PDA

View Full Version : Hypothetically tuning an acoustic bass like a ukulele



Piecomics
09-13-2018, 05:47 AM
Is it possible? what would this abomination sound like? how would one go about it? I played an acoustic bass recently and I like the growliness of it.

kohanmike
09-13-2018, 07:28 AM
A bass is tuned EADG, so re-tuning like a uke, GCEA, would mean either tightening each string, which would take them out of the classic bass timber, or loosening them so much they would not be playable, I think. I play uke and bass uke and don't have a problem going from one to the other, especially since I mainly play rhythm on the uke and single notes on the bass.

8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 8 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children's hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
Member The CC Strummers www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/videos

70sSanO
09-13-2018, 11:11 AM
Hypothetically... A Kala U-bass ranges from around 20" to almost 21" depending on the model. In theory you can get baritone GCEA string set. I don't know what the string tension differences, maybe someone else would know, but assuming the neck can handle it, then you could probably use baritone CGEA strings.

I don't know how typical ukulele bass strings are attached, I would think you would have to re-do the nut slots, either replace nut or fill existing ("maybe" get away with making deeper with thinner strings).

Personally, I would tune an octave lower, but you would need to figure out the correct strings. Regardless, you can't use metal strings.

John

Jim Hanks
09-13-2018, 11:33 AM
Exactly what do you mean by "like a ukulele"? If you tune it EAC#F# then you'd have the same pitch relationships as ukulele and could use your same fretboard knowledge. It would just play "in A" instead of "in C". This is just tuning the top two strings down a half step from normal bass tuning so it should work in terms of tension, playability, etc.

I agree it could be tricky finding strings to do a GCEA tuning.

edhaponik
09-14-2018, 04:05 PM
I started as a bass player, and I actually do the reverse. My ukes are all tuned to 4ths, EADG, ADGC, DGCF, etc.
I still prefer re-entrant (generally), but that's how I learned all the chords/scales/modes, and I feel way more comfortable with it. It certainly changes my approach, and I probably have something "off" about my ukulele sound, but it's what works for me.

So going in the opposite direction, there's no reason you couldn't tune an upright (or electric) bass to ukulele intervals - though I assume you don't mean re-entrant lol. The difference is that you won't often be playing more than two fretted notes together on bass (probably only on electric and in the upper register), so the only reason to do it would be if you were significantly more comfortable with the individual notes on the fingerboard under that model. If you wanted to actually tune GCEA, you would certainly need to do some research into string tension as bass strings CAN be very tense and you could warp a neck or cause damage to an acoustic's top/soundpost by tuning up so many steps.

But if you put the work in and do the math, there's no reason you couldn't!

UkerDanno
09-14-2018, 06:12 PM
Just get a baritone, they're almost the same size.

Jim Hanks
09-14-2018, 06:20 PM
Just get a baritone, they're almost the same size.

Really I think OP needs to clarify what he/she would like to do with the bass, in particular what register/octave is desired. You can get baritone "octave GCEA" strings which are an octave lower than a low G tenor, but that's still over an octave above the typical EADG bass range. I'm guessing that would lose the "growliness" mentioned as a desirable trait.

kissing
09-15-2018, 05:05 AM
You'll just end up with a bass guitar with an alternative tuning.
If you go GCEA in the direction that is LOWER pitched than standard bass EADG, then it's just a bass guitar with an unnecessarily different tuning.
It'll just sound like a deeper, lower pitched bass guitar, and will have to be played like a bass guitar.
The instrument would share almost no similarities to standard tuning GCEA ukulele in sound and playability.
It's theoretically possible, but you would require custom strings and custom modifications to the instrument.
It won't sound very loud on an acoustic bass, unless you plug it into an amp.
Some 5, 6 and 7-string basses, with the right strings and setup would actually cover that range.


If you go GCEA tuning to HIGHER pitched than standard bass EADG tuning, then you basically just have a very low pitched baritone-ukulele-like instrument.
This tuning is possible on regular baritone ukuleles using speciality strings from companies such as Guadalupe, or using specific classical guitar strings (simply tuning EADG strings from a classical guitar set usually works to tune up to octave low GCEA on a baritone ukulele).

This is also a tuning used in a type of guitar known as a "Baritone guitar", except of course a Baritone guitar has 6 strings (added bass strings: A, D and then GCEA).

On a baritone ukulele, it sounds like this:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCyLRHl0wEY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCyLRHl0wEY






------
In conclusion, the tuning is possible. However, it's not widely used as it is quite an obscure tuning that doesn't really give significant enough advantages over existing standard tunings. There are unlimited different ways you can tune an instrument, and many musicians do use alternative tunings from time to time. However, popular tunings exist for a reason - they have simply been found to work better in more musical settings.

kohanmike
09-15-2018, 05:47 AM
Guess the OP Piecomics must have been sidetracked, hasn't posted any replies.

8 tenor cutaway ukes, 5 acoustic bass ukes, 9 solid body bass ukes, 7 mini electric bass guitars

• Donate to The Ukulele Kids Club, they provide ukuleles to children's hospital music therapy programs. www.theukc.org
• Member The CC Strummers www.youtube.com/user/CCStrummers/videos

Jarmo_S
09-15-2018, 06:09 AM
One can tune a bass like ukulele. It is the chords. Uke being a chord machine somewhat maybe over guitar even.

At bass range you won't typically play chords, so pls just stay to EADG ;) That is just my opinion that don't count so much.

casualmusic
09-15-2018, 07:52 AM
Is it possible? what would this abomination sound like? how would one go about it? I played an acoustic bass recently and I like the growliness of it.

Hi Piecomics.

Acoustic bass is usually played one note at a time (not strummed), and one or two notes per bar to set the rhythm for other instruments. When the bass is doing a solo there could be more notes played. It's bass-i-cly impractical to play with ukulele techniques.

Moving on:

if you are interested in using GCEA to avoid relearning the fingering pattern I think it you'll find it actually very easy to switch to EADG and avoid the hassle of finding a GCEA string set.

Keep in mind that the uke is G3 C4 E4 A5 and the bass range is two octaves lower at E1 A2 D2 G2 or G1 C2 E2 A3.

Options:
1. Use GCEA skills to learn EADG
2. Strings to tune the bass to GCEA

Option 1. Transposing GCEA skills to EADG:

GCEA uke is effectively a guitar/bass choked down five frets, so count down five frets to locate where the uke nut would be and play the notes starting there.

Verify this by using your tuner to watch the notes change as you fret down the fretboard.

You'll find that fretting a EADG bass to GCEA actually takes five frets on the fatter strings and four frets on the less fat strings.

Address this by learning the difference, or by tightening the less fat strings to get EAD#G#.

The dot marker at fret five is useful. If no marker, use a bit of making tape or get sticky dots used by novice fiddlers.


Option 2. Find strings that will put the bass into GCEA:

Get a EADGB set made for a five string bass, set aside the fattest string, and tune the other four to GCEA. If a bit loose try a stiffer set.

Five string sets can be found for guitar shaped basses. I'm not aware of any for doubble basses and you will have to improvise the high A string.

Cheers.

Jim Hanks
09-15-2018, 08:02 AM
Get a EADGB set made for a five string bass, set aside the fattest string, and tune the other four to GCEA. If a bit loose try a stiffer set.
Good points. Minor correction: 5-string would typically be EADGC, but I could see your suggestion possibly working.

But I'm gonna agree with some others to just get used to EADG. I'm just getting started on the bass but I can already see the benefit of the consistent interval relationships when you don't have to worry about chords.

casualmusic
09-15-2018, 08:10 AM
I agree to just learn EADG.

And three or four lessons with a good teacher is very very useful.

But I'm the one who avoids learning multiple fingerings by tuning my ukes, guitars and banjos the same.


.

edhaponik
09-15-2018, 08:39 AM
Good points. Minor correction: 5-string would typically be EADGC,

TYPICALLY, 5 string is BEADG with low B being much more common among bass players than high C.

But yeah I'm a big advocate for either tuning a uke EADG (which is what I play typically) OR GCFBb if you want to stick to your typical strings/range. Both options maintain the string intervals associated with bass, and since it's all 4ths, it's comparatively simple compared with uke/guitar.

