3 Ways to Tune a Bass Guitar

Written by Joseph Nicholls with BestGuitarAdvisor.com

The first thing to ask ourselves before we get to the main issue here is, what is a bass guitar? A bass guitar is a solid-bodied instrument tuned to produce bass or low notes and it requires an amplifier. Now that we know what the bass guitar is, we have to look into the fundamentals that guide the tuning of this guitar.

For this particular case, the 3 ways you can tune the guitar to provide the particular tone that you want. The bass guitar tuning process involves tuning the notes whereby pitches are assigned to the strings of the electric bass. The reason behind the tuning of the guitar is to enable the pitches to match specific notes. You can’t play the bass guitar unless it is tuned properly since playing it will make you be out-of-tune.

For you to be in-the-tune you have to have a basic understanding of sound and pitch. Also to add to that is that the notes must match the correct frequencies assigned to each note. Once you have understood the basic requirements you need to achieve by tuning the bass guitar. We now head on to the methods of tuning a bass guitar.

  1. Standard Tuning

This method is widely used to tune bass guitars by many guitarists. First, you have to understand that the tunings assign open notes to the open strings. For the most bass guitars, the strings are numbered from one to four. The tunings start from one octave lower to highest fourth string, hence the tunings go in this order E, A, D, G.

You should match the open strings to the pitches I have mentioned as precisely as possible to avoid creating a difference in the frequency of the 12th fret and the open string. This is because if you tune in perfect fifths you will be tuning using the Pythagorean approach and there will be a flat octave.

To provide the right tuning in order to play songs on the D or G key category, tuning is done on the Drop D whereby the E string is decreased in a whole step downward. For each of the strings, tuning is done using the tuning peg, hence the strings must match perfectly with the reference tone.

  1. Using A Tuner

The tuners can be electronic tuners, chromatic tuners, pitch tuners and online bass guitar tuners. To use any of these tools for tuning just turn on the tuners and connect them to your bass guitar. For some of these tuners, there will be no need of creating any connection.

The tuners may use LED light which may be in red or green color to help you out or pointers to indicate the pitch. For some of the electronic tuners, they are calibrated to open strings or have the auto-tune feature. Such functions are suitable for beginners.

For the chromatic and pitch tuners, they act differently compared to the electronic tuners. Pitch tuners allow you to match each note perfectly using your ear when the pitch for each of the strings is played. The chromatic tuners do the hearing process and display the pitch when the string is tuned. With this, you are able to clarify if the string is adjusted to the correct note or whether the guitar is flat or sharp.

A key thing to observe when using electronic tuners is that when the tuner is turned on. You have to play the strings one at a time, from there you will follow the screen indicators in the tuners to assist you to know the strings to be tuned and adjustment to make in order for each string to correspond to the tuning peg.

  1. Tuning By Interval

With the interval tuning you will not gain the actual pitch but your strings will be in tune with each other. This method is suitable when there are no other options available and for those who like solo playing. If you are in a group, the best thing to do is to interval tune your bass guitar. In order to create a similar sound in the tune, the others will tune their instruments to what you have tuned yours to.

You can also interval tune the E string that is fretted on the fifth fret while the A string is open in order to create the same tone. Alternatively, you can do this by playing the fretted E string and the unfretted A string. You will then match the A string to the fretted E string note by adjusting the A tuning peg.

After the A string has been tuned to match the E string, you can now use the A string to tune the D string. You will can also play the A string while it is held on the fifth fret while D is still open. Doing this will produce the same tone. To tune, the D string uses its tuning peg. This basically implies that you will play alternatively the A string on the fifth fret and the D string while turning the D string tuning peg until the tone matches.

To finish up the interval tuning you will use D to tune G. String D will be held on the fifth fret and the G string will be open. The tone produced should be similar. To achieve this, the G tuning peg will adjust the G string pitch. From there, an alternation will be made while playing the fifth-fretted D and the open G while turning the G string tuning peg.


For any tuning exercise of the bass guitar, these are the main methods. Tuning the bass guitar will create harmony in the tone and songs that are being played using this guitar. The basic strings E, A, D and G are mostly tuned to achieve the resemblance of the tones. These strings are tuned while on the 5th, 7th and 12th fret. Tuning the bass guitar creates unison in the sounds produced when the strings are tuned properly on their tuning pegs.

Although there are many methods one can use to tune their bass guitar. The above methods are basic and easier to perform. It is even easier for the beginners who may find tuning a bass guitar a hard task to achieve. Once you have gone through the methods and mastered them you are on your way to creating great songs with a harmonic display using the bass guitar.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.