How to Tune a Bass Guitar (Beginner Guide)

When starting out and learning how to play bass, one of the first skills a beginner actually needs is the ability to tune their own bass. Because, no matter how you look at it, an out-of-tune bass just sucks.

It can be an intimidating subject, particularly when starting out, but once you learn this trait, you’ll see that it’s not that hard and it comes in very useful on a daily basis.

I’ll be going over some of the common questions as well as much-needed instructions on how to tune your bass properly.

So without further ado, let’s jump right in!

How Often Should You Tune Your Bass?

The most common question would be, how often should you tune your bass? There’s not really a correct answer to that question because it all depends on if your bass actually needs tuning. For example, if you haven’t played it in two days, and you pick it up, then the strings probably didn’t go anywhere and it’s still in fine-tune.

My advice would be to tune it a little bit every time before playing. It’s impossible for your bass to always be in tune, because the strings are influenced by changes in weather or if the bass had been in a really cold or really hot room as well. As opposed to the guitar, the bass stays in tune more often, but nevertheless, you should check your tune every time before playing.

Tuning By Ear

This is a more simple approach to tuning for those who haven’t actually mastered the art of tuning to perfection.

This is a way to get your bass into a reasonable tune and the most simple way to explain this would be, to try playing a simple phrase that you know really well, or a song that you’ve heard and hear if the notes you’re playing sound exactly like that phrase or song. If it does, then your bass probably is in reasonable tune.

However, if it doesn’t sound like the song or phrase you’re used to hearing, then it will probably need a little bit of tuning which you can do by yourself. Try to get as close as possible to the sound that you’re used to hearing.

I have to mention, this is not the ideal way of tuning your bass guitar, but it does make for an effective and quick option to know and have in your back pocket.

Tuning With A Clip-On Tuner

Tuning with a clip-on tuner is probably the second most effective way of tuning, aside from using a tuner pedal.

Clip-on tuners are extremely easy to use, you can just place the tuner on top of the bass guitar’s headstock so that it feels the vibrations of the strings. The clip-on will tell you if the strings you’re playing are in tune or not, and if you need to adjust it to get into perfect tune.

This has proven to be an effective way, especially when playing on stage. For example, if you don’t have a volume pedal, you can just turn down your bass and look at the clip-on tuner and tune your bass as quickly as possible, so within a minute you’ll be more than ready to go.

Using A Tuner Pedal

By far, the most effective way of tuning your bass is to simply purchase a tuner pedal. When you’re playing, the pedal is already plugged into your bass.

This is the best way to tune when playing live, so you can just press it and it will automatically mute your bass and it will show you if the strings you’re playing are in tune or not. It’s an extremely easy way of tuning your bass without having to tune it by ear or use a clip-on. You just press the pedal and within 30 seconds you’re right back on track.

There are a lot of tuner pedals on the internet to choose from. It’s a really good investment if you’re playing bass more seriously and want to tune your bass to be as less stressful as it can be.

Using A Tuner App

Yes, there are actually Tuner Apps out there and this is a really easy way of doing it. You just download the app on your phone and you can use it to tune your bass just by putting the phone down for it to listen to your guitar.

Now because the bass is really low-sounding, it’s unlikely that the app will pick up the sound if you’re not plugged into an amp, so plugging in would be the way to go.

Nevertheless, these apps are really precise, so you get the same thing from a clip-on just as much as you’d get from a Tuner app. This is a really modern way to go. And a more home-friendly or practice-friendly tuning option.

Using A Reference Pitch

When I say “using a reference pitch” I mean using a reference from another instrument that you know is in tune. For example, let’s say a piano. You can use a reference tone and play the exact same tone, just to see if the pitch aligns.

This is a really difficult way of tuning that most expert musicians use because it requires a really good ear. Most expert musicians can use this method and still tune their instruments to perfection. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t advise this to any beginners because this will be far out of reach for them.

Other Things To Know

If you play a normal four-string bass, it should be tuned to E, A, D, and G (one octave lower than the four lowest strings on a guitar). This is the most common tune for all bass guitars. It’s important to know this because even if you use other means of tuning, you won’t know if the string you’re playing is even on the right note.

Also, there are a few things you could do to help your bass be in tune longer. A good case is important because when your guitar is safely tucked away, it’s hard for the strings to be influenced and therefore go out-of-tune.

Keeping a clean bass can also help keep it in shape. As well as changing the strings regularly when you notice that it’s time to do so. New strings are still and will not allow the bass to go out of tune so easily.

Conclusion

It’s important to know that the bass is tuned to E, A, D, and G. This goes for all bass guitars for a standard tune. The bass should be tuned each time before playing, for a more proficient performance. There are a couple of ways you can tune your bass. You can do it by ear, where you would play a familiar song and see if it sounds good, therefore knowing if it’s in tune or not.

You can use a clip-on tuner or a Tuner pedal for a more easy way of tuning without any stress. The use of a Tuner App is also viable and is a more home and practice-friendly option. Keep in mind that if you take good care of your bass, that means changing the strings regularly, cleaning it, and keeping it in a case, then the bass will stay longer in tune. 

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