Newbie questions about tabs/fretting and drop tuning

I am new to the bass (and really enjoying the Beginner to Badass course), and I have two questions I am curious about that I have not been able to find answers to. I appreciate any insight.

  1. Many of the tabs I am finding use fretting that moves down and up the fretboard on the same string, rather than using the next string for what I believe would be easier fingering. For example: A song might include moving from the 2nd fret to the 7th and 9th frets and back to the 2nd fret all on the E string (without slides). It seems to me it would be easier to use the 2nd and 4th frets of the A string to reach the same notes–this would avoid having to quickly shift up and down the neck. My assumption is that because these are mostly rock songs, the preference is for the somewhat darker sound of the larger E string rather than the slightly lighter sound from the smaller A string. Is there another reason for this, or is there any issue with changing the fretting to use both the E and A strings to reach the same notes with what I find to be easier fingering?

  2. I am curious about why some songs include drop tuning if they never use the open strings or lower notes. For example: A song might have me drop a half-step on all strings, but never goes lower than the second fret on any string (the song never includes the lower available notes). I do not currently see the purpose of drop tuning if the lower available notes are never used.

I am really enjoying the bass, and I want to understand why certain decisions are made so I can make the right decisions as I learn.

Thanks in advance for your reply!

  1. Most tabs are crap. They are a guide. Ply them as you like.

  2. Might be for other instruments like guitarists.


For question one, I’ve come to learn that it comes down to the tone. Moving up one string can have a subtle difference in the way the note sounds. At the same time…

Question 2 is pretty much a case of where they’re trying to match how the original performer did it. Because it’s a pain to swap your tuning on the fly, most performers will turn their guitars to the setup that covers the majority of their songs then adapt the rest of their stuff. Which also, as it turns out, is some of the reason that the situation in your first question happens as well.


Most tabs are crap.

Ok yeah well that too.


Most all KISS songs are 1/2 step down tuned.
It’s not so Gene can play that one lower note necessarily, it’s because they all felt it gave them a bit of a differentiated sound.


Some bands, KISS like @John_E mentioned, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Nirvana, Killswitch Engage, Babymetal, always play drop tuned. The tabs reflect how the bassist tunes so a player doesn’t have to worry about what notes are in a given song. It’s KISS, tune down a half strep and play. Instead of having to check the tuning of each song before playing.

1 Like

Stevie Ray tuned his guitar a half step down, to Eb, to accommodate his vocal key.

1 Like

Mike Ness tunes his guitar down a half step and then capos it up to F standard. It’s very odd. This is a combination of a finger injury making standard fingerings hard for him, him wanting a shorter scale, and the tonal characteristics of his chosen axe (dual P90 Les Paul).

This also can make their songs quite tricky unless you just transpose them to E standard, which is easy, luckily, as the fingerings just move.