Super-low tuners: what do you "do" with your guitar?

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by ElectricBaliset, Jun 24, 2019.

  1. ElectricBaliset

    ElectricBaliset Buhnuhnuh-nuhnuhnuh

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    This is geared primarily towards six-string players who tune, say, lower than B standard, but higher than E1 standard, but I'm also happy to hear input from any extended-range players who cover a similar range.

    I have a 27" baritone that alternates between G and F# standard just for kicks. Most of my instruments keep to tunings much closer to their standard, so on a 7 or 8, I still have access to more or less the full range of a standard 6, but something about having a guitar tuned so impractically low seems appealing to me. I don't use that bari often, because tbh I'm not entirely sure what to do with it from a technical standpoint, but I occasionally return to it just to try and hammer out something new.

    On my other instruments I try everything between post-rock, progressive, and even some more straightforward rock. Most of the time on the bari, though, I feel like I come out sounding either like a djent stereotype (which I love, but I don't necessarily want to be a stereotype or sound generic), or a ripoff of downtempo doom bands like Bongripper. I'm normally a very chordal player and get really into working with complex harmonies with moving voices in and between chords, but when you give up so much of your high range, that becomes significantly harder to pull off gracefully. I often end up sinking into rhythmic stuff that rides on the low strings. As I play up the neck and towards the higher strings, I try to incorporate more of my usual technical fare, but I feel like it just ends up sounding like old-school doom; again, not at all a bad thing, but the point is that I end up falling into certain riffing cliches in pretty much either range. I think part of the reason I'm so intent on figuring out how to make this guitar work, is that I know that, even in such a seemingly ridiculous range, there's interesting musical territory to be explored.

    So to get some inspiration, I'm curious about the other way guitarists who enjoy tunings in that range, use the instrument, hence the title question. But here are some initial examples of what I have in mind to clarify what I mean by "what do you 'do'?"

    * How, if at all, do you incorporate chordal concepts into your playing, especially beyond the usual power chords and low-string chugging?
    * How do you keep from falling into the trap of constantly djenting or doubling up on the bassist's role?
    * How do you find ways to keep things harmonically interesting?

    I realize these questions are kind of vague, but I'm trying to avoid too narrowly steering the conversation. On the other hand, if your answers are more to the contrary to the direction of the questions - i.e., if you mostly just keep to power chords, simple riffs, or follow along with the bass - I'm happy to discuss that, too, and pick your brain for how you got to your style. I'm not necessarily trying to rule anyone out of discussion as much as gather opinions, but I'm mostly hopeful to hear from people who've found a way to do something a little different and maybe impart some ideas.

    Tl;dr: (mostly) for you folks who tune way low on a 6 or otherwise just limit your own access to the higher registers - how do you keep you playing interesting and break the cycles that the instrument seems to invite in that range?
     
  2. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire grossly incandescent

    Messages:
    14,319
    Likes Received:
    13,781
    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Location:
    Minnesota
    I find the best way to get out of a musical rut is to play along with music/genres I'm not very familiar with. Lately it's been a lot of country and gypsy jazz. lower tunings and baritone guitars fit right in with country, which helps.
     
  3. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Hey...how did everybody get in my room?

    Messages:
    2,131
    Likes Received:
    2,007
    Joined:
    May 3, 2014
    Location:
    Seattle
    I have yet to play a super low tuned 6 or 7 string guitar that I liked the tone of. The lowest I have been able to coax a sound I like is 1 step down A standard on 7. Anything lower would probably be just drop tuning the A to G, or just F# standard on an 8, and I’d use it for chuggy stuff and rhythmic single note patterns. E standard to D standard (or B to A on 7) just seems to “sing” better for my playing, and using more complex chord voicings.
     
  4. Bearitone

    Bearitone SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    4,475
    Likes Received:
    1,784
    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have a 28-5/8” bari in drop G.
    I find jamming on the clean channel of an amp brings more creativity when I’m in a rut. Forces me to be melodic and explore outside my comfort zone to avoid getting bored.

