A Retuning Experiment by Jimi Durso… I stole this idea from someone else, but can’t remember who (so I can’t fully give them credit, but I don’t think he came up with it anyhow, so it’s probably okay). It’s a great way to break out of ruts, as well as to discover aspects of your inherent musical personality.
It’s a very simple idea: just re-tune your bass to some random tuning. It might just be tuning a couple of strings a half step one way or the other, like F A D F#, for instance, though tuning the middle strings can often really pull you out of your habits (try E Bb Eb G, or E Bb D Ab). Or try tuning some strings a whole step away from normal. Don’t just use drop-D tuning, though. Make it something you’re unfamiliar with. (There’s a great song by Bill Laswell called “Silent Land” that’s tuned D A D F, a Dm chord. Check out what he does with harmonics in this tuning.)
After you’ve retuned, now start improvising in this tuning. But don’t overthink it. Play around like you’ve never played before and see what you discover. Keep doing this until you come up with a riff or hook or melody, some idea that you would want to repeat.
When you’ve got this, record yourself playing it. Now tune your bass back to standard, and learn what you created. You may find the fingerings are ones you wouldn’t have come up with normally. Try analyzing what you came up with as well. Maybe it’ll fit into things you already do, but maybe not. Maybe you won’t even understand how these notes fit together (which would be really cool). If at all possible, start incorporating this lick or idea into your playing. Try fitting it into tunes you currently play, or write a new song around it, or just start a jam with it; however you can think of making it part of your style.