So my friend just asked me to play bass in his "black metal/ hardcore punk band" and asked if I was ok with tuning down to "open c#/drop b".

Now, my question is, will my fairly standard Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar 4-string that never goes below Drop D be able to cope with this AND tuning back up to E Standard for my other band on a fairly regular basis, or will I just completely destroy my instrument? I realise it's better to have one bass for tuning way down and one for standard, but I can't afford this.

Tl;dr: Can I tune my 4 string to Drop B
You will most likely need to use heavier gauge strings. I am fairly certain any 4 stringer can handle it, but just in case take it to a professional.
Purple string dampener scrunchy.
You won't be able to switch between the two without needing a full setup each time. The strings you would need to tune that low would require you to file the slots on the nut too.

Tldr: No, sorry.
Quote by Spaz91
You won't be able to switch between the two without needing a full setup each time. The strings you would need to tune that low would require you to file the slots on the nut too.

Tldr: No, sorry.

This. Also, in the OP, you mentioned that your friend asked about tuning to "open C#/drop B"... I'm assuming he means "Standard C#/Drop B". Open C# is a whole different thing.
Just pick up a decent used five-string if you really need to play with a low B.

And don't listen to guitar players telling you how you should tune and definitely don't follow them on their journeys into downtuning. You're already down at the limits of audibility and reproducibility (is that a word?) and tuning a bass down isn't going to get you "heavier."

At some point, they're smack in your territory and the bass guitar itself becomes superfluous in the band. They're already playing those notes. At that point, you may as well take up keyboards.
Quote by Spaz91
You won't be able to switch between the two without needing a full setup each time. The strings you would need to tune that low would require you to file the slots on the nut too.

Tldr: No, sorry.

I disagree. It's totally possible to do with heavy gauge strings (without drilling the nut out for a 5 set's strings), but your strings are going to be rather spaghetti-esque, depending on your string gauge and your adjustments.
I played in melodic death metal bands for years with a 4 string with EB Power slinks, but they were, like I said before, loose as all hell (and eventually DR DDTs which weren't nearly as bad, and in fact were pretty decent although a bit loose, but nothing like with lower gauges). But I was a kid, and I didn't know any better (and didn't think to drill the nut out) and couldn't afford a 5-string, so I simply adapted to playing somewhat sloppy strings. And overall my bass was still play-able at low tunings, just at anything below Drop C to Drop B things started to get floppy.

Of course at first it sounded a bit rough, but as I played more and more in those tunings I got better at playing with slightly sloppy strings because I adapted and now (even though I don't have to anymore) I can play with strings like that as though they weren't kinda like spaghetti lol. Actually, during some songs I utilized the overall slack for a cool "Fieldy-esque" slap/pop sound and even to this day I sometimes downtune with a 4-string to get that sound.

So it's possible to do with strong enough determination. But then again, I had the highest gauge 4-string bass strings I could easily find at the time and etc. With the right strings it's do-able. It's not as "clean" as a 5-string bass is going to be, but it's totally possible. But I doubt it'd try it with medium gauge strings or anything, or you'd probably have so much slack it'd be hard, if not impossible to play... So get some DDT strings for sure lol. That way there won't be NEARLY as much slack (almost none at all really).

But I do have to stress that if you aren't really really determined to play that way, it's going to be difficult, and you'll be tempted to tell them to bug off and re-tune your bass to something less sloppy. It'd really be so much easier to just buy a 5-String, which I'd recommend to any metal bassist (because you at least HAVE the extra low string, even if you don't want or need to use it.)

But I guess my point is that it IS possible to downtune that far and play, it'll just be more difficult, but with the proper strings it's 100% possible.

I'm also totally with the guy who said that you don't need to automatically play "follow the leader" with what guitarists are telling you to do, tuning-wise, especially in the extreme metal genres.

In genres with higher standardized tunings, matching tunings makes sense, because the music is overall melodic, but in most extreme metal genres, dissonance takes precedence over melody, and in fact in some genres melody is absent completely... Black Metal is one of those extreme metal genres that LOVES dissonance (up to a point), so tbh I'd tell them to tune to what they want, play for a minute, and try out a few tunings while they are playing until you find a tuning that everyone likes and is comfortable with based on the SOUND, not based on the conformity that everyone has to tune their guitars the same.

But good luck man.
Last edited by Rivinhal at Oct 27, 2014,
For under $200 you can get a good new/used bass and a set of heavy strings. Just do it.
I have a 4 string setup for Drop A# (why can't we play everything in standard....but I digress) with a tension balanced set from Circle K. The heaviest string is .142 I believe, and I needed a complete setup to get everything right. Had to file the nut to get the strings to fit. It was a lot of work, but plays and sounds great.

So yes, you can do it. Is it worth it? That's up to you. It would probably be better for you to get a 5 string tuned BEADG and transpose all of the songs.
Getting another bass is really the only way to do it. You can't really go between drop B and standard tuning. It's not doable on electric guitar, and definitely not doable on a bass. I mean, even going from standard to D standard requires different strings. On guitar it could still be doable with the same strings. But yeah, no string set is going to work for you. It will be really high tension for E standard or really floppy for drop B.

Just get a cheap used bass.