How to tune your Bass Guitar
Once you’ve bought your very own bass guitar you are going to need to learn how to tune it. It’s always worth remembering that with a bass guitar, not only do all the strings have to be in tune with each other, they also have to be in tune with and at the same pitch as the other instruments in the band. These would typically be 6 string electric guitars and possibly also a keyboard or two.
An electronic tuner is a simple, easy and economical way to quickly and efficiently tune your bass guitar. Tuners start at less than £15 and almost all models have different tuning settings for 6 string electric/acoustic and bass guitars...our most popular tuners are the Marshall MT-1, Korg GA-1 and the Boss TU-80. By connecting your bass to the tuner with a jack lead, once the string resonates, you’ll be able to see on the electronic display if the note is sharp or flat and you can then adjust the tuning peg accordingly. Recent technology allows all strings to be viewed simultaneously with the release of Polyphonic tuners such as the Korg Pitchblack and the TC Electronic Polytune, this technology tells the user at-a-glance which strings are off-pitch so that it's not necessary to tune all of the strings - just those that are out of tune ...
Things To Remember When Tuning
- Whenever possible, arrive at your rehearsal or gig 15 minutes early and unpack your bass to allow the strings to acclimatise to the temperature and humidity of the location. This will help stabilise the tuning on your bass for the duration of the gig/rehearsal.
- Remember, when tuning your bass always "tune up". The objective is to increase the tension of the string until it reaches the desired tone. If you go too far, loosen the string tension and tune up again.
- The purpose of tuning is to put your strings in tune with each other and with the other instruments in the band. In "standard tuning" your bass strings should be tuned to the following notes (low-to-high): EADG (for a 4 string bass).
Some experienced bass guitarists prefer to use a 5 or even 6 string bass to express their playing style in a more individual way. The 5 string bass has an extra string tuned to B natural, but an octave below the 6 string electric guitar tuning. Likewise, the 6 string bass has both an additional B and an E natural string tuned an octave down from standard tuning. These models of bass guitar tend to have a much wider neck and fret board than a standard bass to accommodate the extra strings.
Remember not to rely too much on your electronic tuner and to try and develop your ears to hear when your bass is out of tune. Getting into the habit of tuning the instrument every time that you pick it up will help your ears recognise when a string is discordant to the others – and that’s how you learn to tune by ear!