My school jazz band's bass player has a 5 string bass but it is tuned like a guitar with a broken 'E' string, but an octave lower. This means that the highest string is a 'B'. Is this common? I know that most 5 string basses have an extra lower 'B' string - like what a 7 string guitar would have. Is this some modification that people usually have?

1 Answer 1


Not that common. Normally 5-string basses will have a low B. Giving B E A D G.

The other option is to have a high C. Working on the premise that every string is a P4 from the next. Giving E A D G C.

It is probably the result of a guitarist being more used to guitar tuning. But it doesn't help bass players. The idea behind the G>B (M3) on guitar is to facilitate chord playing, which isn't usually what a bass player is expected to be doing. Yes, I know we do, but it's not generally in the remit!

I'd be inclined to either tune it E A D G C, or change strings to B E A D G, which is a much more useful arrangement. Not necessarily to play very low notes, although that's a bonus (especially for tunes in D or E♭), but to have a 5th of a chord underneath, on that B string, to save moving down the fingerboard.

You're right about 6-string basses - they usually go B E A D G C. I used to play with a guy who used an 8 string - F♯ B E A D G C F...

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    Excellent info on the various tunings used for bass. I have never heard of a bass player tuning a high string on a 5 string bass to a B personally. There is a rarely used instrument Fender came up with called a Bass VI which is a 6 string bass with a 30” scale and much closer string spacing and that is tuned an octave below a guitar but it has a high E string so you can think like a guitarist when you play it. A note about the 7 string guitar, some players tune the low string to A instead of B which allows you to play the root of chords with a 5th string root and octave lower in the same fret. Apr 28, 2020 at 6:24
  • @JohnBelzaguy - wasn't that Fender a baritone? Think Duane Eddy used one.
    – Tim
    Apr 28, 2020 at 6:28
  • Actually no, it was longer than a baritone. It was short scale bass length, had specially made strings and was tuned an octave lower than a guitar. Baritone guitars are shorter and usually tuned a 4th or 5th below a guitar. Here’s an interesting article: fender.com/articles/tech-talk/… Apr 28, 2020 at 6:53
  • @JohnBelzaguy - o.k. thanks. Though why anyone would play a 'bass' thinking it was a guitar - what..? But when I first played bass, people used to say -'you were once a lead guitarist, weren't you?!'
    – Tim
    Apr 28, 2020 at 6:58
  • It’s a bit odd, true but it did have its uses, doubling bass and guitar lines, playing super low chords, lol. Jack Bruce and the Beatles recorded them to name a few, usually John and George, surprised? Apr 28, 2020 at 7:08

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