How to Tune a Bass Guitar

Tuning an electric bass means getting each string to hit the right note accurately and precisely. But also being able to keep in tune for a long time.

Sometimes, because of ignorance, and sometimes because of laziness or because we are in a hurry to play, we do not tune the bass correctly, and the strings are constantly out of tune.
That’s why in this post, in addition to seeing the different types of bass tunings, we are going to teach you how to tune your instrument correctly so that the strings stay in tune for a long time. Shall we go?

The electric bass tunes in intervals of perfect fourth

Review our lesson on bass intervals

What you need to know to tune a bass guitar

Although it is something logical, essential, and seems to be the usual action of any musician, you would be surprised how many times a bassist or guitarist does not play with an accurate tuning.Bassist, it is worthless to have the best bass, or the best amplifier, or the best accessories, if you do not take care of the most important thing: always tune your instrument.

At first it is something that costs. Let’s face it, tuning the bass is one of the most boring things a bass player has to do every day.Yes, yes, every time we play we have to check that our instrument is tuned correctly.Of course, many beginner and not so beginner bass players think that just buying a tuner is enough.

And, in a way, yes, it is. Having a good tuner is essential, but it is worthless if you do not follow some basic considerations when tuning, I know the different ways to tune a bass.That is why, in this post we will talk about everything you need to know to tune a bass:

  • Methods for tuning.
  • Tips for tuning well.
  • All types of tunings.

Ready? Perfect bassist, to the Groove!

Different ways to tune a bass guitar

If we list all the ways to tune a bass guitar, we can identify several:

  • By ear.
  • With tuner.
  • With fork tuning fork.

Of course, the fork fingerboard is a historical accessory, and hardly in use today.

So, among guitarists and bassists, the two basic ways of tuning the instrument are by ear and by tuner.

Experienced bassists have no problem identifying the tuning of their instrument by ear, and accurately controlling the tension of their strings. Although, being rigorous, the right thing to do is to always use a tuner, or an already tuned instrument to have a reference note, so if you are a beginner bass player, or simply want to be 100% sure that your instrument has the exact tuning, the best way to tune your bass is with the help of a tuner.

Tuning by ear

Tuning the electric bass by ear requires experience, and a great sensitivity of hearing.Some experienced bass players are able to tune independently. Bare-headed. But to be able to achieve accurate tuning of each string, without any outside help, requires many hours of rehearsal, and having a great ear.But let’s be sensible, to get good accuracy, we recommend that you practice some of these ways to tune a bass guitar by ear:

  • Tuning by ear with the help of a tuning fork.
  • To take as a reference a note of an already tuned instrument.
  • To tune using overtones.
  • Checking the tuning using octaves.

Tuning with a tuner

The tuner is a fundamental bass guitar accessory.

Thanks to it we can be sure that we are always in tune in a quick and easy way. ideally, before starting to rehearse and, above all, before and during a concert, you should always use it to always play the right note. there is a great variety of tuners, and its size is not an excuse to always carry it in your case.

Also, for the more absent-minded, or for those times when you go with your colleagues to the park, there are Apps for tuning the bass with which you can have a tuner at hand on your smartphone.

RECOMMENDATION: if you want to know the different types of tuners, and which are the best models, here is a complete guide to bass tuners.

Tips for tuning a bass guitar correctly

The first thing to keep in mind when tuning the electric bass, is that when we talk about tuning we refer to the note of each string in the air, that is, to tune the instrument you should never pluck the string, the left hand (right if you are left-handed) handle the pegs leaving the neck free.

And how do you control the pegs? easy, by turning keep in mind that tuning consists of tightening or loosening the strings until you reach the exact pitch or note you want to give.and although it is a very simple process, there are some steps and tips to tune the bass correctly:

  • Always tune by tightening the string. Never look for the tuning by loosening the peg. In this way we will always try to keep the string taut and maintain the tuning for a longer time.
  • Tune string by string. Unless you have a polyphonic tuner, the correct thing to do is to cover or mute all the strings except the one you are going to tune so as not to confuse the tuner.
  • Always start with the lowest string. That is to say, in an ascending way.
  • Press the string once and let it vibrate until it almost goes out by itself. Do not touch it repeatedly so as not to introduce interference. It is better to do it only once and squeeze or release the pin until it is positioned in the center.
  • Play the string gently. You don’t need to play it hard to make it pick up the note better, rather you will achieve the opposite.

