• hi Ken,

    the system will not let me reply to you're last message, tuesday.

    i suppose my major dilemma is when on an uneven scale, say 30, the strings will not come to pitch

    in a normal setting. let's say that the high "A" is getting so tight that you get your safety glasses on.

    so i'm thinking that with a strange scale length, one has to compromise.

    also to really be ignorant, are you saying that the number on the tuner is telling you the octave?

    oh, i do have perfect pitch. just trying to figure out how these tuners work.

    thank you again.

    • If your tuner gives you just a note name like C then you do not know the octave except by other means. If your tuner says C4 then it is giving you the octave. In this case it would middle C at 262 Hz. Some tuners give you the octave number and/or the frequency in Hz, others do not.

      I have a six string, 30 inch scale bass with the top string tuned to B3 (247 Hz) which is just half a step below middle C. I am using a 0.015 plain steel string to get that pitch at that scale length. If you are trying to get much above that you may not be able to find a string with a small enough gauge. If you try to tune an A string from a normal guitar string set to the same pitch on a 30 inch scale it is possible that you will snap it because you should use a lighter gauge string to keep the tension within sane limits. The tuning pitch, scale length, and tension of a string are all related by a fairly simple formula. If you raise the pitch or increase the scale length or increase the string gauge without changing the other two then the tension will increase. So you should use lighter gauge strings on a 30 inch scale instrument than you would on a 25.5 in scale which I believe is the Fender standard scale for six string guitars.

      Do a search on Kalium strings and you will find a string tension calculator on their website. Set the scale length to 25.5 and you will see the tensions that you get from the string gauges you normally use for a guitar. Now set the scale length to 30 inches and you will see the gauges you need to use to get the same tension at the pitches you want to use at the longer scale. The exact results vary from string brand to string brand and for differing types of strings within a brand but this would give you a ballpark number on the string gauges to use.

      My guess is that you are trying to use too heavy a gauge of string for a 30 inch scale.

  • 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.

    • Ken, i think it would take many weeks in your living room to properly understand your knowledge and music theory. so that brings up my second, and i hope, relevant question. i played piano for many years, learning and playing some classics. however i had a guy come and tune my piano. very impressive, especially when they use 5 or 6 finger chords. so, i have several guitar tuners, except a strobe. plug in, plug in and go back out, and clip ons. well, they usually try to find your note. so set it to bass, it'll try to find your note, E4, etc.  so with unconventional instruments not always the case. my method is to start with the biggest string and tune till it's not flopping around. sometimes to get the right note, the string seems way too tight, like it's an octave above? i don't want my strings buzzing, but i also don't need a distressed string. also, i use the standard 440hz, is this also something i should explore?

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