In order to play anything on bass, you need to tune it first.
Standard 4 string bass tuning is E A D G, going from the thickest to the thinnest string.
When you pluck the lowest, E string without fretting any notes, it needs to sound a specific note pitch.
In case of standard 4 string bass tuning, it would be the note E.
The same goes for all other strings so it is crucial that you tune your bass precisely each time before playing. In this lesson, I’ll show you three methods that you can use to tune your bass.
Using reference notes method
With this method, you tune your bass with the help of another bass or using an online tuner which plays back notes for each bass string through PC speakers.
You can also use this method by playing back reference notes on another instrument like piano if you have it around the house.
Standard bass tuning is E A D G, with the lowest or should I say the thickest string being tuned to note E.
Play back the note which you’re tuning to and trying to match, and then pluck the open string on the bass, the one that you’re tuning.
Now you need to wind up or down the tuning peg on the bass trying to match up the note produced by the bass with the reference note in the background.
You’ll notice that the sound becomes unison and pleasant once you match up the reference note with the open string note played on bass.
Use your ear to get both reference note and string on bass tuned precisely.
There is a trick to always wind up the string towards the final note when fine-tuning. This way the string will stay in tune. Do this for each individual string on a bass.
Using a digital tuner
I would highly recommend buying a digital tuner when starting out with bass.
You’ll use that piece of gear all the time and it’s so practical.
Digital tuners are very easy to use. You just plug your bass into it and pluck each and every open string on the bass to tune it to the correct pitch.
Standard bass tuning is E A D G and some tuners will require you to use either chromatic or bass modes on them.
Tuner usually features a needle or some other indication if the note on the bass is too low or too high.
If the note is flat (lower than reference note you’re tuning to), wind up the tuning peg to match the correct note. If the tuner indicates that your string pitch is sharp (higher than reference note), then you need to wind down the tuning peg to get the correct note.
Remember to always go a bit down and then wind up the string, fining tuning it towards the final pitch. This way the string will keep tension better.
Some digital tuners have a microphone built-in, so you don’t need to plug in your bass. Also, some tuners are clip-on type, so you attach them to the bass headstock and they pick up the string vibrations that way.
Using mobile phone app
If you’re unable to get a digital tuner, then using a mobile phone app for guitar or bass tuning is the next best option.
Find the tuner app and install it on your mobile phone.
The app will use a microphone to capture the sound of your bass and help you tune it.
Bring the phone close to your bass and pluck the open E string for start.
The graphic interface on the phone will show you if you need to wind up or down the string to match up the correct note for that string.
Mobile phone apps work exactly the same as digital tuners, they show you the current pitch of the string you’re tuning and if you need to go flat or sharp (left or right on the tuner = wind up or down using tuning pegs) to get the correct note for each string.
Once your bass is tuned to E A D G notes for each string, then you’re ready to play.
Here are some useful links for mobile phone tuning apps: