#1
I know nothing about bass playing really so bear with me. 

In the band, we play exclusively in E standard. I want to introduce a few songs that are in Drop D, D standard and C# but our bass player is insistent on not retuning his bass. He says even dropping to D standard will mess with his truss rod adjustment and he isn't willing to do that. 

So the question: how do you guys deal with down tuned songs?

Retune in the lower key- my bass player is an idiot, it doesn't affect the instrument that much. 
Transpose the song but keep your tuning in standard. 
Use a pitch dropping pedal and stay in E tuning?
Just buy a 5 string so you can play anything?
#2
As long as the bass plays the right note, it's not really a huge deal. If you play a low D note, the bassist can play the open note on their D string or the same note on the 5th fret of the A string and it would likely be fine. I'm assuming that you're playing modern rock, hardcore, or metal. In that case, the goal of the bass is to fill in the low end, not to play the lowest notes possible. Due to the nature of bass instruments and corresponding electronics, the same note (such as D2) will have more emphasis in the low end on a bass than on your guitar even though it's the same note. That being said, having that lower D is preferable.

That being said, I would be more concerned about the logistics of playing guitar in four different tunings. That means that you need seperate guitars since the same setup won't work for standard and C# (the same setup for standard and drop D is doable though) So that means you need two or more likely three guitars (since tuning from D to C# between songs is time consuming) and then you probably want backups in case you break strings so that means you need probably have guitars (one for standard/drop D, a backup, one for D, one for C# and you can probably get away with one backup for D and C#). That's a lot of guitars and a lot more effort than you want unless you hire some roadies and a guitar tech.

Realistically, the best idea is for you to either pick a mix of standard and drop D or entirely in D. Either way, you would have the bassist play in standard if they don't want to completely retune but it's not unreasonable to have them retune just the low E to D if they want to. At least that's the most logical solution for everyone in my opinion. Probably go with standard/drop d over d standard though.
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#3
If the bass player cannot agree to adjust the set up of his instrument each time you want to change tuning (can't blame him really) then either he needs to adjust his playing, you need to stop playing in so many different tunings, you need a new bassist, or your band needs a new guitarist (get the hint)
Quote by Jeffh40

Retune in the lower key- my bass player is an idiot, it doesn't affect the instrument that much. 

It does.
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#4
Not that I am suggesting that we actively play in all of those tunings. As we work up our play lists we do have song suggestions that are in Drop D and C#. If we restrict ourselves to only cover songs in E standard, that limits the choices in modern hard rock for sure. 

Just trying to learn a little bit about where this bass player is coming from, that is all. 
#5
How about just playing the down tuned songs in standard tuning? You don't need to play in the same key as the original version of the song, and probably nobody is even going to notice a difference. Or make a compromise - keep your guitars in Eb standard all the time (I mean, bands do that all the time - they record in standard tuning but play in Eb standard live).

Alternating between drop D and standard is totally fine, but downtuning the whole instrument between songs doesn't make much sense (and that is definitely going to affect the playability of the instrument). If you are going to use different tunings, you need different guitars. But if you don't have different guitars/don't want to use them, just play everything in the same tuning. Playing a D standard song in Eb standard or even E standard is really not going to sound that much different.
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Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
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Ibanez BL70
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Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#6
I have 4 basses all tuned differently, and I had to make significant adjustments when I tuned them.
#7
Quote by SovietStar
I have 4 basses all tuned differently, and I had to make significant adjustments when I tuned them.


Thanks. That is the information I was looking for. 
#9
Quote by Jeffh40
I know nothing about bass playing really so bear with me. 

In the band, we play exclusively in E standard. I want to introduce a few songs that are in Drop D, D standard and C# but our bass player is insistent on not retuning his bass. He says even dropping to D standard will mess with his truss rod adjustment and he isn't willing to do that. 

So the question: how do you guys deal with down tuned songs?

Retune in the lower key- my bass player is an idiot, it doesn't affect the instrument that much. 
Transpose the song but keep your tuning in standard. 
Use a pitch dropping pedal and stay in E tuning?
Just buy a 5 string so you can play anything?


There's not really much reason for a bass player to downtune to match guitarists' tunings. The only reason that guitarists do it is so that they have a drone string to go with the one-or-two-finger power chords that some metal players love. Most bass players don't need to drone on a specific open string, and it usually doesn't make sense for them to play exactly what the guitar players do (except an octave down).

It does require adjustments to the bass every time you retune them. Your bass player is not an idiot.
Your guitar player, however...