    Basically I’ve had more “ah-ha!” moments on the clean channel.

    Since what i play is mostly minor/sad sounding, even on the clean channel, i can usually transfer it over to the high-gain channel and modify it to sound aggressive in some way.

    I feel like this is probably common though.

    Overall having a baritone tuned low doesn’t keep me from playing melodically or with chord voicings, i just find I’m not playing lightning fast. I tend to right “bouncier” riffs when i tune higher.
     
  5. ElectricBaliset

    ElectricBaliset Buhnuhnuh-nuhnuhnuh

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    A simple but pretty much surefire suggestion that somehow gets away from me way too often. With that, you've reminded me of a decade+-old commitment to dig into Django Reinhardt & Co. Great call.
     
  6. ElectricBaliset

    ElectricBaliset Buhnuhnuh-nuhnuhnuh

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    I've had surprising results across different guitars. I've got a 25.5" ESP that does F# incredibly well, but I also string it up a little lighter than one would probably expect. On the other hand, I have a 27" 8-string that sounds dull and far too bassy at F#, to my ears.

    I hear you on your tuning preferences, though. Hence my debacle. Most of the time I won't settle for giving up my high end. At this point I'm just bent on proving to myself that it can be done in a lower range, but it might even just be that I don't have the right gear for the job. 27" isn't really even ideal for 8-string standard.

    I think I read somewhere where Bulb said he just plays slower when tunes lower; the implicit takeaway was that the harmonic demands on a guitar in that range, make it impractical to think that you'll sound good if you try to over-complicate things.

    I like your approach of relying on the clean channel for inspiration. I _kind of_ do that sometimes - I have a few different go-to methods for getting a song off the ground, and one is just to build a motif that starts from something sparkly and clean, and then to play off it with various re-imaginings of it throughout the song, including the big dumb distorted parts. Not exactly an uncommon rock song technique, but your take on it is leaves me realizing where I kind of set the bounds with that notion. I feel like it's really hard to take ideas in the typical here's-why-we-bought-a-baritone range and make them work well on a clean channel, but that might be my downfall. I love when pianos take it to that range; no reason a guitar can't serve a similar function.

    ===

    You guys probably have no idea how much your input is getting the gears turning, I really appreciate it!
     
    Bearitone likes this.
  7. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

    Messages:
    1,584
    Likes Received:
    499
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Hmm... I either have 7- or 8-string instruments, but I did reduce my range on my 8-string classical. It's basically B standard with a low E, and a high D string. Whilst I use it for truly extended range stuff, it's more for flavour and phrasing and I don't use the high D string much, so mostly B is my highest string.

    So my answer, if is the range is low, but the top end is restricted, is that I simply play anything I normally would, except low. I have a low voice, so transposing everything down a fourth to B (or lower) makes it much easier for me to sing things. I'm a bass-baritone, so a bass-baritone guitar suits me. I treat my low E1 string as I would any other string and use it for chords, just without the high end. It's satisfying playing open chords B and below.

    So I suppose my answer is, I do what I'd otherwise do, except it's a hell of a lot lower. It's not an interesting answer, but that's my approach. But I hardly run distortion through my classical.
     
    ElectricBaliset likes this.
  8. ElectricBaliset

    ElectricBaliset Buhnuhnuh-nuhnuhnuh

    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    I like your classical tuning, if I'm understanding it properly (EBEADF#BD). I've like EADF#BD on a six string for quite a while, so I eventually took it to an 8, albeit without dropping the low string. Really satisfying to hit that wide-open Bm chord, and the top strings lend themselves to all kinds of cool drone possibilities.

    I think with acoustics of any kind - maybe especially classical - what you're doing makes a lot of sense. My experience with playing in super-low tunings on acoustics, is that the way they resonate in that range can actually sound really nice, though perhaps more so with less cluttered voicings. I've always thought this:



    was a fantastic example of what a low-tuned acoustic can do. He takes advantage of his high range, for sure, but a lot of what he's doing could be recreated on a 6, and what few notes might come out of reach, could be transposed down an octave with little to no damage done. Blackbird's a pretty simple song, so the execution is practically tasteful by default, but there's an embedded lesson here that ports well even to more aggressive styles, I'd say.

    I think my takeaway is that I need to reconsider whether I'm too hung up on creating complex things with an instrument that's not as well suited to them. I tend to forget that the guitar doesn't have to be the most "interesting" or "busiest" instrument in the mix to be doing its part well.
     
  9. Dayn

    Dayn silly person

    Messages:
    1,584
    Likes Received:
    499
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yeah definitely. I'm using Savarez strings on my classical, and they make them down to E1 - even on its shorter scale, that bass note rings out like a standard E2. Close chord voicings are naturally less distinct down that low, but they still sound powerful.

    I've had the same problem with my 8-string. I've had only my 8-string for almost my entire guitar-playing life, and I've always strived to use it to its fullest potential. So when I finally picked up a 7-string last year, I was a bit lost as to how to use it - how could I, if I was missing 7 notes? My 8's in drop E and my 7 is in B standard, so although they were almost identical in tuning, it took me a while to think of them in conceptually different ways. Eventually I thought of my 7-string as an instrument on its own and using its strengths within its own limitations, and I've found that my approach to my 8-string has similarly been affected.

    So I think in the end, it really does just come down to what you said: you just need to make music with what you have, and let it do the role it's suited for. Limitations breed creativity I find, but it's sometimes hard to impose those limits. But I've found the same with my voice: I want to sing power metal, but I'm a bass-baritone and I'm certainly no virtuoso. Much like a bass-baritone guitar, I can, with great difficulty, stretch and hit an A4 in my chest voice - but that's not what it's built to do. I've been happier accepting my limits and exploring what my instrument (my voice) is best at.

    But whether it's voice or guitar, I've found that range is best for building stable, rock-solid foundations in low registers. Perfect for droning and shifting the whole context of the music above it that it supports.
     
  10. PatientMental76

    PatientMental76 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    160
    Likes Received:
    88
    Joined:
    Mar 4, 2018
    If your playing baritone your just missing a string or 2 no big deal if your not going to use super high notes but if its a must then you have to get a 7 or 8-string! Even if your on a 25.5 scale and you tune to G# like i do which is the lowest you can go on a 6-string in my opinion your basically playing super heavy shit but can still solo if needed! Like the great Willie Brown said "you gotta how to use your whip"!
     
  11. axxessdenied

    axxessdenied Arium Addict

    Messages:
    3,608
    Likes Received:
    951
    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2011
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I avoid djenting by using a rat pedal. ;)
     
  12. GunpointMetal

    GunpointMetal SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    3,034
    Likes Received:
    1,783
    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2011
    Location:
    Madison, WI
    I guess maybe I don't apply as my instruments have both standard tuning AND ridiculously low tuning available (9-string in double drop A, 8 string in drop E), but I never really approached the low end any different than I did when I was in closer-to-standard tunings. That's how I ended up with all the extra strings versus just tuning down, though. I wanted the sound of the gut-rumbling tunings without giving up the "guitar" voice. I've known a few people over the years who have gone into down-tune territory and feel the same as you though, in that their own particular voice is lost on the instrument because they're playing to the tuning. My only real suggestion is make sure the guitar is set-up in a way that the low tunings don't really feel different than higher tunings in regard to string tension, action height, etc. Seems like a lot of people think they need to go to insanely high tensions for down-tuning when they were playing 42s in Db or something and can't figure out why the instrument feels totally different. I you like a little slack and give in higher tunings, setup your baritone that way, too. That being said, as I've tried different tunings/guitars/strings/scale lengths over the years, some things just work in certain tunings and some things don't. I've lost a lot of cool riffs along the way because what sounded really cool in drop B sounds cheesy tuned up to drop D, or sounds like dgeneric djent in drop E.
     

Share This Page