What is the standard tuning on a 10-string Stick?

Standard Stick tuning has the melody strings in 4ths, F#BEAD lowest to highest, and the bass in 5ths, CGDAE, the low C string as the 6th string and ascending to the tenth string.

So looking at the Stick, you have:

E A D G C F# B E A D

The strings are number 1-10, counted right to left.


Matched Reciprocal tuning

Well, for starters, you’re not dropping a whole step going from matched reciprocal to standard, you’re going up a whole step. On string gauge ... yep, if you order strings from SE for standard as oppose to MR, the strings will be somewhat lighter.

You’re going to get opinions all over the map about the tunings simply because there are so many (all listed on the SE site plus many custom tunings not listed) and everybody loves their tuning for varying reasons.

After a lot of plugs for MR, that was the tuning I ordered when I got my newest 12-string. I hammered on it for about 2 weeks before switching to standard 6+6. For me, I just didn’t like MR as well, for others, it’s the greatest. I think, in the end, the only sensible choice it to play around and go with your desire.

I think that the ability to play a bass note and chords on the treble side with the left hand thingy is overrated. It has never worked very well for me.

On the other hand, after switching to MR, my hands would bump up against each other a whole lot less. For me it is the way to go.

Different tunings all have their good and bad points. Whenever the discussion comes up, people tend to have strong opinions. It’s like arguing about the choice of text editors. (vi rules, BTW) So don’t be in too much of a hurry to change. You’ve got new strings. Wait till they are at least worn out before changing. Sometimes using an unfamiliar tuning forces you into approaching your instrument differently.


Baritone Matched Reciprocal & 6+4 tunings

I had a similar experience with the standard tuning. Part of what led me to the Baritone Melody tuning (before there was a Baritone Melody tuning) was the sound and tension characteristic of the high string in standard light gauge. To me it was too dissimilar in tension to the next string over, and the sound didn’t seem to match up either.

I’ve heard a lot of people make good use of this tuning, however, such as Cides and Steve Hahn, and even Emmett himself (I love the way it sounds on Parallel Galaxy).

But it just wasn’t right for the kind of thing I wanted to do, so I took off that string. I moved the other four melody strings over one position and added a lower fourth in the melody. This was in 1985, about three months after I got the instrument. It turns out that Emmett developed the Baritone tuning around that time or not much after that, lowering the melody strings a 4th and raising the bass strings a whole step, which preserved the relationship between the two hands (I believe for chordal purposes).

I liked the increased overlap of the strings, and didn’t miss the high string at all. As I could get much lower on the melody side, my hands weren’t bumping into each other as much either. But I lost a fair amount of high range on the instrument. Thiis wasn’t much of a problem when playing solo, but ultimately I felt like I was being limited in group contexts by not having that higher range.

The physics of it all are the real limiting factor. You can’t get that high D without a very thin string. I like the Matched Reciprocal 12-string tuning because it has more consistent tension. I also really like the plain-to-wound transition on the melody side with medium gauge MR strings. MR tuning solves a lot of problems. It seems to be the most versatile of all the tunings I’ve tried (but I haven’t tried them all).

Regarding differences in strings, you’ll find there’s not that much difference until you get to the heavier wound strings. Then there is a tremendous difference.

Regarding your idea about 7+5, there are several people on the list who have “been there, done that,” and I defer to them.

Regarding making a ten-string 6+4, you would lose most of the chordal possibilities in the left hand, and would probably be reduced to playing only bass lines with the left hand, at which point you might as well switch to 4ths instead of 5ths in the left hand, because that’s what you see most 4ths players doing on the bass strings (though there are some who tune it higher and play chords).

Regarding the “acoustical” nature of the strings, you should probably switch to heavy gauge to overcome this if it is a real problem. Or you could work with it for a while and see what you think:) The ability to translate subtlety is a big benefit if you ask me, and it’s one big reason why I play The Stick instead of the piano (but you can also do this with heavier gauges, just not quite as easily).


Deep tunings

I ordered my Grand last year with the bass side a minor third below standard. That means the low note was an A, the lowest pitch on a concert grand piano. I thought it was pretty cool until Greg and Emmett pointed out that the heavy-gauge .128 bass string would sound much better just half a step up (at Bb, the low string on Deep MR). So I raised everything half a step and immediately heard the difference. So the answer to “how low may we go” in my experience, is Bb.

However, another list member and I have discussed seven-string basses that have a low F#. That’s the F# below Bb in Deep MR, using string diameters from .145 to .165. I asked Emmett what such a string must sound like, and he said “mud.” Indeed, I tried playing in that range on my Kurzweil synth with a very good, clean bass patch. Sure enough, mud. I don’t know much about the science of sound, but I know there is simply a limit to what average speakers can reproduce and what our ears can perceive, regardless of what instrument is producing the pitch. Plus, it’s just plain hard to be musical (whatever that means) in such low registers. There may be some cool effects way down there, but do we really need to achieve them on the Stick? Some players may say sure, why not. But I found that the sonic expense was not worth it.

