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Tune Bass Guitar

How To Tune A Bass Guitar

One of the first things you need to know after getting a bass guitar is how to tune your shiny new instrument. Tuning any musical instrument is the first step to produce perfect tones from it. By the end of this article, you will learn how to tune your bass guitar in different ways.

Knowing how to tune a bass is mandatory for any level of bassist. There is no way to play anything correctly on a mistuned instrument. Also, it’s going to sound super odd. But practicing on a tuned guitar is, of course, more fun and enjoyable.

Tuning a bass is not hard at all. You can start tuning your bass by yourself right after reading this article to the end. You may have seen guitarists tune their guitars after they have arrived on the stage. If you know the right way and do some practice, you can also tune your guitar like them within a minute or two.

There are different ways to tune a bass guitar. There are different types of bass guitar with a different number of strings. Maybe you want to tune a 4-string bass, or you may have a 5 or 6-string bass. Don’t worry – we will go through it all.

Before Getting Into Bass Guitar Tuning

Before getting into the main topic of how to tune bass guitar, you need to know a few things about your bass guitar. So, let’s get familiar with the basic parts of your bass that work to adjust tuning.

The tuning pegs at the headstock of the bass are the main components that work to tune your bass guitar. Also, make sure you have strung your strings in the right way.

Remember, you have to tune your bass guitar by increasing or decreasing the tension of the strings and you can do it by turning the pegs. Turing the pegs will change the pitch. If you tighten the strings, the pitch will go up, and loosening the strings will cause the pitch to go down.

Methods Of Tuning A Bass Guitar

There are three main methods to tune your bass guitar. You may have a 4, 5, or 6-string bass guitar. Of course, there is a difference in tuning because you will have more notes to tune the more strings you have. However, the methods are the same. We have given further explanations later in this article. Make sure to read the “tuning bass guitar” section of this article.

Bass guitar tuning methods:

  • Using a tuning device
  • Using a bass tuner application on your smartphone
  • Use another instrument as a reference and tune by listening

How to Tune Bass Guitar With a Tuning Device

Tuning a bass with the help of a tuning device is a lot easier for beginners. There are a few different types of bass guitar tuners.

Clip-on tuners have brought on a revolution for tuning on the go and with ease. Bass tuner pedals give you the highest level of accuracy. Lastly, you can also use plain old fashion electronic tuners.

Some of these tools are cheap, but still very useful. Other could give you more bells and whistles, but will cost more, although they may still be worth it.

In order to tune your guitar with a clip-on bass tuner, clip it to the top of your bass’s headstock, turn it on, and start playing each string one at a time.

If you are tuning it using a bass tuner pedal, plug in your bass guitar to the bass tuner pedal and start playing each string one at a time.

Clip on tuners, bass pedal tuners, or regular electronic bass tuners will measure the string’s vibrations and show indications if the note is too flat or too sharp.

Simply play a string. If the tuning device shows that the note is too flat, it means the frequency is too low. So, you have to turn the peg attached to that string a bit tighter.

If the tuner shows the string as too sharp that means the sound is too high. So, you have to turn the peg to loosen the tension of the string.

Play a string with your picking hand and twist the peg slowly with your fretting hand according to what your tuning device shows. Do it slowly and gently. Because tightening the pegs too much can tear off the strings.

Similarly, tune the other strings one at a time until all strings on your bass are in tune.

That’s it! All you need to know now is what notes you will be tuning each string to. We cover that section later.

Oh, one other thing – if you just put new strings on the bass, or you just bought the bass guitar, I would recommend you tune every string a few times, as it may tend to get out of tune quickly in the beginning.

How to Tune Bass Guitar With a Smartphone

Most people nowadays have access to a smartphone. And you will be happy to know that your smartphone can help you to tune your bass guitar. So you don’t even need a separate tuning device. There are plenty of mobile applications for both android & ios to help you with your bass tuning.

Simply go to the play store or apple store, search bass guitar tuner, then download and install an application that says it has bass guitar tuning. Then open the application and select bass guitar tuning.

A couple of applications for Android that have many reviews and get good ratings are Ultimate Bass Tuner Free and Fine Bass Tuner.

A couple of good options for Apple users are GuitarTuna and ClearTune.

Tuning bass with the help of a tuner device or smartphone app is quite similar. Just place your phone close to your strings. Then play a string and adjust the tension by twisting the peg according to what your application indicates. The app shows if your string is too sharp, too flat, or tuned just right.

These apps are mostly free. And most of them work pretty well.

How to Tune Bass Guitar Without a Tuning Device

Tuning your bass guitar without a tuning device may sound a bit difficult for beginners. But after some stage of learning to play the bass, you better get used to this tuning method too.

To follow this method you have to rely on your ears. You need to have another reliable instrument, such as a piano, keyboard, or another bass guitar that is already tuned.

The process is – play a note on your reference instrument and then play a similar note on your bass. Compare the sound (high or low frequency) and twist the peg accordingly until it matches the reference pitch.

For example, play an open E note on your reference instrument, then play the open E string on your bass. These two notes will produce a higher frequency tone called overtone. The overtone will sound inconsistent if they are not in the same tune. It will sound like a wobbling beat if you listen sharply.

Your goal is to match the frequency of the bass strings to the notes you want to tune. If you turn the tuning key in the right order, the beat will slow down as it comes closer to the reference tone. If the frequencies match, the beat will resolve completely.

Once you have tuned one string correctly, you don’t need the reference instrument anymore. Now play a fretted note on a lower string and then tune your open string to match that note. This is referred to as “relative pitch”.
We will tell you which frets to play on each string to tune the next string over in the sections below.

