's brain will 'fill in' the fundamental.
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Old 06-27-2014, 01:55 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
I also think that heavier music kind of requires lower notes. Playing it an octave higher just doesn't sound that heavy. It would work for other music styles but heavy stuff is heavy.

It's the same as saying that people shouldn't use drop tunings on guitar, they should transpose up because guitar amps can't really handle the low frequencies well. Playing low notes on a 7 string/drop tuned 6 string sounds way different than playing them an octave higher.


"Heavy stuff is heavy."

Okay.

"Heavier music kind of requires lower notes."

Okay.

It's NOT the same as saying people shouldn't use drop tunings on guitar. Look, I've got a Variax JTV89F. With the factory alternate tunings built into the guitar, I can drop to Baritone (Drop Bb is the lowest factory drop tuning). Fact is, I can set it up to play an octave down, and I've played bass on occasion with the silly thing. The nice thing is that I can do that with a set of 10's on the guitar and the string tension never changes.

Drop tunings on a guitar are more or less audible. IF you use an amp and cabinet that will reproduce them, they are. If you're using a standard 4x12 that drops off around 110Hz, you're essentially just wanking and telling people that you're producing deep, heavy music except that for some reason it's coming out like Alvin and the Chipmunks. Steve Lukather had a company called ISP build him something called the Vector SL. It's an add-on cabinet that strips out the lows from his amp head and channels them into a 600W amp and into a 15" subwoofer in a big ported cabinet. You can hear HIS 7-string playing low notes. The guy with a 100w Marshall and a 4x12, not so much.

Starting with a standard bass and then dropping from there makes sense only in one way. You'll finger the notes the same way your drop tune buddies do. Thing is, you're not heavier because you're not actually putting out lower notes. I can pretty much guarantee that no human is hearing lower notes. So what's the point?
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Old 06-27-2014, 01:59 AM   #16
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One more thing. Since you're the guitarist in this group and since you don't seem to get what bass does, I suggest that you send your bass player over to TalkBass.com and find Duke LeJeune, Dave Green ("greenboy") or Alex Claber and waltz this "heavy stuff is heavy" by them and explain why you want to Drop tune your bass player. All of them design modern bass cabinets. See what they tell you.
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Old 07-12-2014, 02:51 PM   #17
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I have a friend who set up his p-bass to play in B tuning. It can be done. Also the current bassist for kataklysm uses a 4 string ibanez dropped to B tuning.
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Old 07-12-2014, 02:52 PM   #18
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That being said if you are only doing this because the songs don't fit in your vocal range you should just transpose the song. If you are going to tune that low it should be for the sake of playing really heavy like bands like kataklysm.
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