I think that if your top string gauge is at .135 it gives a way betters sound. the bands Korn and Fear Factory use .135 and it sounds cool

I have a ten string graphite stick (extended scale) tune down to a low A (deep matched reciprocal). it sounds good if you don’t thomp the lower notes. I get a very deep beautiful sound down there. I’ll try tuning it up to see what happens. I did have rattles at first but minor adjustments and some softer playing took care of it!

How low? Well, that A you’re talking about is at about 25 hz. It is actually very uncommon to find a speaker that goes below 50 hz, and even rare to find one that goes below 40.

But the big problem is the string itself. if it is to vibrate at that low frequency it must be very low tension. When the string is that low tension, different regions of it can start going of ‘solo’, and that is what makes the mud. Otherwise, the string mass has to be raised considerably, making a very big and unplayable string.

Just to clarify:

When I was using the low A, mud was not so much the problem. The note sounded fine. It’s just that Bb sounds better given the size and tension of the string. It also feels better with a half-step’s worth of added tension. As I recall, Emmett told me that the low A will work but Bb just sounds better. I think his words were that “every half-step counts” down in that range.

The mud I referred to was from synth notes played lower than low A, actually from about G or F# down. This may vary with the patch and the synth or, for that matter, with a custom bass vs. a Stick. My point was that I have found it difficult to use that range musically in a way that appeals to me.


A couple of suggestions on tuning procedure (using a tuner)

1. Tune the strings on a fret in the area where you play the most. I use around the 12-15th fret for the “melody” strings, and around the 4th-7th fret for the “bass” strings.

2. Dampen all of the strings except for the one you’re tuning.

3. Fret the string you’re tuning with the hand you usually use for that string (i.e. right hand for the “melody” strings and left hand for the “bass” strings) and use the same touch (amount of pressure) you use for normal playing.

4. Do a harmonic on the fourth string 12th fret and the third string 7th they should sound th same if not its out of tune.


Emmett Chapman on the development of his Stick tunings

Steve asks how I invented the melody 4ths/reversed bass 5ths Stick tunings. I’m curious myself as to what processes were involved, and don’t want to stifle others’ thoughts, so I’ll just present the chain reaction that got me there in the late ‘60s.

The first act was to reverse the the 3 lowest bass strings in pitch but not in letter named notes. I did this on my 8-stringed guitar before I was ever tapping with both hands. It was like tuning the lowest guitar E up an octave, leaving the adjacent A string alone, and dropping the adjacent D string down an octave. Now I could more easily reach all my jazz chords, fingering simultaneously on both sides of the lowest D, also expanding my range down another whole tone (from low E to lower D), and enjoying bass 5ths for the first time. Later I added a lower 5th at the position inside the lowest D to get the bass G, and finally the low bass C inside that.

The tuning divided the board. I was already striving to play like “two fisted” jazz pianists (with some Coltrane and later Hendrix lead lines thrown in). The goal was division of the melody line and the accompaniment chords. The surprise bonus was the bass line that seemed to grow of itself. Why not tap with both hands? Well, I wasn’t thinking that. It was not a plan or even so much of an idea. I just placed my right hand across the board from the other side and there it was, the musical opportunity of a lifetime!


Bob Culbertson's acouStick tuning


Here is some information about the tuning I use o­n the Acoustick. The bass side is a 5th higher. I use this because I wanted to get a more “fat guitar sound” rather than a bass and guitar. Also we decided to go with 10 stiring instead of 12 because of structural issues and less complicated to make. Also, I use the bass side high strings o­n my Grand alot. I wanted to have those notes available o­n the acoustick. I actually believe you could use a lower bass string. Ironically the tapping method seems to bring out some sound better o­n an acoustic bass instrument at low notes. I experimented with acoustick bass instruments before I had the Acoustick built. Some of the best tone is in the 3 lowest strings. I am working o­n how to improve the melody side a bit. I am thinking of using a slightly heavier guage for the melody side.

On the melody side i use baritone tuning. 1, the tone is better o­n lower strings. 2, the relationship is matched reciprocal without the low note and high melody. I even experimented with a tuning 1/2 step lower so the lowest bass string was a 4th lower than the lowest melody side. Of course this gives you a 6 string melody and 5 string bass o­n a 10 string instrument. The 1/2 step drove me nuts especially in classical music and decided not to use it. But I now play some passages across the 6th and 5th string by ajusting the 1/2 step o­n those few runs I am looking for a lower melody note.

12th fret = 1st to 10th string G,D,A,E,B,,,G,D,A,E,B

Thanks for all the support


tunings.txt (727 views) · Last modified: 03/02/2010 11:47