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Bass Guitar Tuning Guide

Updated on April 19, 2015
Bass Guitar
Bass Guitar

Bass Guitar

The base guitar is most commonly a 4-stringed instrument designed to provide the lower toned, roaring sound which accompanies a band's selection of acoustics. It is electric - meaning it requires an electric amplifier to produce the actual sounds. Though similar in build to your traditional electric guitar, the bass guitar has fewer strings and a longer neck.

Bass Guitar String
Bass Guitar String

The Notes

The four strings of your typical bass guitar are labeled as such: E - A - D - G. All notes produced by these strings are played in the bass clef of sheet music. The "E" string is the thickest string which produces the lowest tones. While holding the guitar, this string is the one closest to you. Progressively, the strings get thinner and move further from you as you move through E to G.

Types of Bass Guitar Tuning

Standard Tuning - The standard method of Bass Tuning

Drop D Tuning - The "E" string gets tuned to a lower D sound to produce lower notes.

Additional Variations: Dropping all notes a half or whole step down, tuning to B - E - A - D for example.


Why Change the Tune?

Using tuning variations on the bass guitar is very common due to the smaller array of notes available (less strings = fewer notes). Standard bass guitar tuning sometimes does not cut it for specific songs or genres of music. I would recommend playing around with the tuning to find the best variation for your specific music.

Bass Guitar Tuning

Tuning the bass guitar is done by adjusting the tuning pegs which sit on the headstock, the top-most portion of the guitar above the neck. To tune, you must turn the pegs gently and strum each individual string of the guitar to match the desired pitch.

For standard tuning,you can either use an electronic tuner for bass guitar or the following youtube video.

There is also a much more difficult, yet natural way to tune, which is tuning by harmonics. This is a method of tuning which requires a good ear as you match strings on your guitar. This method is not recommended for the beginner.

Looking for more?

If you are just beginning learning base guitar, congratulations! It can be very fulfilling and rewarding to learn an instrument. The "Standard Tuning Method", also the most common is recommended while you are first learning. Once you've had some practice under your belt, try a drop D or try tuning the notes down a half or full octave, and see what the effects are.

If you're looking to learn more, I'd recommend using the "For Dummies" series, which provides great simple learning modules and videos to train a novice to a professional. Happy playing.

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