Bass Guitar Tuning Theory

In western music, there are twelve notes per octave. These notes are named as A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G# serially one after another.

The bass guitar frets are designed like (that’s true for all types of guitar). if you tune a string in A note the first fret of that string will play A# note. In the same order, the fifth fret will play the D note and the 12th fret will return to the A note. The difference between open string A note & 12th fret A note is one octave. The open string A note is in a lower octave & the 12th fret A note is in a higher octave.

So the result is, by tuning one string into a known frequency music note you can identify the rest of the notes in specific fret positions of that string. Using the rest of the notes you can tune the other strings.

Here, we are going to discuss the standard bass tuning by ear to draw you a clear picture.

Bass Guitar Standard Tuning

Standard tune is the most popular tuning. If you are a beginner, start practicing your bass with standard tuning. The standard tuning notes for different types of bass are given below.

How to Tune a 4-String Bass Guitar

4-string bass is the most popular and standard form of bass guitar. The standard tuning for a 4-string bass guitar is, E, A, D, G. Here, E is the lowest note and thickest string, and G is the highest note and thinnest string. If you have tuned this E string using another source, the rest of the fretted notes you need to follow are-

  • Play the fifth fret of the E string and match the frequency with the open A string.
  • Play the fifth fret of the A string and match the frequency with the open D string.
  • Play the fifth fret of the D string and match the frequency with the open G string.

How to Tune a 5-String Bass Guitar

If you have a 5-string bass guitar, then there are two ways to tune it. You can add an extra low note by adjusting it on B, E, A, D, and G. If you want a higher sounding bass tune it to E, A, D, G, C.

For both cases, you see the interval is still the same between two consecutive strings in terms of bass guitar frets. Which is the fifth fret interval.

Now, if you have tuned the E string from another source you will find the B note on the 7th fret. Match this note with the open B string which will be one octave lower.

In the case of a higher-sounding bass tune, use the fifth fret interval to tune the thinnest C string from the G string.

How to Tune a 6-String Bass Guitar

Not much popular, but there are 6-string bass guitars too. It allows you to have an extra-low string and an extra-high string. If you want to tune a 6 string bass guitar, tune it to B, E, A, D, G, C. The methods are the same as we have discussed earlier.

Finally, we hope you understand that if you know the tune of one string, you can come up with any Bass guitar tuning formation you want using the bass guitar tuning theory.

Bass Guitar Drop-D Tuning

Drop D tuning is another popular form of tuning a bass guitar after the standard form. Here you have to lower the E string down to a D note. So the notes are D, A, D, G.

There are different tuning variations for bass guitar. Especially, standard tuning and drop-D tuning are the most popular ones.

Bass Guitar Standard Tuning

Standard tune is the most used form of tuning. If you are a beginner, start practicing your bass with standard tuning. The standard tuning notes for different types of bass are given below.

How to Tune a 4-String Bass Guitar

4-string bass is the most popular and standard form of bass guitar. The standard tuning for a 4-string bass guitar is, E, A, D, G. Here E is the lowest note and thickest string. Now that you know the notes, Follow whatever method you liked from the above and tune your bass on E, A, D, G.

How to Tune a 5-String Bass Guitar

If you have a 5-string bass guitar, then there are two ways to tune it. You can add an extra low note by adjusting it on B, E, A, D, and G. If you want a higher sounding bass tune it to E, A, D, G, C. There is not much of a difference in methods. Follow whatever method you like and get the notes accordingly.

How to Tune a 6-String Bass Guitar

Not much popular, but there are 6-string bass guitars too. It allows you to have an extra-low string and an extra-high string. If you want to tune a 6 string bass guitar, tune it to B, E, A, D, G, C. The methods are the same as we have discussed earlier.

Bass Guitar Drop-D Tuning

Drop D tuning is another popular form of tuning a bass guitar after the standard form. Here you have to lower the E string down to a D note. So the notes are D, A, D, G.

What Is The Easiest Way To Tune A Bass Guitar?

From the discussion above you can already understand that the easiest way to tune a bass guitar is doing it with the help of a tuning device or a smartphone application.

It is hard to recognize and get the exact tone of your bass if you are not familiar with any musical instrument before. So, as a beginner musician, you can take advantage of a tuning device or tuning app. At the same time, keep trying to tune without a device. Because that’s also important.

How Often Should I Tune My Bass Guitar?

You should always keep your bass tuned as much as possible. There really is no fun in playing an untuned instrument.

At a minimum, you should tune it every time you begin a playing session. Quite simply, check your bass guitar tuning each time you hold your guitar to play something.

If you feel like any of the strings is not giving proper sound, you have to adjust your tuning.

Usually, bass guitars stay in tune for days, even weeks depending on how often you play, the strings you use, the quality of the bass guitar, and the environment you live in.

The weather change (temperature, humidity) can affect the tuning quite a bit.

Even if you have a pretty good ear for tones and notes, it’s still a good idea to tune your bass guitar the way we’ve described, just to make sure you are as close to the desired tuning as possible.

Summary

Tuning a bass guitar can be very easy if you follow the guidance we have provided. If you are a beginner, we highly recommend using a clip-on bass tuner or a bass tuner pedal.

If you are seasoned veteran, you can still use one of the tools we recommend, or you can simply use relative tuning as we described above.

Do as we have instructed in this article and you can take yourself one step further to become a great bassist!

If you have any questions or feedback, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know in the comment section.

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