How to tune the bass guitar

How to correctly use the tuner for bass guitar, general notions and practical examples.

Tuning a bass guitar is an easy operation, but it must be carried out with care, following a few simple basic rules that you find in this article.


The bass guitar, which usually has four strings, but also five or more rarely six, must be tuned quite often since playng and changes in temperature and humidity tend to change the tension applied to the strings and therefore also the intonation.
In four-string basses these correspond to the following notes (from thickest to thinnest): 4th string E, 3rd string A, 2nd string D, 1st string G.
Now we can turn on our tuner, whether clip-on or desktop or from a mobile phone app, and check the intonation of each string and then apply the necessary correction turning the correspondent tuner on the headstock of your bass guitar, until our instrument is perfectly in tune. It is best to do this operation in the absence of other sounds or noises that could interfere with the tuner’s measurement.

Play the first string G, and observe the tuner display: if already in tune ,the letter “G” will appear, the digital display shows how much the note is far or near the perfect pitch, oscillating more or less from the center. Our goal is to keep the indicator centered while the string is played, so it will generally light up green when the string played is in tune, otherwise it will change color, as described below.

If the display indicator tends to move to the left from the center, it means that the note emitted by the string is flat, that is, too low. To bring it towards the center we must apply tension to the string and we do this by turning the key relating to the string in question counterclockwise, until the indicator remains stable at the center of the tuner’s display.
If, however, the display indicator tends to be towards the right from the centre, it means that the note emitted by the string is sharp, i.e. too high. To bring it towards the center we must then remove tension from the string and we do this by turning the key relating to the string in question clockwise, until the indicator remains stable at the center of the tuner’s display.


We proceed in the same way for the other strings, taking care to silence the previously played string. It’s a good idea to make sure you use the right key (or mechanism), it’s easy to make a mistake the first few times! Make small rotations of the key while tuning your bass guitar, a maximum of a quarter of a turn at a time, and, as the indicator approaches the center, apply corrections of a few millimeters and make sure that it remains in the center for at least a few seconds.
I recommend tuning the bass with the instrument held in the normal position as when you play it, do not tune your bass resting on a table or somewhere else, as the neck will deform slightly and therefore the tuner will give you inaccurate information. Do this operation calmly, checking the intonation of each string several times.

 


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