5 String Bass Tuning: The Ultimate Guide [2021]

Hey Buddy, Whether you’re in a Metal or Jazz band or a solo practitioner and want to tune your 5-string bass guitar, this is the perfect guide for you.

Along with the standard tuning, I also covered different alternate tunings that provide an extended tonal range to your bass. Stay Tuned:

The tuning of B-E-A-D-G is considered as a standard 5 string bass tuning. It can also be tuned as E-A-D-G-C by adding a high C string. The extra string provides a wide range of versatility to bass with more options for scales and chords as compared to a 4-string bass.

How to Tune a 5 String Bass Guitar?

Although I’m only going to discuss the most common ways to tune the bass guitar, but if you’re familiar with any of 4-string bass tuning method like “open string method” or “Harmonics Method”, it will also work on a 5-string bass.

1. Using Electronic Tuner

Most of the modern tuners comes with a color coded LED display that shows you red and green lights along with the note you’re playing. You just need to play one string at a time and simply follow the instructions given on the screen to tune your bass by adjusting the corresponding tuning peg.

It makes it very easier to tune your bass without being very fancy. You can grab any affordable bass tuner like this and tune your bass right away. that’s why it is the most popular and recommended way for beginner bass players.

2. Pitch Tuner on your Mobile

The tuning of the bass guitar is controlled by the tuning pegs, which allows you to change the pitch by tightening or loosening the strings.

There are a number of mobile tuner applications for both Android and IOS mobiles and many of them are free to install. Such apps use the built-in mick of your mobile to hear the current pitch and guide you whether you need to tighten the strings or loosen them.

It’s a great way to tune your bass guitar, as you’re carrying your tuner in your pocket.

Do 5-String Basses Go Higher or Lower?

When it comes to the 5-string bass guitars, there two standard tunings depending upon whether you add a 5th strings on higher or lower side. These basses are becoming more and more popular because they provides more choice for scales, arpeggios, and chords compared to 4 strings, while enhancing your playability.

When you tune your Bass to B-E-A-D-G: the extra string (the low B) becomes the root and allows you to access 5 extra notes.

  • Low B (Root)
  • Low C
  • Low C#
  • Low D
  • Low D#
  • Low E (which is similar to the 4th string)

Whereas, When you tune to E-A-D-G-C by using a high C string that gives you some higher notes to play within each position which can be really cool for getting different chord voicing, melody playing, or soloing.

Yannick Gwizdala, Matt Garrison, and Hadrien Feraud are some of the popular bass players that take leverage of high c.

Can You Tune a 5 String Bass to Drop D?

You can’t tune a 5-string bass to drop d tuning, because it will put a lot of uneven tension on the neck. Although for easy bass transposing, you can tune Low E string to D note and play it like a 4-string bass, but 5-string bass can play Low D note in the Standard tuning as well.

Can You Tune a 5 String Bass to Drop C?

You can tune your 5-string bass guitar to C-G-C-F-A (Drop C) by tuning one step up from the standard B tuning (B-E-A-D-G). Although Drop C tuning might enhance your playability in some cases, but Low B string on the 5-string Bass already provides you required lower range.

Can You Tune a 5 String Bass to Drop A?

You could tune a 5-string bass to Drop A by tuning Low B string one step down to A-E-A-D-G from the standard tuning of B-E-A-D-G. Down-tuned strings might sound a little flappy that’s why it’s always recommended to use around 0.140 gauge bass strings for Drop A tuning.

Is it Bad to Tune a 5-String Bass to Non-Standard Tuning?

The alternate tuning is not going to hurt your bass guitar in any way, as long as it is reasonable. Most of the basses are crafted for the standard tuning and their neck and truss rods are adjusted by considering the standard tuning string tension.

If you’re a beginner player and try to goof around non-standard tunings, especially the wild ones, you might move the neck around or end up with a very interesting intonation.

Thus, whenever you want to tune your 5-string bass to any non-standard tuning, I always recommend you to get the proper set up of your instrument, in terms of intonation, string tension, and neck area.

How to Choose Best Strings for 5-String Bass Guitar?

Even if you want to stick with the standard bass tuning, there are two popular variations – B-E-A-D-G and E-A-D-G-C. You can’t tune your bass to E-A-D-G-C with the strings you have for B-E-A-D-G, cause it might break your E strings.

I have had Ibanez GSR205 for quite a long time now and I am very happy with these Ernie Ball regular slinky. Although I also heard of D’Addario EPS strings, but I haven’t tried them yet.

What is the Lowest Note on a 5 string Bass?

B is the lowest note on a 5-string bass guitar tuned in standard tuning. Although you can retune the thickest bass strings up to 2 steps down and get the Low A note, but it might put a lot of uneven tension on the neck.

How Often You Should Tune your 5-String Bass?

You should tune your bass every time before you start your session. depending on your playing style, duration, intensity and most importantly your strings, the bass guitar can lose its tuning. That’s why it’s always good to check your tuning before you play.

Final Thoughts on 5 String Bass Tuning

Sometimes you want to down-tune your standard 4-string bass guitar to extend its tonal range, but 5-string bass exists so you don’t need to mess up with all those different tuning variations.

If you consider yourself a beginner bass player, I suggest you to stick with the B Standard (B-E-A-D-G) tuning and try to play every song in that tuning. Almost 90% of resources out there are using the B-standard tuning, which helps you to get around the bass and learn it quickly.

Although it might be a little confusing to use the same tuning for all songs but it definitely teaches a lot about the scales.

On the other hand, sometimes adjusting the tabs and playing on the same standard tuning isn’t an option, and that’s why you should get familiar with different 5-string bass tunings and at least get your hands dirty.

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