How To Tune A Bass Guitar

One thing that can be problematic for any new bass player is tuning!

You’ve got your brand new bass guitar and you’re ready to pick it up and start playing – but here’s the problem, when your fingers glide across the thick strings, something doesn’t sound right.

How To Tune A Bass Guitar

They don’t sound right, and the song you’re learning doesn’t sound anything like what it should. If you’re running into this problem then your bass is probably out of tune.

Tuning is a skill that all musicians have to learn in one way or another, and it’s especially important with stringed instruments.

If you find yourself dreading the tuning process, you wouldn’t be the first. Don’t panic – we’re here to help you with that!

Tuning doesn’t have to be a terrible thing, and in the modern world, we have a lot of handy tools available to help you. In this article, we’re going to break down the easiest way to tune a bass guitar.

We’re going to do this with a simple, step-by-step guide that will make the process easy for you.

The Basics Of Tuning

You may be wondering why guitars go out of tune in the first place. Why is it that you can tune a bass, leave it for a day or two, and all of a sudden all the notes have shifted?

Nobody has touched the instrument, so why wouldn’t it just stay the same?

Well, there are a few reasons that guitars go out of tune, we’re going to break them down for you here before we get started with the guide.

Climate

It sounds strange when you first learn this, but guitars and their strings can be put out of tune by the climate.

Because of the materials, they’re made out of such as metal or nylon, changes in temperature can massively affect them.

They might expand when it’s warm, or contract when it’s cold. Small changes in the composition of strings can make a big difference to the sound they make when played.

String Age

If the strings on your bass are old, they are more likely to lose their tension and go out of tune more easily. This is why guitarists tend to restring their instruments fairly regularly, especially if they play a lot.

The Nut

This is a wider issue that you may come across, but not one that you’ll run into if your bass is new. Each string will move through a small gap in the nut at the top of your fretboard.

If they don’t sit properly within this gap, then there is a chance that they will be out of tune. This is something to check if your guitar doesn’t sound right even after proper tuning.

The Simplest Way To Tune A Bass Guitar

The easiest way to tune a bass guitar is with an electric tuner. You can get these without much cost, and it’s fairly likely that your bass has come with one as part of a package.

The first thing to know about bass guitars is that you have it easier than other stringed instruments. 4 strings mean that you have less to work with!

How To Tune A Bass Guitar

An electric tuner is a piece of equipment that will listen to each note and guide you towards the proper tuning.

Generally, electric tuners will clip onto the top of your bass so that you have both hands free to tune. We’re going to break this process down for you now into a few simple steps.

  1. Clip your tuner onto the head of your bass (the wooden part up the top), and turn it on.
  2. Play the first string of your bass, the one closest to you. From here you should notice that the tuner responds to this, and will give you some kind of indication as to how close the note is to being in tune. Many electric tuners use a color system to tell you how close you are, with red being very out of tune, orange being close, and green being correct. Play the first string and see how far off you are to begin.
  3. Turn the peg (the small metal knob at the top of your bass that is connected to the relevant string). As you turn it, play the string over and over, allowing some time for the tuner to listen and respond with color or other indication as to how close the note is to being in tune.
  4. Continue to do this until the note reaches its proper tuning.
  5. Repeat this step with each string. If you find that you can’t get the note right then you’re probably going to need to make smaller adjustments on the pegs. Keep tuning until you reach the sweet spot!
  6. Once all of the notes are correct on the tuner, try strumming your bass or playing each note in succession to see if it sounds right. At first, you might not know what the standard E, A, D, and G tuning sounds like, but the more you tune the more you will get used to it.

Alternatives

Okay, so let’s say you don’t have an electric tuner! You can still tune your bass guitar by ear providing you have some way of hearing the notes. E, A, D, G is standard tuning.

There are different tuning compositions you can use, but for the purposes of this article, we’re just going to work with the standard tuning.

There are various websites and videos online that you can use to get an idea of the proper notes. In order to tune your guitar this way, listen to each note and then begin to turn the pegs of your bass.

You want to get each string sounding as close as you can, making smaller adjustments. This is a more difficult way of tuning, as you won’t have an electrical aid to help you with accuracy.

However, with a little bit of time and attention, you’ll find that you’ll be able to copy the sound.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Tuning a bass guitar is a skill that you will have to master if you want to be a good musician especially if you are going to be recording your bass guitar. With tools such as an electric tuner, you’re going to have a much easier time learning.

Experienced musicians can tune by ear without any aid, though this is something that often takes years of practice – so don’t feel too bad if you can’t do it right away!

Even experienced musicians sometimes use electric tuners or other aids.

We hope that this article has given you some insight into the world of tuning and that you now feel a lot more confident about the whole process!

If you ever need additional help, make sure to ask a musician friend or check out some more extensive guides online!

We hope that your bass guitar is now in tune and you can start learning and making some beautiful music!

Good luck!