Alternate tuning

As @Gio started the idea, here is the alternate tuning thread !

it’s all about :

  • What tuning are you using on your basses ?
  • What is the goal and the way you use it ?
  • Anything else about those alternate tuning :slight_smile:

So I’ll start. I’m using the standard tuning (EADG) as well as Drop-D (DADG). I always change from one song to another. It’s pretty fast as there is only one string to tune, and with some habbit it litterally takes no more than a few seconds.

I play a lot of dark rock/metal where the increased low range of Drop-D is pretty useful. Also there is a pretty cool thing with Drop-D : the 5th are on the same fret for the two lowest strings, which make some fingering easiest by allowing to play 5th with a simple finger-roll.

The downside is that you loose the string-to-string symetry, but as it concerns only one string it’s not a big issue in my opinion. This symetry thing is the reason why I get back to EADG when needed.

As the lowest string is lower than usual, the string tension is lower as well. It could be a problem with very light strings. I currently use 40/95 strings (which is pretty light !), it works well for EADG but is the limit for DADG, again in my opinion. For this reason I plan to switch to 40/100 very soon.

I’ll finish about Drop D by saying that even if it’s a very popular tuning for modern rock and metal, it’s not useful only in those styles. For exemple it can also be used in country (see my cover of Axe by The Steel Woods :slight_smile: ) and many other styles.

The tuning I want to try is BEAD : it’s nothing else than the 4 lower strings on a 5 strings, so it allows the lower range of a 5 strings on a standard 4 strings bass. This tuning is pretty low and requires a big strings gauge. I did not tried this tuning yet but I’m pretty curious about it ! Seems very promising to me :slight_smile: Also it would be possible to drop the thing to AEAD …


hoo boy, just when I’m earmarking the pedal thread to return to another day, yet another rabbit hole gets opened up! But all good. I guess there is more to this than just “Eat And Drink Grapes.” This will be another interesting topic. :grin:


When I was playing and writing for a bass & drum duo (Toast Machine!) I started messing around with tunings a bunch.
My go to (and maybe still all time favorite) is the good 'ol Dropped D… (and on a 5 string, it’s amazing, because that low B underneath the Dropped D sounds so perfectly sad!)


I have a 5 string for this stuff, and that 5th string had some great options. Here are some fun ones (all from low B to high G)

D,D,A,D,G - yep. Tuned that B string up to a D. This was to create the legendary quintuple D chord (playing a 5th fret D on the A, a 7th fret D on the G, and slamming the entire bass). Great for droney rocking.

Bb,D,A,D,F - this was a real fun open Bb major tuning, and led to some really fun tap and chordal stuffs.

A,E,A,D,A - The Dropped A! I can’t recommend dropping the low B string unless you have an extra long scale bass. But this tuning is real fun. Tons of open chords show up, and it healthily gets me away from having too many D-centric tunes.

C,D,A,D,G - This is the ultimate Mixolydian rock machine tuning. Everything is set up for Dropped D tuning, but that low C is there to give you a huge extra low note on the b7 chord. Makes for beefy riffs.

I’ve certainly messed around with many more, but these were the ones that ended up being fun compositionally and worked their way into actual songs.

(This next bit is only practically helpful on the more experienced, advanced end of things - but it is conceptually and intellectually helpful at any point on the bass journey)
Remember - the bass is just a piece of wood with strings on it. You tune it so that it serves your needs. The standard tuning is great and functional for most anything you’d want to do. BUT!! If you find yourself trying to create a sound, and the string tuning is the obstacle… just change it.
It was a huge conceptual leap to make for me - to adjust my bass to fit my ear, rather than my ear to fit my bass.

Happy to provide some sound examples of these as well, if folks are interested. No deadline promises!!


yeah Drop D is my all-time favorite too. but … what ? are you saying you drop the E to D on a 5 strings and let the B as it is ? BDADG ? I don’t have a 5st to try this but … well that’s intriguing !

that one made me laugh, because it remembers me one of my guitars. It’s a 60’s japanese guitar a friend gave me for a birthday. plywood body, no truss-rod, a neck width you could not imagine … this thing is vintage as f*ck. I tune it DADDAD and use it only for slide. sounds sooooo awesome ! your tuning sounds very “open” to me :slight_smile:

so well said ! no dogma here, those instruments are nothing else than tools for our creativity. so, be creative ! in every way, it counts :slight_smile:


I tuned down to Drop D to work on this

and just realized my bass has been in Drop D for four days now and I just kind of left it that way because it sounds awesome.

BTW, The Small Print has a fun and easy bassline that still sounds killer. Highly recommended.


drop tuning is a lifestyle :grin: