Friday, October 9, 2009

Bass Tip

This is in response to Gio Benedetti's bass tuning tip (http://www.emginc.com/videos/emgtv/7), where he demonstrates some useful tips for playing chords on bass. Be careful tuning any string up what it is normally meant to be tuned to, e.g. tuning a B up to a D. Doing so not only causes more wear on the string, but also is bad for the neck. One should either:
-use a capo, or
-use a string designed for that tuning (e.g., tun a heavy E string down to a D).

Tuning lower is generally fine, although some setup work may be necessary to prevent fret buzz and improper intonation.

One advantage to a standard bass tuning (i.e. in fourths) is that it simplifies improvising and planning one's part. Retuning generally makes these harder.

On the other hand, myriads of guitarists have learned to play a variety of complex or "alternate" tunings for ages. Though most (amateur) guitarists may memorize from a book how to play each and every song without ever thinking about the notes they are playing or how to create different chords, many others do take the time to understand (from some lower level of abstraction) what they are playing and why it sounds the way it does--they think about the individual notes that make up the chords, and decide how they will play a chord at a given point in a song based on sound and voicing. So bassists certainly can learn to do the same if they wish, but they will usually be breaking new ground to do so.

In my opinion, controlling the pitches of droning open strings is the primary advantage of various guitar tunings (excluding open chord tunings), as they contribute wonderful complexity to the chords with little effort from the guitarist. The drone provides a comfortably familiar baseline while simultaneously adding dissonant, complex intervals to any chords straying from that baseline. Open strings also have a slightly less muted sound than that of fretted strings. The disadvantage of complicated guitar tunings (excluding open chord tunings, again) is that figuring out how to play a riff, melody, or chord can be more difficult.

Using a capo will add some control over the open string tuning (though not total control) without requiring the bassist to re-learn scales and arpeggios (as would alternate tunings). Hence, I would try a capo before retuning.

in reference to: Electric Guitar Pickups & Accessories - EMG Pickups | EMGTV (view on Google Sidewiki)

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