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ChaosAD

Advice on string gauge

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Hi guys.

So I am soon going to be rehearsing with a new band who play in drop A tuning. 

I have a 6 string bass which currently has no strings on it. Could anybody advice me on an appropriate gauge string to use for the 6 string that will sound good in drop a, and possibly drop F (if it comes to it).

Been playing a long time but still gash with string gauges.

 

Thanks

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Those are guitar strings mate.

I need bass strings and to be honest I'm just after some advice for an appropriate gauge

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Posted (edited)

What kind of 'Drop A' do you mean? What kind of 6 string is it? Is it super long scaled/fan fretted? What is your preferred tension when it comes to standard tuning on a 6 string? 

Are you tuning the low B down to a low A and then tuning the remaining strings to E, A, D, G, C? If so, a standard 6 string set with a heavier B string should manage okay for a drop A.

If you are using another type of tuning then you might need to consider making up your own set from single strings or ordering a custom set.

When it comes to making up a set, I always use the D'Addario string tension guide (http://www.daddario.com/DAstringtensionguide.Page?sid=d1da30b6-7ea2-4c92-95f5-ff2ad1307517). Basically my preferred string gauge for standard 4 string tuning is 100-40 Nicklewound. It isn't highly scientific, but I can use the guide in a roundabout way to find the gauges that will provide a similar tension in the designated tuning. I generally don't tune to anything lower than A though. 

Getting a string that will manage a clear low A and a clear  F# will be very tricky. Even a string gauge as thick as 160 will perhaps struggle with F# depending on the design of the bass etc. However a 160 will be ideal for a low A, though the tension will probably be too tight for you to also manage to tune it up to B. A 175 gauge string will perhaps manage a drop F# okay but you might find that the tension is too high for you to use the same string as a A string. Once you get into these gauge of strings you also have to make sure that your bass is set up and/or capable of being able to have this heavy a gauge installed. The issue isn't really one of 'tension' on the neck given the low tunings generally used, however the issue is often a basic practical question of 'can this massive string even be fitted to the bass?'.

Personally, I would consider whether you really need the low F#. Just because a 7 or 8 string guitar is tuned super low doesn't mean that bass guitar has to follow. You might find that playing the bass part an octave up actually allows the bass to be more 'present' in the mix. Listen to bands like Deftones, Torche, and Meshuggah for examples of that (might not be everyone's taste but it gives an idea of how it can be done). 

DR DDT do bass strings, but I don't think that they do six string gauges. The heaviest bass strings I have seen are 135-55 and I found that they were too unbalanced (the B string is too small compared to the rest of the strings) for my tastes and very expensive.

Rotosound do DropZone strings which can get to F# but I think that they are limited to four or five string sets. 

Some people on Basschat highly recommend Newtone strings for custom orders. I personally found that it was easier, cheaper and just as good in terms of quality to just make up my own sets with D'Addario single strings. 

As you can tell, I have used a lot of alternate tunings in my time...

Good luck!

Edited by thodrik
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I have a 5-string with a .135 B, and a regular set of Elixirs .105 to .045 E to G. I've recorded with it dropped to A and, while it sounded ok, to be honest it's a little too flappy for me. I think you'd need something around a .145 at least. There's a company called Newtone who allow you to build custom sets - https://newtonestrings.com

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Dependent on scale, build etc. for a drop A I would use a .135-140 B, then normal gauge for the rest. If you are dropping to F#, you will need a much thicker string which will result in very high tension when in drop A.

If you are planning to drop to F# a lot, I woud slap on a set of Kalium 174 136 106 79 59 43 and then tune (as standard) F# B E A D G, for drop A you then just drop the B to A...

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My Spector US and Euro five string basses are tuned drop A and I use .130 or .135 strings and occasionally .125, too. DR HiBeams.

Never had issues with the string being floppy, I recorded and played many gigs with this setup and never felt the need to go to thicker gauges.

F# is another thing though....

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Have a look at what strings Warwick do/did for their Low-tuned models (Taranis? IIRC)

I'm sure the heaviest string was around a 0.175

That'd go plenty low enough, but I guess you might have to file out your nut/bridge saddles to get a sensible action.

Failing that, play using "A" an octave up and see if you can find an octave pedal that tracks really well. Some units do two octaves down.

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Posted (edited)

.135 is borderline undertensioned for A. I used to think a .130 or .135 was ok at A until Skip of Kalium encouraged me to try a .145, i did and it was better. These big strings have a lot of mass so need a little more tension than higher strings.

Going between F and A, a change of 4 semitones, is difficult, you would need a compromise gauge that would be very tight at A and very loose at F, around .160.

Be sure to use a taperwound string.

By 'drop F' do you mean FEADGC or FCFBbEbAb?

Tuning FAEADG would be much more practical if you need the F.

Edited by ixlramp

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Thanks for all the awesome replies and sorry it's taken so long to respond!

I've got a Dean Edge 6 string 35" scale. It's nothing fancy but it plays and sounds nice.

Thodrik, you clearly know a lot more than I do lol. The entire bass will be tuned down a step so it sounds like I have to make a pick 'n mix set.

Any suggestions of which gauges to pick? Bare in mind I know very little so Im hoping somebody will just say "Buy these strings" or "Get these gauges and they will handle standard and down one step" sort of thing lol

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I used to use a .145 on a 5 string stingray for Ab, G or occasionally Gb. The tension was fine except it was a little floppy on the Gb. 

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On 25/05/2019 at 23:24, ChaosAD said:

The entire bass will be tuned down a step

ADGCFBb ok. To recommend gauges we need to know what gauges you prefer for BEADGC.

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On 10/06/2019 at 06:20, ixlramp said:

ADGCFBb ok. To recommend gauges we need to know what gauges you prefer for BEADGC.

ADGCFBb? I'd be going .140/.110/.85/.70/.50/.40 for a tradeoff between tension and thickness in my opinion.

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