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How to Tune A Bass Guitar

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In this lesson, you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to tune a bass guitar!

You’ll learn different tuning methods, why it’s important to tune a bass guitar, and different types of tunings.

Tuning a bass guitar is an essential part of everyday bass life, so make sure you pay attention to every detail of this lesson!

Introduction to tuning a bass guitar

What is bass guitar tuning?

Bass tuning is the process of adjusting each bass string to the proper pitch and frequency.

This ensures your bass aligns with the tuning of the rest of the band, and produces the “correct” sound overall.

Why it’s important to tune a bass guitar

An out-of-tune bass will disrupt the sound of a band, and won’t sound “correct”.

As you listen to music and practice bass, you’ll start to recognize when you or another musician is out-of-tune.

Keeping a bass in-tune will also help you with pitch development. As you hear the correct notes being played, you’ll start to remember their sounds.

How often you need to tune your bass

Ideally, you need to be tuning your bass guitar every time you pick it up.

Luckily for us bass players, a bass guitar with high-quality tuning Hardware tends to hold its tuning well.

Another general rule is to check your bass tuning every time you feel as if your bass sounds “off”.

Even more important than this, you need to tune your bass guitar every time you play with a band, and if possible check your bass tuning in-between each song in a live setting.

Bass guitar tuning components

Several components play into tuning a bass guitar.

The tuning pegs

The tuning pegs have many names, including:

  • Tuning machines
  • Tuning gears
  • Tuning heads
  • Tuners

They’re on the headstock of the bass guitar, and are responsible for adjusting the pitch of the strings.

The strings

This is obvious, but important to talk about.

As a general rule the standard bass will have 4 strings, and will be tuned to standard tuning:


Your strings need to be high quality! Poor quality strings don’t hold tuning, no matter how hard you try to tune them.

The tuner

A bass guitar tuner is simply an electric device to tune your base. It shows you the pitch of a string, indicating how flat or sharp a note is, which allows you to tune properly.

Having a tuner is necessary for any bassist who wants to stay in tune.

How to tune a bass guitar

You can tune a bass guitar in two primary ways:

  1. Tuning with an electronic tuner
  2. Tuning the notes by ear

Tune a bass guitar by ear

Tuning by ear is a difficult, but convenient way to tune the bass.

Tuning by ear involves pitch memory or a pitch reference.

Pitch memory means you are tuning from your ear. This is not possible your pitch hasn’t developed.

Using a pitch reference means listening to another pitch, either from audio or another instrument, and using it as a reference to tune your strings.

I only suggest tuning by ear if you have perfect pitch, or if you’re past the beginner stages of learning bass.

Tune a bass guitar with an electric/ electronic tuner

A bass guitar tuner is simply an electric device to tune your base. It  shows you the pitch of a string, Indicating how flat or sharp a note is, Which allows you to tune properly.

These are the 3 most common electronic tuners

1. Clip-on tuner

A clip-on tuner clips onto the headstock, and shows the note name and how flat or sharp the note is.

Clip-on tuners are the most commonly prescribed way to tune the bass guitar in the modern era of tuning because they’re super easy to use. 

Not all clip-on tuners are created equal, though. I have owned three or four different clip-on tuners, and you want to spend the extra $10 to buy a  clip-on tuner that’s accurate and durable.

Also, make sure that the tuner you purchase can pick up low bass frequencies.

One of the best budget clip-on tuners is this Snark Tuner.

Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin

Simple, easy-to-use clip-on tuner for bass guitar and other stringed instruments.

2. Tuner pedal

A tuner pedal is a must-have bass pedal. They’re more convenient than a clip-on tuner, and are generally more accurate as well, due to the way they pick up the bass frequency.

Tuner pedals do come with a bit steeper price than a clip-on tuner, but there are plenty of affordable ones, like this Donner pedal!

Donner Tuner Pedal, Dt-1 Chromatic Guitar Tuner Pedal

Boasting over 20,000 reviews, this is one of the top-rated budget pedals on the market.