I personally think the whole business of having a stack of guitars tuned to different downtunings is tedious, and particularly so if you want to work with a Floyd.
I have Variax JTV-89Fs -- they're the lazy way of doing this without actually changing the base tuning of the guitar. The Variax firmware in the guitar tunes to virtually any other tuning (including downtunings, drop tunings and completely bizarre and open tunings) without ever changing the tension on the strings. The guitars were $1199 here in LA (adjust accordingly for wherever you live) new, and allow me to work with a Floyd as well. I think that's a better thing than having to deal with a bunch of guitars.
#10
^ I would say it depends on the style. If the music is riff based, the bass player may double the guitar riff. But if the bass and guitar are doing a different thing all the time, then I would say it doesn't matter. Though, if we are talking about down tuned rock, and the guitars are tuned to D standard for example, it does sound a bit heavier if the bass also has a low D.

But as theogonia777 said, if you need the low D, why not just tune the bass to drop D? That would most likely be the simplest solution. You don't need to use the same tuning for bass and guitar.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

Gear

Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
#11
Quote by MaggaraMarine
You don't need to use the same tuning for bass and guitar.


Just be thankful that he's not playing alt country or Celtic punk. "Yeah, I'm going to be tuning down my guitar a step between songs so do the same with your fiddle and your autoharp and your pedal steel and your accordion."
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
#13
Personally, I'd just get a 5 string in that situation. Since the bassist is already comfortable in all-fourths, it may be better to do that than go through loads of different tunings. It also helps that standard, D, and D# are easy to transpose to on a 5 string (C is a bit trickier but manageable).
5 string.

(also I'm a heathen who thinks the octave relationship between guitar and bass should be maintained most of the time)
#14
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#15
Quote by CorrosionMedia
Personally, I'd just get a 5 string in that situation. Since the bassist is already comfortable in all-fourths, it may be better to do that than go through loads of different tunings. It also helps that standard, D, and D# are easy to transpose to on a 5 string (C is a bit trickier but manageable).
5 string.

also I'm a heathen who thinks the octave relationship between guitar and bass should be maintained most of the time)


I think that's mostly just a talking point.

For starters, most guitar amps/speakers can't reproduce the low E (around 82Hz) on a basic six-string. They fall off quickly below about 100hz and don't have the power to reproduce much below that at any volume (this includes the 100W tube amps). What you actually hear are harmonics above that. And certainly it's unlikely that you're going to actually hear anything below that as a fundamental, no matter how far down tuned you are. One fairly well-known player (Steve Lukather) worked with ISP Technologies to design a guitar subwoofer (a 15" sub speaker in a separate cabinet that incorporated a 600W power amp) just to reproduce some of the bottom that his 7-string generated.

A bass amp, on the other hand, can often reproduce fundamentals as low as 45-50Hz (sometimes lower) and have the power to make that heard at volume. My bass amp is right at 1500W and will produce just below 40Hz (measured), but that's fairly rare. 41Hz is also an octave below the low E on a six-string. Tuning below that is pretty much useless; most bass amps and even a lot of subwoofers won't go into that territory.

Nonetheless, a good bass amp/cabinet is capable of reproducing those notes, where a guitar amp doesn't have a chance. In effect, a bass guitar and a standard guitar could be playing the same frequency, but the bass will have a VERY different sound, and really doesn't need to be tuned down.

While 5-strings are normally tuned with one string at a very low B0 (30.87Hz), it's rare to hear a cabinet that actually reproduces that frequency as a fundamental. Tuning down from there is just mental masturbation.
#16
dspellman Although that's all true from a technical standpoint, from a compositional standpoint, there are a lot more useful frequencies in there than just the fundamental. For example, I regularly tune to drop A on bass and guitar, but due to the kind of tone I go for, the loudest frequencies are around the 50-200hz area even though the fundamental is 27.5Hz. Although it's true that basically nothing can realistically reproduce that, there's way more to it than that.

#17
Quote by CorrosionMedia
dspellman Although that's all true from a technical standpoint, from a compositional standpoint, there are a lot more useful frequencies in there than just the fundamental. For example, I regularly tune to drop A on bass and guitar, but due to the kind of tone I go for, the loudest frequencies are around the 50-200hz area even though the fundamental is 27.5Hz. Although it's true that basically nothing can realistically reproduce that, there's way more to it than that.


Which is why I said, "What you actually hear are harmonics above that" in my post.

Quick question -- is this Gif of something that came out of a speaker or just whatever went into the computer?

When you say, "I'm a heathen who thinks the octave relationship between guitar and bass should be maintained most of the time," the fact is, you're mostly doing that without needing to downtune the bass, leastways if you're playing it through something that reproduces bass. . Bass fundamentals (on a 24-fret bass) are over at around 400. Bass players often put a high pass filter on their amps at around 35Hz. Depending on whether you want your bass to be boomy or not, you'll ride herd on frequencies around 120Hz. Are you crowding everything into 50Hz - 200Hz?
#18
dspellman The image shows a final and mixed bass tone (on a part that lingers on the low A0) (Dingwall NG2 with fresh strings into a Sansamp RBI, with some post EQ then final mix/master) https://soundcloud.com/corrosionmedia/fifteenfour-preview

Although again, you're right that bass doesn't need to be tuned down to sound 'bassy', but sometimes being tuned an octave below the guitar just simply sounds better in a mix (imo).