Standard electric bass tuning

By standard tuning we mean the normal tuning of an instrument, and according to which most musical compositions are written.Thus, if the notation, transcription or cipher, does not indicate a particular tuning, it is always assumed that the instrument is tuned in a standard way.

That is, as we have indicated before: by playing each string in the air it generates the standard note for which it is designed.

Yes, yes, that is why there are different thicknesses of strings. And, although they can all be tuned to the note we want, we won’t get the same note pitch if we tune the 1st string to B for example, than if we tune the 4th or 6th (much thicker and with more tension).

And that’s also the reason why the name of the electric bass strings corresponds to their standard note.So, regardless of the gauge of your string set, below you have the standard tuning of the different basses depending on the number of strings.

Tuning 4-string electric bass guitar

The standard tuning of a 4 string electric bass is:

    • 1st string: G (G)
    • 2nd string: D (D)
    • 3rd string: A (A)

4th string: E (E)

From the thickest string (4th) to the thinnest string (1st): E, A, D, G – EADG.

Tuning 5-string electric bass guitar

The standard tuning of a 5-string electric bass is:

    • 1st string: G (G)
    • 2nd string: D (D)
    • 3rd string: A (A)
    • 4th string: E (E)

5th string: B (B)

From the thickest string (5th) to the thinnest string (1st): B, E, A, D, G – BEADG, i.e. the tuning is the same as for a four string bass, but a thicker and lower string is added.Of course, as with everything else, it will depend on your taste, or the genre of music you play.
However, keep in mind that before experimenting with a different tuning than the standard one, you should pay attention to the following tips:

  • Thicker, heavier gauge strings are better suited for low tunings. If they are lowered too much, they increase the tension exerted on the neck.
  • The higher the pitch of the desired note, the smaller the recommended string gauge.
  • Changing the strings for other strings with different gauge changes the overall tension of the neck, which can cause the neck to bend and become misaligned. It is therefore advisable to adjust the web and quintar whenever the tension is modified.

That said, here are the 2 most frequent alternative tunings for electric bass:

Tuning bass in Drop D or Drop D

The tuning in D , also called Drop D , is perhaps the most common special tuning among Rock bassists, or Metal derivatives, who play a 4-string electric bass .
Getting this tuning is really easy . It only consists of lowering one tone the lowest string, leaving the tuning of the bass as follows:

  • 1st string: G (G)
  • 2nd string: D (D)
  • 3rd string: A (A)
  • 4th string: D (D)We go down one tone , from E to D.

From the thickest string (4th) to the thinnest string (1st): D, A, D, GDADG .

Tuning bass in high C

High C tuning is a special kind of tuning very common among jazz bass players who play a 5-string electric bass.
Basically, what we do with this tuning is to add a higher string (C), instead of a lower string (B) as in the standard tuning of a 5 string bass.
That is, we go from having a tuning of B, E, A, D, G (BEADG) to the following:

  • 1st string: C (C) – A higher pitched string is added.
  • 2nd string: G (G)
  • 3rd string: D (D)
  • 4th string: A (A)
  • 5th string: E (E) – We keep the lowest string as in a 4 string bass.

From the thickest string (5th) to the thinnest string (1st): E, A, D, G, C – EADGC.
Now, just as tuning to D is simple, tuning to high C on a five-string bass requires some extra considerations:

  • The caliber of a string indicated for tuning in high C is .28 and .32
  • Never use a set of 5 string bass strings, why? because in these sets the 5th string has a thickness or gauge indicated for tuning in B, and by raising it to E we would be generating much more tension in the neck, with which you can seriously damage the fingerboard or the core of the neck.
  • Buy a set of 6 string bass strings. Why? Because as we have seen in the standard tuning of a 6 string, these basses include a higher C string, and a lower B string, but they also have the fifth string in E. So by discarding the 6th string, you would have your 5 perfect strings for tuning in high C.

We hope this article has helped you to learn how to tune your bass correctly.
In our opinion, standard tuning is more than enough for any bass player. But especially if you are a beginner, get used to learning to play with it.
Of course, you might want to start a brass band with your buddies, and soon you need to lower your bass a tone to reach lower registers. That’s up to you.
Of course, if you found it useful, or if you know other tunings, or tuning tips… Share it with us in the comments. We are very grateful for your feedback.

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