3. Tuner app

Lastly, you can use an app to tune your bass guitar.

I think apps are mediocre. They certainly don’t compare to a clip-on tuner, and especially don’t compare to a tuner pedal, but they get the job done most of the time.

The biggest pro of a tuner is the portability. You always have your phone, and I highly doubt you plan on carrying around a clip-on tuner for the rest of your life.

Standard bass guitar tuning

How to tune a bass guitar to standard tuning

A bass guitar is tuned in fourths, starting from the note E.

The standard tuning for a 4-string bass guitar is E-A-D-G. These 4 notes are called the “open bass strings” when played by themselves.

If you’re familiar with the guitar, then you’ll recognize that these are the same four notes as the lowest four strings on a guitar, but they’re tuned an octave lower on a bass guitar.

Open String Bass Notes

Here’s my complete 4 string bass notes lesson, which covers all of the note names on the fretboard.

Common 5-string bass tuning

5-string bass guitar tuning isn’t much different from standard tuning. The only difference is the one additional string.

The most common 5-string bass tuning is B-E-A-D-G, which gives you a low top string.

Alternatively, you can tune the bass to E-A-D-G-C, Which gives you a new high string.

Common 6-string bass tuning 

The most common six-string bass tuning gives you both the low string and the high string options from the 5-string bass tuning.

The common 6-string bass tuning is B-E-A-D-G-C.

If you’re tuning by ear, start by tuning the middle 4 strings (the standard strings), then move onto the B string and C string.

Drop D Tuning

Drop D tuning refers to tuning the low E string down a whole step to the note D.

As a whole, drop D tuning is D-A-D-G. This gives the bass a deeper, “heavier” sound.

Drop D tuning is generally used for rock and metal bass, employed by bands such as The Foo Fighters, Tool, and Avenged Sevenfold.

How to remember standard tuning for bass guitar

You may find that you have a hard time remembering the standard tuning for bass. Luckily there are some fun tricks I can show you.

The easiest way to remember bass standard tuning is with a simple Mnemonic or phrase. These include: 

  • Elephants Are Definitely Grand
  • Eat All Da Grapes

Aside from that, if you can just remember that your top string is an E, you can figure out the rest of the notes by skipping forward 3 natural notes from one string to the next. Here’s the example:


I included the G-C for those of you with a 5-string bass.

Keeping your bass in tune

There are a few tips and tricks to keep your bass guitar in tune longer.

  1. Keep your bass in good condition. Maintaining the overall condition of your bass will help with keeping it in tune, plus it’s good for the overall playability!

    Keep your bass in a temperature controlled environment, and never take it into harsh conditions.

    Also, regularly clean and oil the fretboard of your bass guitar to prevent sweat and dust buildup.
  2. Change your strings if they’re old or poor sounding. Bass guitar have thick, durable strings, so you won’t have to change them too often.

    But you’ll have to change them eventually, and when you do you’ll want to make sure you choose a good string brand that aligns with your musical style.

    Luckily there aren’t many bad string brands out there, and bass strings are relatively inexpensive.

    When you get new strings you’ll need to break them in by stretching them, which will prevent them from stretching during playing, so they won’t end up out of tune.
  3. Store your bass guitar. You’ll want to keep your bass stored, even if it’s just stored in a gig bag or case. This will not only help with tuning and action stability, but will also keep your bass guitar protected!

Conclusion: How to tune a bass guitar

Tuning a bass guitar isn’t too bad. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to types of tuners and bass anatomy as it relates to tuning, but in the end, tuning is just turning your 4 tuning pegs until they’re in pitch/tune.

What’s next?

Looking for more beginner bass lessons? Then check out these posts.

Learn how to read bass tabs so you can play songs on the bass.

If you want to start writing your own bass lines right away, then check out this minor pentatonic scale bass post, which gives you 5 scale shapes that are super easy to work with.

Lastly, if you want to further your education as a beginner bassist, check out these bass guitar books for beginners.

Thanks for reading, and good luck on your bass playing journey!

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