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I've started writing and recording some thall style music that is tuned to drop E. This is my first time recoring in drop E so and I am wondering what bands normally do with the bass as far as tuning in that style of music. Do they also tune the bass down to drop E, do they keep it in E standard, do they do something else? All and any HELPFUL input would be much appreciated!

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    Waiting for an explanation of 'drop E'...
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 14:47
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    @Tim Afaik this would be for 6 string E down an octave, the rest as usual in drop tunings, so E1-B1-E2-A2-C#3-F#3. Which kind of justifies the question, as in this case the lowest guitar strings equals the lowest bass string in standard tuning.
    – Lazy
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 16:07
  • FWIW, I did a YouTube search for "thall bass" and on the first page of results I only saw one standard 4-string bass.
    – Theodore
    Commented Jun 13, 2023 at 16:56

2 Answers 2

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I have observed that there are a number of definitions for 'Drop E' tuning. These are the two most popular;

  • One is for an 8 string guitar, which is tuned precisely like a standard 7 string guitar, but with the thick, bassy top string tuned to E instead of F#. So, in essence, E-B-E-A-D-G-B-E

  • The second is very simply a six string guitar tuned in this fashion: E-B-E-A-C#-F#

As far as the bass player and how they tune to adapt to this tuning set-up, it's up to the individual musician. (And the sound engineer and/or record producer.)

The reality is that there are certain frequencies that work best for bass guitar, both on stage and in the recording studio, and the most popular tuning remains the industry standard, E-A-D-G.

Remember that on stage and in the recording studio, there are only so many frequency bands, and in order for the bass guitar to not find itself cancelled-out by frequencies now occupied by down-tuned guitars (and of course double-kick drums and mic'ed floor toms), you have to allow the sound engineers, or if that's YOU, to carve out the bass guitar niche.

I hope this helps.

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  • EADG is not industry standard at all for modern progressive metal. Even if it were, consider the prevalence of 5 string instruments in all genres, giving access to notes down to B0.
    – Edward
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 1:33
  • That 'thick, bassy top string' is actually known as the bottom string, despite it normally being found above the others.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 8:09
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The most common approach for playing bass in these kinds of metal bands that uses alternate tunings is to simple match the bottom 4-5 strings of the guitar, but an octave down. In this case, you would tune to E0 B0 E1 A1 (D2, if you have a 5 string) But of course, there's a significant engineering challenge in 1) getting a bass guitar to sound an in-tune E0, and 2) making it actually sound good.

Therefore, once you get this low, serious consideration should be given to playing in the same octave as the guitar. Meshuggah is known to do this, but I will share this example, despite the genre difference, because the bass tone can be heard so clearly. Both the guitar and bass are tuned to F# standard. Even playing the same note, your bass is playing a very different sonic role. You are in charge of the low-low mid frequencies, and you may also contribute high-mid metal clanginess as you see fit. Taking this approach, you could tune to E1 B1 E2 A2 (D3, if you have a 5 string).

There is also a middle ground between these two options, which is to play a 5-string bass with the top 4 tuned to match the guitar. The lowest string gives you access to the "octave below" notes for some notes where same-octave might start sounding a little thin by comparison. Taking this approach with drop E would give the possible tuning of B0 E1 B1 E2 A2. You may notice that in the VOLA video linked above, the bassist is actually doing this- though they don't use the lowest string for that particular recording.

Inevitably, people who don't play this style of music will suggest that you use standard tuning. While it may be a viable approach, the huge downside is that you have to translate every guitar riff you want to double and hope that it is still idiomatic on your instrument. Your guitarist is likely writing riffs that are fun to play for him, and if you match the tuning, they will be just as fun for you.

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