by Chris Tarry
his lesson has been adapted from the fabulous original written by Christopher Sung.
Tuning Your Bass
When you first start playing bass, one of the hardest aspects is actually tuning it.
I find tuning to be one of the most important things because your playing sounds so much better
when your bass is in tune. Also, when other people listen to you play, it conveys a sense that
you actually know what you're doing.
There are three basic methods to tuning your bass, the first two of which will be covered in this lesson:
- Tune your bass relative to itself by comparing fretted notes to open strings
- Tune your bass using a tuner
- Tune your bass relative to itself by comparing harmonics on different strings.
In addition, it's important to understand the difference between a bass being in tune with itself (relative tuning),
and being in absolute tune. There are also certain nuances of which to be aware when you are in the process
of tuning your bass.
The main thing to understand about relative tuning is that a bass can be in tune with itself, but
not necessarily be in tune with another instrument, such as a piano. The low string on a bass (i.e. 4th string)
corresponds with the note 'E', and there is an absolute, known pitch and frequency associated with this note. However, if your
4th string is not exactly this pitch, it's not a big deal unless you're going to be jamming with a
piano player or someone playing an instrument that isn't easily tunable. In fact, many bands don't tune to
the exact frequency of an 'E'. They just tune to an 'E' on somebody's bass, and as long as they're in tune with
eachother, everything sounds fine. For most beginners, it isn't particularly important to be tuned to the exact pitch of an 'E'.
If you need your bass to be exactly in tune with a piano or if you want to be in tune with the musical
examples shown at WholeNote, then you'll need a tuner or some other device that
can give a reference. Fortunately, WholeNote has provided you with an on-line tuner that you can use to be exactly
in tune. This will also ensure that when you play some of the musical lesson examples, your playing will be
in tune with the music playback. To access the tuner, simply click on the tuner icon
located in the lower left-hand corner of your browser. When the tuner
window appears, click on the string that you want to tune. The strings are arranged from lowest string to the
highest string (E,A,D,G.).
Moving the Tuning Peg
Your bass will retain its tuning better if you tune up to reference notes instead of tuning down.
That is to say, the string that you are tuning should initially be lower in pitch than the note that you are tuning
to, and you should gradually raise the pitch until it is tune, instead of being initially higher in pitch and
then lowering the pitch of the string that you are tuning until it is tune. (More on this later on in the lesson.)