There's also a world of difference between the tonality/growl of acoustic bass (which can be acoustic bass guitar, upright, or UBass) and electric, but once you have make the transition to the intervals, you can have fun with any of em. :)

Piecomics
09-15-2018, 11:14 PM
Sorry all, we are having a bit of weather here that is distracting me. I was wondering about GCEA or DGBE tuning on an acoustic bass. I recently tried Jim’s idea of using Aquila 133c strings in a baritone for GCEA which sounds ok but is generally a bit muddy and wondered if th extra body and scale length of the bass would sound better, obviously w different strings.

Piecomics
09-15-2018, 11:15 PM
I do play bass occasionally, my main instrument right now is an African kora which I find myself using for the deep bass notes available anyway...

Tootler
09-16-2018, 12:20 AM
Sorry all, we are having a bit of weather here that is distracting me. I was wondering about GCEA or DGBE tuning on an acoustic bass. I recently tried Jim’s idea of using Aquila 133c strings in a baritone for GCEA which sounds ok but is generally a bit muddy and wondered if th extra body and scale length of the bass would sound better, obviously w different strings.

A baritone tuned low GCEA is in the bass range, though at the upper end of it (G2 C3 E3 A3). You could use it to provide a bass line to someone playing a smaller uke tuned GCEA at regular pitch rather than try strumming. Listen to how guitarists playing finger picked accompaniment provide a bass line on their 5th & 6th strings. I'm not keen on the sound of my baritone strummed. I have a tenor tuned re-entrant DGBE which I much prefer for strumming. My 8 string tenor is tuned DGBE but sounds fine strummed because it has both high & low D strings.

Jim Hanks
09-16-2018, 01:45 AM
Sorry all, we are having a bit of weather here that is distracting me. I was wondering about GCEA or DGBE tuning on an acoustic bass. I recently tried Jim’s idea of using Aquila 133c strings in a baritone for GCEA which sounds ok but is generally a bit muddy and wondered if th extra body and scale length of the bass would sound better, obviously w different strings.
Just curious, what did you mean by "acoustic bass"? I've been picturing either a U-Bass or "guitar sized" like this:
https://www.guitarcenter.com/Ibanez/AEB5E-Acoustic-Electric-Bass.gc
Or did you mean one of the big uprights like this:
https://www.guitarcenter.com/Palatino/Billy-Bass-3-4-Size-Upright-Bass.gc

Regardless, I think you'd be much more successful getting to DGBE than GCEA. Though EAC#F# would be easier still and that's just one step up from DGBE.

kissing
09-16-2018, 05:32 AM
Sorry all, we are having a bit of weather here that is distracting me. I was wondering about GCEA or DGBE tuning on an acoustic bass. I recently tried Jim’s idea of using Aquila 133c strings in a baritone for GCEA which sounds ok but is generally a bit muddy and wondered if th extra body and scale length of the bass would sound better, obviously w different strings.

So it sounds like you want to tune to octave GCEA or simply regular baritone tuning (DGBE) on an acoustic bass guitar.
If you can find the right strings, it would probably work.

The low GCEA tuning would probably still sound muddy if you try to play it like an ukulele.
The muddiness comes from the inherently low frequencies of those notes. Same reason people don't strum on a bass guitar.
It sounds muddy.

As for DGBE (baritone ukulele) tuning on an acoustic bass - again, it's theoretically possible.
You'll just end up sounding like some kind of longer scale guitar. It would sound a bit more beefy than regular guitar, with a bit more sustain.

There is a tuning called "Piccolo bass" which is EADG one octave higher than regular bass (which is basically regular guitar tuning missing the 2 treble strings). Your theoretical tunings would sound similar:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7J_GzZntRI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7J_GzZntRI


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKRs7l16nR4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKRs7l16nR4

Piecomics
09-16-2018, 11:22 PM
Jim, I meant this: https://www.guitarcenter.com/Ibanez/AEB105E-Acoustic-Electric-5-String-Bass.gc
In my way of thinking an upright bass or double bass refers to one instrument, an acoustic bass is different and implies a certain scale, and if I were referring to a ukulele bass I would probably say u-bass, short scale bass, or pony bass... I will mess around with tuning options should I have the opportunity, the A tuning you propose sounds like it could work.