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Weirdo 5-string tunings


nekomatic

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So standard 5-string tuning is BEADG, obviously, providing an extra fourth of range below a 4-string bass.

If you’re a pretentious jazz noodler, on the other hand, you can string your 5 EADGC, giving you access to an extra fourth of top-end pretentious jazz noodling.

Here’s the thing though: I do sometimes want a D below my low E string, but I don’t actually like the really low end of a 5-string in a lot of contexts: it just seems to bring a different, somehow more synthetic character to the bass sound that doesn’t fit for me. On the other hand, I am (or try to be) a pretentious jazz noodler who could definitely stretch out on an extra high string from time to time.

So why not get a 5-string and tune it, say, DGCFBb - or even (ulp) C#F#BEA - apart from the fact that it’s self-evidently weird and wrong and likely to cause havoc on swapping to a normally tuned instrument? Does anyone do this?

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Sounds like a reasonable idea - give it a go.  I have a four-string tuned to DGCF, and I can swap between that and EADG fine for tunes I know.  Less so if I'm sight-reading, but it could be fixed with some practice.  Down-tuning lowers the string tension though, so that's something to bear in mind.

Edited by jrixn1
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38 minutes ago, nekomatic said:

it’s self-evidently weird and wrong and likely to cause havoc on swapping to a normally tuned instrument?

It's only two of those things- no wrong about it! Just because many folks might not want to doesn't mean it's not a great idea for you.

Have at it, I say!

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Bass Player had a story of a British bassist whose name I do not recall sorry. But he stated that he changed his bass tuning to cello tuning and it took him only a short time to adjust to it.

I made a trial with a 5-string and checked D'Addario's web help and tuned the bass starting from C. After finding the right gauges, the instrument felt like any other bass I have (all others have 40 - 95 / 120).

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Jannick Top and Philippe Bussonnet, both former Magma bassists are always tuned in fifth, or cello tuning if you prefer, to have an extended tessitura. Jannick Top (73 years old) started tuning his bass like that mainly because he is a classic cellist (and pianist). Philippe Bussonnet (54 years old) adopted the fifth tuning because of Jannick Top.

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Interesting replies, thanks! I’m especially grateful to everyone who held back from pointing out that six string basses are available 😁  I’m not sure that I’d get on with cello tuning though. 

I don’t have a 5, and have no immediate plans to go shopping… but I think I may have admitted to myself that I might be 5-curious. 

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I tune my basses any way I want. When I did have a 5-string, it was usually drop-D w/ a high C. Let's not even get into the 8-string...

And of course the Dual Bass Reciprocal 12-string Stick. 5ths/4ths.

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1 hour ago, StickyDBRmf said:

I tune my basses any way I want. When I did have a 5-string, it was usually drop-D w/ a high C. Let's not even get into the 8-string...

And of course the Dual Bass Reciprocal 12-string Stick. 5ths/4ths.

Ah, if I had a 12, I'd sacrifice the range on the bass side and allow myself the fluidity, familiarity and the ability to reproduce more recorded bass lines by tuning both halves in straight 4ths. Sacrilege,  I know...

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45 minutes ago, NicoMcJ said:

A# - E# - A# - D# - G# is a thing in metal circles.  Effectively Drop A tuned a semitone up.  No idea why.  

Thinking your way through an A# melodic minor scale must get the mind suitably anguished?

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Amongst the weird things I do is play the viola da gamba aka viol. The double bass viol is the violone and is the ancestor of the upright double bass. There are some right weird options with viols for tuning - partly because there was no standardisation in the early days over sizes/tunings. They all have 6 strings (mostly), so the bass which is cello sized is DGCEAD and the tenor is a 4th up at GCFADG (treble is octave above bass and violone octave below tenor). But you'll sometimes encounter an 'alto' tuned B upwards...

Then there's the lyra viol. This is usually a bass viol that is played using lute tablature rather than staff notation. These can be in all sorts of tunings and the tuning is indicated at the start of the piece. 

I've played some lyra viol music - it is brain warping.... there's a video in this link which is informative. 
 

https://earlymusicshop.com/blogs/viola-da-gamba/introducing-the-lyra-viol  

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On 11/06/2021 at 15:07, nekomatic said:

So standard 5-string tuning is BEADG, obviously, providing an extra fourth of range below a 4-string bass.

If you’re a pretentious jazz noodler, on the other hand, you can string your 5 EADGC, giving you access to an extra fourth of top-end pretentious jazz noodling.

Here’s the thing though: I do sometimes want a D below my low E string, but I don’t actually like the really low end of a 5-string in a lot of contexts: it just seems to bring a different, somehow more synthetic character to the bass sound that doesn’t fit for me. On the other hand, I am (or try to be) a pretentious jazz noodler who could definitely stretch out on an extra high string from time to time.

So why not get a 5-string and tune it, say, DGCFBb - or even (ulp) C#F#BEA - apart from the fact that it’s self-evidently weird and wrong and likely to cause havoc on swapping to a normally tuned instrument? Does anyone do this?

Would be a 5 string tuned to E A D G C a solution with a Drop tuner on the E to get it down to D (or even C if it is a double stop one) 

edit: you have written 'sometimes' for a D so maybe the possible difficulty - if any -  in playing in drop D tuning for those occasions are overshadowed by the otherwise normal tuning (EADGC) Btw DGCFBb is good, but anytime I have used that tuning lost some reference points on the fretboard, everything felt 2 frets off normal 😄 But I never spent an awful lot of time getting adjusted tbh. 

Edited by Paulhauser
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On 14/06/2021 at 15:48, Lfalex v1.1 said:

Ah, if I had a 12, I'd sacrifice the range on the bass side and allow myself the fluidity, familiarity and the ability to reproduce more recorded bass lines by tuning both halves in straight 4ths. Sacrilege,  I know...

I assume we are talking about the Stick. I just have too much fun/options with 6 strings in 5ths. The "bass" side in 5ths goes higher than the melody side. It's really something you get used to with the ability to realize lines on either side (or incorporate both) and the graduation of string thickness with timbre (for chord intervals, or it sounding like 3 instruments). I have tried all the different tunings, including 7+5, but I can't give up the 5ths, or the high 6th(12th) string, which I occasionaly tune High 4th (it's an official tuning-but I was messing with it before Greg Howard).

I had 5ths tuning on my Pedulla PentaBuzz. Stick Strings.

On basses if you're not afraid of truss adjustment and you don't mind tight or loose strings you can try almost anything.

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