bass strings, either the ead, or adg.......thanks

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On true bass strings (i.e. really low notes), I'd stick to the standard tuning. Putting the strings more than a fourth apart makes it impossible to play a scale on a 34" neck without moving your hand all over the place. Tuning the strings closer together than a fourth just limits the number of notes available in one position. There are pretty good reasons why bass players and bass guitar players have stuck to E-A-D-G tuning for the past several centuries. (Even as I say that, I could see creating a special tuning for some particular song so that the bass can be played on open strings, but that would be a very special case--and would depend on the chords used in the song.)

On the other hand, if you're talking about the bottom strings on a standard guitar, I regularly tune the E-A-D strings to either D-A-D or E-B-E to get a power-chord tuning for slide playing. Likewise, tune the A-D-G strings to G-D-G or A-E-A. Most of the "instructional" videos and articles on this site assume you're using one of these four "power chord" tunings. (But let me emphasize that this is for the low strings of a standard guitar. Bass guitar strings sound an octave lower and would be too "muddy" to be very effective playing guitar licks.)



Thank you TN, I've been looking for a while.

I left out an important part I think. This is a short scale bass. I built it for a musician and am now replacing the pickup and strings. It sounded great previously, but it was a while back and I don't remember what tuning I used. I guess I'm looking for a three string tuning, does a three string sound good leaving out the G, and using E-A-D or A-D-G? (depending on the string thickness, i'm not sure again what strings Iused the first time, and will use what fits best). Thanks!


Oh. Okay. There are lots of jokes about bass players only using the G string to hold their cigarette while they're playing. I've never built a home made primitive bass, but when I've threatened to, I've always intended to give it 3 strings E-A-D.

Last Friday I played with a group of hardcore country fiddlers. After my fretting hand wore out, I lasted another 30 minutes just playing open strings E-A-D. Fortunately, they did everything in A so I could cover the root of the 3 chords needed.

Thank you ! Well said. It is rather primitive, in a good way, I'll post some photos when the refit is complete. Thanks again.

hi TN Twang,

i posted some photos regarding our discussion on the main page. i wanted to use gold strings to match other parts, but they are rare and too thick. so i used the a, d, g strings, next to impossible to tune to e,a,and d, very stiff, so i re-tuned to the a,d,and g. sounds good but i think i'll need to get some short scale bass strings. thanks again for your help.

I'm a bass player who bought a CBG "kit" from a Barnes and Noble after Christmas sale a year or two ago. Just wandered in here because some day I might try to build a CBB to take on a bicycle ride because they are small and light compared to most store bought basses and because they would fit very well with the ethos of this particular ride.

So I am late to the party but I have to say that the notion of tuning a bass in fifths is not an impossible dream. I've been doing that for years now on regular 34 inch scale basses and am part of a small community of other bass guitarists who do likewise. We got the notion from an unexpected source: a small community of double bassists who do likewise! The modern grandfather of us all was jazz and motion picture bassist Red Mitchell. It actually works quite well if you commit to it. I have recently taken the step of moving to short (30 inch) scale basses to get a little faster but you can certainly do it at 34 inches and 43 inches and do it exceedingly well. Well you can anyway, I am not an exceedingly good bassist at any scale with any tuning!

Historians of the double bass claim that way back when it was a new creation it was often a three string instrument tuned GDA. A C string pitched an octave lower than a cello's was not feasible back then, even at the longer scale but many early instruments were built as if they were waiting for a C string to become available. French musicians are reported to have been the first to have switched to four strings in fourths starting on E and the EADG tuning eventually carried the day. Like most modern bassist who tune in fifths I tune CGDA and add an E on top for five string basses and a B on top of that for sixers.

Assuming I actually get around to making my own cigar box bass some day I will probably tune it GDA since the amp you would need to haul around (on a bike remember) to handle that low C would be a bit unwieldy and GDA would give you most of the range of a traditional EADG bass while starting only three half steps higher. At this point I would certainly use a 30 inch scale. That's my plan anyway....

thank you! my scale is actually shorter than 30'', around 25, but still sounds awesome. will GDA

work for that scale length. at the moment it's EAD, but my friend likes to find his own tuning?

At such a short scale GDA should work better than EAD and from what I gather a fifths tuning is not uncommon in the cigar box universe. My kit instructions advised tuning in fifths and of course I followed that advice. In the end it depends on your friend's choice. Many bassists who try to switch from fourths to fifths run screaming back to the tuning they know after a very short trial period. Some stick it out and find they love it. A few are like me and love it instantly. And then there are the cellists who decide to try to play bass guitar. As one might expect they tend to love the fifths tuning.

There are bassists who convert conventional 25.5 inch guitars to basses. I cannot recall offhand what tuning they typically use.

wow, thank you ! finally !

Poking around a little on I could not find a lot of information on 25.5 inch guitar to bass conversion tunings but I think that some go as low as the traditional EADG bass tuning. In fact I once read somewhere that some guitarists drop tune by a whole octave and so they start on the bass guitar's low E. Eastwood guitars makes a lot of quirky instruments and they have a four string "Warren Ellis Tenor Baritone" model with a 26 inch scale and tuned CGDA starting on the C between the bass guitar E and the normal guitar E. In other words to exactly the same pitches as a cello.

well, rust never sleeps, and i'm a bit rusty on the cello.

so you lost me with the between the "E". normal bass is EADG, so

there is no second E.

so with 3 strings, can i use CGD ?

It gets confusing because there are not two but many E's and the same for every other note. Scientists (and bassists) generally designate notes by frequency or by the note letter followed by a number. Normal guitars are tuned starting on E2 (82 Hz) and ending on E4 (330 Hz). Basses are normally tuned starting on E1 (41 Hz). If by CGD you mean that you will tune C2 (65Hz), G2 (98Hz), and D3 (147Hz) then I think that is feasible. If you meant you want to tune an octave above that then yes that is well within the normal range of guitar tunings at a 25 inch scale.


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