As an example, here's a quick demo I recorded where the bass line is played on the A1 string first (the same note as the guitar (drop A 7 string), then the low A0 (1 octave below the guitars):
https://soundcloud.com/corrosionmedia/tuning/s-efnkb
And here's a spectrum analyzer showing the average difference between the two versions:
https://i.imgur.com/iPf9qYW.png

The second example has better separation, a more 'full' sound, and the guitars sound more punchy because of that.

I'm not trying to argue <end of statement> that there always needs to be an octave difference between guitar and bass tuning, but it helps quite a lot of the time. 
#19
I've been playing bass for close to 3 decades and haven't ever retuned to match the guitars. I've always just transposed. However, I've always played on an extended range bass. I have installed a hipshot detuner on the low b before. One of the differences in retuning the bass is that many bassists prefer a fairly low action and the setup will change with the tuning
#20
I'm gonna go against the general agreement and say that I've always drop tuned to match. Just makes sense to me, especially when communicating with other members of your band.

If you're swapping between tunings where all 6 strings are being changed (not just 1) - it makes a hell of a lot more sense to buy multiple instruments to change over from a guitarists point of view, but many purist bass players will argue that a 5 string will solve your issues. Depends a lot on if you're using pedal notes and how physically demanding it can be to match open string guitar riffs in drop D for example, on a 5 string.

That said, while my band fluctuate between drop D and standard, I'm always in drop D for ease. If we were to start playing some in Eb or drop C#, I'd definitely take 2 basses to rehearsals and shows rather than buy a 5.
#21
Stud_Muffin
I get the communication issue. I guess that it just didn't make much sense to me because out of the 28 years that I've been playing, only one was on a four string. The first band that I played with that used alternate tunings, one guitarist was in drop d and the other played a baritone Les Paul. We all just had to use our ears.
#22
I retune my bass down to C# for one song during our set.

I was given the option of playing the song or finding a new gig.  I chose to play the song.
#23
I tune my bass the same as the guitars. Apparently, I've been doing it wrong for 20 years. Oh well! This is also why I have more than one bass.
Harmony: Stratocaster
Alvarez: F-200
Schecter: Omen 6
Fender: BXR-60
Dean: Metalman Z Bass (Betty)
Egnator: Tweaker 15
Pearl: Maximum
ESP/LTD: EXP-300
Custom: Harley Quinn Bass
Custom: TK-421 Explorer
A steadily growing supply of pedals
#24
Quote by some_dude_2
I retune my bass down to C# for one song during our set.

I was given the option of playing the song or finding a new gig.  I chose to play the song.


How long does it take you to tune the bass down to C#, and what do the strings feel like when you do?
#25
dspellman I've never timed it.  Probably 30 seconds or so.

Thank the crowd, tip your bartender, then there's 4 bars of guitar intro before I start.

Strings are playable.  I wouldn't setup my bass that way, but for a little over 4 minutes at a time it's tolerable.
Last edited by some_dude_2 at Aug 16, 2017,
#26
Quote by some_dude_2
I retune my bass down to C# for one song during our set.

I was given the option of playing the song or finding a new gig.  I chose to play the song.


On the other hand, your value to the band has been identified.
#28
Quote by dspellman
On the other hand, your value to the band has been identified.

I think you're reading too much into a casual remark made on an internet forum.
#31
The only pedal with good tracking for down tuning is a whammy or the Drop (both by Digitech). The tracking is quite good even up to a minor 7th below, but it's noticeable compared to a downtuned guitar as you can loose some attack and response in your tone due to it being digital downtuning.
#32
If it's just a dropped bottom string, then yes. Otherwise it's too much hassle in live situation.

When recording it depends. Since getting an 8-string guitar, I've actually tuned my five-string up a whole step.
Last edited by Keskimaki at Aug 20, 2017,
#33
Quote by Stud_Muffin
I'm gonna go against the general agreement and say that I've always drop tuned to match. Just makes sense to me, especially when communicating with other members of your band.


Maybe it's because my background is Americana, bluegrass, country, folk, Irish, roots, etc I've never understood why this is a big deal. I've played with guys where we are all using instruments with different numbers of strings in completely different tunings and there are no issues in communication. A C note is a C note and a G chord is a G chord. As long as they all know their fretboards, telling them the names of the notes should give them all the information that they can't pick up with their ears. This also becomes more or less a requirement once you start adding keys and wind instruments.
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
Last edited by theogonia777 at Aug 20, 2017,
#34
Quote by some_dude_2
I think you're reading too much into a casual remark made on an internet forum.


I think your ability to recognize snarkiness and sarcasm has been diminished by spending too much time on an internet forum.