Bass strings advice


New Metal Member
Aug 2, 2009
Hi guys, I have a really annoying problem with my bass strings and was hoping someone could give me some advice.

I play in a modern hard rock band, it sounds really heavy and agressive and I tune my 5 string, like the guitar players, in D flat, like this:


It really is necessary for some of the riffs to sound good, plus I started playing bass when I joined the band so I`ve pretty much always played like that, but the thing is, as you can see, the strings are tuned way lower then they`re supposed to. It doesn`t make that much difference in all but the fourth string ( Db ), which is tuned 1 and a half step lower than the usual and stays too loose on the bass and sounds awful. I`ve tried to make up for the tension buying thicker strings of all kinds, but was never fully satisfied, until finally a friend of mine who owns a music store suggested I should put another B string instead of the E, so my fourth and fifth strings were the same thickness. I`ve been told it shouldn`t be a problem and it shouldn`t damage the instrument as long as it`s set up properly, so I gave it a try. My band is currently recording it`s first cd, and through the bass sessions I thought the bass sounded awesome, but when it came to the guitar recording we found out that, in some songs more than others, the bass was horribly out of tune, in some cases almost 1/4 tone off. Now I`ll have to record it all over again, but the real problem is we can`t find what caused it. It was properly tuned before each song ( with the same tuner and frequency used on the guitars ) and it almost didn`t change after, and it wasn´t finger pressure on the frets or bad bends either because there were open string notes out of tune. It never happened before in the studio so we`ve also ruled out gear and virtual problems, so the only thing I can think of is maybe some problem with the new set of strings. It`s a real freaking mystery for us and we`re pretty desperate for some answers, so does anybody know something that could help, or know of any other players who use the same thing with the strings, or even have some other advice on the loose string problem? If it matters for anything, my bass is a 5 string active fender american deluxe jazz bass. Thanks.
Did you properly intonate the bass for use with that tuning, and with those strings specifically?

For that tuning on a 34" scale, I'd step up to at least a .135 for the Gb and a .120 for the low Db. On my 34" bass tuned to B, a .130 holds it fine down to a low A. So for Gb I'd go to at least .135 if not .145.
I did properly intonate it, I don't know how to do it myself so I got a professional to do it, who is the same shop owner who suggested it. Thanks for the tip Nicholas but I think you got the strings wrong, or maybe I put them in the wrong order. The 1-Gb is the thinnest ( G string ), and the 5-Bb is the thickest ( B string ), so all the strings are tuned a half step down except for the fourth string Db, which is a step and a half down.
This is exactly why a lot of people record guitars before bass - guitars are easy to tune and intonate, and obvious in the mix, so once they're down you tune the bass TO THOSE TRACKS.

If you tuned up the bass for a take but they ended up out of tune, then it's just a new string tension thing - but I think you're saying you tuned it, recorded, and then it re-tuned it and it was still more or less right. You didn't say if the tuning was sharp of flat, but I would guess it might be that you're tuning up playing softly and than thrashing the strings when you actually record. If you tune playing lightly, hitting them hard will make them go sharp. Because you've made the E heavier now, that string will be tighter than the rest and so will be more susceptible to it.

Thanks Suicide, the out-of-tune notes were always higher than supposed to. I definitely played harder recording than tuning, but can it really make that much difference on the notes? And also, it wasn't just the E that was out of tune, if I remember correctly the A string was the worst one, and it still wouldn't explain why some times it was almost perfectly tuned and others almost 1/4 tone out.
When you tune your strings, you really should tune them to as hard as you're going to hit them. As Steve said, if you tune your strings by lightly tapping them, but then thrash them as hard as possible during recording, they'll end up being sharp during the recording.

For that tuning I'd use a .130 or a .135 on the Bb and a .120 for the Db.
Thanks Nicholas and Suicide, maybe the problem is the difference in how hard I hit the strings. I'll give a try tuning as hard as I'm recording and get back here. About the strings do you know any sets with a .120 E?
Tuning light/hitting hard will always make a difference, I was just saying it will be more obvious on a tighter string. The A in most normal sets is the tightest (it is in guitars too, I don't know why), though your E might be depending on what gauge you've upped it to. If you want an example, just try it when you're tuning - hit a string lightly and tune it up, then once it's in tune really dig into it and watch the dial. Knocking it a 1/4 tone out is pretty easy. You need to tune to the attack too, especially on bass - rather than hitting the string and letting it ring, then tuning up, you should keep hitting the string as you're tuning. The moment when you hit the string is normally slightly sharper, then as it starts to ring out it'll drop slightly (only a few cents, but it is noticeable).

As for the differences in recording, could it be your playing dynamics? I'm normally a guitarist, where you get to stomp on a pedal and you're instantly heavier, and I find on bass when it gets to a heavy bit I tend play a lot harder. Hitting hard doesn't tend to knock the string out of tune, so if you play light-HARD-light, the hard note might be out but the light on after it will usually still be in tune.

I can't think of anything else that would cause it.

Thanks Nicholas and Suicide, maybe the problem is the difference in how hard I hit the strings. I'll give a try tuning as hard as I'm recording and get back here. About the strings do you know any sets with a .120 E?

If I didn't hit my 5th string with the same strength whilst tuning as I do when playing I'd never be in tune!! I actually don't tune to the open note on my 5th string (tuned to A) either as it's rarely used, I use the 3rd fret (C) way more often so tune to that - as long as the intonation is good there's no problems.