How do you tune your bass?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Michael Favata, May 13, 2022.

  1. I started playing in 1973. Back then there were no headstock tuners. The way we tuned was you found the E somewhere, maybe from a band mate, “give me an E” or maybe from a record, or a tuning fork, or if you were lucky enough to have a keyboard in the band you got it from them and everything was tuned to THAT low E.
    To do that once you got the low E (by ear) you fingered that E string in the 5th position and found the open A. Fingered the A string in the 5th position and found the open D and so on and so forth. So from the top down. It was necessary to do it that way. Then if you had time or maybe an old string you were struggling with you would fine tune with 12th position harmonics.

    Skip ahead 50 years. All my guitars have headstock tuners. I have not asked for an E in over 20 years. Maybe longer. These days I find myself tuning from the high E up.
    E-D-A-E. Then I always fine tune from the low E down with 12th fret harmonics to finish. And ALWAYS tuning in to the note (not loosening but tightening)

    Not sure why I started doing it that way some undetermined amount of years ago. I just do now. In the end my bass is in tune. So I guess it doesn’t matter. Or does it? What do you do? How do you tune your bass? Does anymore call for an E anymore lol?
  2. Winslow


    Sep 25, 2011
    Group "W" Bench
    If playing with an on-site piano with an unknown state of accuracy in its tuning, yes, absolutely.

    Some places/folks don't always keep them well maintained. :wacky:
  3. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    One string at a time?:D
    If it’s just an informal situation, clip on tuner(Snark)but otherwise a pedal tuner(TC or Korg)on my board(s), but I also check against harmonics.
    darwin-bass, ELG60, red_rhino and 2 others like this.
  4. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    headstock tuner. too easy!

    i don't use a tuner when playing with an acoustic piano --- i have the piano player give me various chords (e.g., A and G) to get my four strings tuned to the piano universe --- i use open strings and harmonics. if the piano is 'in tune with itself' then it's a breeze, if not, oh well. :laugh: that said, i don't remember when that happened last, maybe a few years ago. all the piano players i've been working with use an electronic version.

    at jams or rehearsals where there is no keyboard/piano: the guitar(s) and bass tune to their respective A440/tuners and we're always good to go! headstock tuners --- gotta love 'em! :D

    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    We used to tune to the dial tone you hear when you pick up the landline phone which was A. Then there was the pitch pipe.
    Doug4321, rufus.K, 6-3-2 and 18 others like this.
  6. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    In the beginning I used an A tuning fork then harmonic matching for the other strings. Then I used various meter or led type of tuners.

    Now I use a Peterson StroboStomp II for setting intonation and a Snark headstock or SN 10S pedal tuner for everyday tuning.

    If an acoustic piano is in the mix I tune to that.
    Michael Favata likes this.
  7. 5andFretless

    5andFretless Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2007
    Long Island Ny
    We have a keyboard player. We all tune to her. I have a Boss TU-3 on my pedal board that I use to get close, but it is the keyboard that controls everyone's pitch, especially if we play something in drop tuning, like Sweet Child of Mine.
    sergeykuimov and Michael Favata like this.
  8. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Before I had a tuner (30 years ago), I'd find a keyboard and tune to the A. Then tune the rest of the strings using harmonics. (This is a holdover from my orchestra days.) These days, it's always plugging into my Korg tuner.
  9. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I remember seeing a gig at a small jazz club in Boston circa 1980 or '81, where Jeff Berlin was sitting in with Tiger's Baku, a local fusion ensemble. As they're getting set up, Jeff turns to the keyboard player (who iirc was Steve Hunt) and says "GBG!"

    Steve looks at Jeff the way my cat looks at me when I tell him to stop sharpening his claws on the sofa. So Jeff says "Gimme a GBG! Play a G, the B above that, and then the G above that."

    Steve plays this fifth-less major chord shell, and Jeff tunes his open G string to that...then does the 7th fret harmonic/5th fret harmonic thing to tune the rest of his strings.

    I always wondered what the advantage of that GBG thing versus just a G ... or an E ...or an A ...were. :::shrugs:::
  10. Them little silver dealies on the headstock.
  11. CBRXJ


    Jul 31, 2010
    Apple Valley Ca.
    you tune E A D E?
  12. joelns


    Mar 10, 2014
    Back in the day, to the piano or keyboard and then 5th and 7th fret harmonics. Now I use a BOSS pedal for rehearsals and gigs. At home, it's a headstock tuner usually.
    jdh3000, Artman and Michael Favata like this.
  13. Lol typo. Sorry. Good eye.
    By the time I saw that it was too late to edit.

    What I do that it seems not many do I assume is tune from G to E and not E to G. That’s what I was mostly curious about.
    Not sure why I started doing that.
    I think we all assume we all do it the same way. I learned here Jeff Berlin has a different approach. That’s cool.
    Last edited: May 13, 2022
    Fuzzbass likes this.
  14. It used to be a big part of playing in a band. Making sure everyone was in tune. Not an issue these days. Progress. I wonder if younger players even bother to learn how to tune a bass/guitar without the tuner…
    Doug4321, Artman and joelns like this.
  15. InhumanResource

    InhumanResource Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2012
    Bucks County, PA
    At rehearsal I’ll call for an A sometimes, but otherwise I just use my headstock tuner. The only issue I have is that it’s not great at catching the low B, but it’s better than tuning out loud at a gig. Might get a fancy tuner pedal one of these years.
    Michael Favata likes this.
  16. Ugh, that reminds me of when headstock tuners 1st came out and all the guitar players were tuning with their guitar still turned up:rollno:
  17. 2112

    2112 Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2005
    Opening note of Tom Sawyer....
    thunesBARROW, Alik and Michael Favata like this.
  18. ezstep


    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    I tune the G and D, then I chime the bigger strings and chime all of them to make sure they are the same across the neck. (5th and 7th frets)
    Michael Favata likes this.
  19. J Wilson

    J Wilson

    Apr 22, 2022
    An Undisclosed Location
    On my fives: G to B octave harmonics, BOSS tuner (TU12H, or the TU80), I don't trust those clip ons.

    Then I repeat: Pulling the E and big B into line sometimes pulls the other three off a pinch.

    And I always tune UP: If I go past, I unwind to flat and do-over.
    Winslow, Fynn, Artman and 1 other person like this.
  20. I’m just curious any reason you do it that way or is it just habit?
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    May 21, 2022

Share This Page