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How to Tune a Bass Guitar & Understand Pitch

Learn how to tune a bass guitar and understand pitch from musician John Sutton in this online guitar lesson from Howcast.


I want to talk a little about how to tune the bass guitar with a tuner. We want to tune each string individually, so if you know the names of your strings, once you're plugged in to the tuner, here, you can just start playing the note and seeing how it comes up. This is coming up as G Sharp, so I know it's too high, so I can tune it so that it's a G. If it lights up the right of the green light, that means the note is too high. If it lights up to the left of the green light, that means the note is too low, or flat. So, we can play our D String, and see that it's too low. We raise the pitch until it's in the middle. Same is true for our A, which is coming up too high. Now it's an A. That is too low. Now our E's in tune. Another way to tune your bass is to tune it by ear. You can get a reference pitch from a piano, another instrument, or a metronome or a tuning fork. Anything that has a solid pitch. Once you get one string in tune, say it's your G, then you want to test your D String by playing the 5th fret, which we know is a G, same note as the G String. So, we play our open G first that we know is correct. And now we play the 5th fret of the G String. You need to get used to knowing whether that note is too high or too low. In this case, it's too low, so we raise it. When it gets really close, it can be hard to tell, so you need to play with it a little bit 'til it sounds correct. And that's better. You can do that with all the strings. From then on, you know now that your D is correct. You can test it against the 5th fret of your A String. And you can hear that that's correct. Sometimes, if it's too close, and you can't tell exactly if it's too high or too low in a really small way, sometimes I just make it flat. Like severely flat, so that I know what the problem is and then work back up towards the pitch again from there.

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