1.4 Which tuning to choose: 4-4 or 5-4?


The tuning of the bass in fourths is certainly the most logical, and it is the one chosen by the author of this book. There is yet another matter to discuss, and here are the essential elements:

1.4.1 Bass in fifths

. Advantages:
In the beginning, the playing looks easy for simple bass lines of the C-F-G-c family. Simple repetitive bass patterns on roots and fifths can be played without problems (Rock, Samba). There is a larger span in notes: 2 octaves and one major third on a single row (28 half tones). The bass in fourths, in comparison, has a span of one octave and one minor sixth (20 half-tones). This is the distinctive quality of the tuning in fifths that, to quote Emmett Chapman “offers some big advan-tages in two-handed playing.”
The left hand can accompany the right with simple wide-intervals chords that are not available on standard bass (the bass in fourths).
Unique bass lines and patterns fall easily on the fingers.
The left hand can easily grasp 2 1/2 octave over a span of three frets on the bass strings alone.
The bass is then tuned as a cello. This makes playing diatonic bass lines difficult because it involves permanent change of position. The “repertoire” of the double-bass is practically excluded. Also you can forget about reading with both hands.
The fourths melody-hand play does not obey the same graphic rules as the fifths bass-hand play. This produces extreme, if not insuperable, difficulty in the execution of two simultaneous melodies.
Emmett Chapman tells us in “Free Hands”: “Tuning the bass in fifths, … some intervals are easier to reach such as fifths…. Other intervals need a long reach like all scale playing. The natural language of the bass in fifths takes your fingers into a more vertical approach to the bass lines, with larger interval leaps falling more easily into the finger technique. Bass tuned in fourths, on the other hand, brings you into a more melodic language, like that of jazz walking bass or the bass counter-point of baroque” (lesson 10). “Keep in mind that scales are harder to play on Stick (he means in fifths) bass and larger intervals are easier” (lesson 11).

1.4.2 Bass in fourths

The playing is graphically identical to a bass guitar seen in a mirror and graphically identical for both hands, and therefore easier. All melodic lines are possible. There is access to the interval of a second in position.
There is access to a reduced number of notes (28% less than in fifths for an identical po-sition). This problem is solved with an instrument with 6 strings on the bass side. (see1.
The tuning of the bass in fourths is the one I personally recommend for its simplicity. Though having played in fifths for 5 years it just took me a month to learn to play in fourths. As I always played according to the C-dots, the process was easy. When I tuned the bass in fourths, I changed the positions of the C-dots and my hands automatically followed.

1.4.3 How to go from the 5-4 to the 4-4 instrument

It is important to notice that they are not different instruments. You only have to retune a few strings on the bass side. In order  to do this choose the tuning explained in section To go from one to the other is very simple: retune strings #7 to #10 (Bass #4 to #1) in fourths. That’s all. Strings #1 to #6 (melody #1 to #5 and Bass #5) remain unchanged.