I still can't tune the thing!

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Cambass, Nov 24, 2001.

  1. Undoubtedly one of my biggest setbacks is that I can't tune my bass. I'm talking about normal E A D G tuning and trying to tune it by ear. So if you gave me an out of tune bass and said 'tune this without the aid of tuning device', I'd be stuck.

    Upon searching the archives here, someone mentioned using harmonics. I just tried it and it worked perfectly, I could tune each string relative to the other without a problem. However, it doesn't work if the strings are out of tune in the first place, so I'm back to square one.

    What do I do!? Is there some excercise to help me get over this or perhaps some little tune I can play that uses the open strings? I have tried ear tuner aids but I can almost never pick out notes individually. Which leads me to another question: Is it impossible for some people to pick out notes as they are instead of relatively to each other?
  2. nobody expects you to tune it to pitch by ear. don't worry about it.
  3. SuperDuck


    Sep 26, 2000
    To expand a little bit, it would be quite an odd situation if someone handed you a bass and said "Tune the E string. NOW!" You can do a number of things. Look out, here comes a list:

    • Buy an electronic tuner, tune your E, and work from there by ear. No one will think less of you.
    • Get a tuning fork, most commonly procured as A 440.
    • Ask the guitarist (or better yet the keyboardist) for a reference note.

    So, in conclusion, if you can tune using harmonics, your a step above most. Being able to identify an E out of the blue with no reference note is VERY difficult unless you are blessed (cursed?) with perfect pitch or spend a HELL of a lot of time ear training.
  4. cassanova


    Sep 4, 2000
    you'll eventually get it down

    for now, buy yourself a tuner, and when you play with other people, ask the guitarist or keyboard to hit e a d g so you can tune to them.
  5. melvin


    Apr 28, 2001
    ...or you could be a wierdo like me and have the of low E to high C (on the G string) memorized...

    If you really want to be able to get that E right without anyone/thing helping take an easy song that uses open E, a song that you know in your head perfectly by pitch, then try that on your bass, if the open E sounds strange, adjust.

    BTW, when I do that I use RATM's Bulls on Parade.
  6. If the rest of the strings are in tune, than play scales relative to different strings.

    Doesn't always work though.
  7. The guy who tunes my piano doesn't use anything electronic, and I'm tellin you that things concert pitch every time
  8. Hategear

    Hategear Workin' hard at hardly workin'.

    Apr 6, 2001
    Appleton, Swissconsin
    I use "Born Under a Bad Sign" by Cream.
  9. Cheers for all of the replies, damn I love this site!

    I bought an electronic tuner earlier this year which has helped enormously. I'm not very experienced with playing in bands etc, so I had this impression that if you can't tune your instrument then what are you doing playing? (This also stems from what an audio engineer guy said once when I was in a studio at a school, he said that he got people in who couldn't even tune their instruments which was bad, he was a drummer though :D ).

    I'll definently work on some relative pitch exercises, and find some 'reference tunes' to help tune up.

    Thanks. :)
  10. don´t worry... usually when someone says people can´t tune he means that they can't even tune with a tuner!

    there's no shame in using a tuner.
  11. BassPlayer101


    Jul 27, 2001
  12. melvin


    Apr 28, 2001
    I shouldve said the verse part. Yes I know its tuned Eb, but I was to lazy when I learned it to tune it down, so playing it all those times using E natural got that E pitch burned in my ears.
  13. Slapfunk


    Nov 24, 2001
    Definately get an electric tuner. Even if you want to tune by ear eventually. That will come in time. Even if you want to tune differently, it's not difficult to figure out. If you want to tune down half a step, tune to the first fret, instead of to the open string. Etc
  14. i can get G really close by thinking of "heartbreaker" by led zep.
  15. yawnsie


    Apr 11, 2000
    Heartbreaker? Isn't that in A minor?
  16. vegaas


    Nov 6, 2001
    I can tune by thinking of Green Manalishi by Judas Priest
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    That's right - nobody expects you to tune an instrument by ear and it's not worth wasting time on it!

    I remember Jon Entwistle saying that he had played Frech Horn and had perfect pitch, but found it was a curse as every group he played in was slightly out of tune - although in tune together - and this constantly bothered him.

    I have met loads of experienced musicians - some who have played at the highest level for 30 - 40 years and they all tune to a piano or some sort of reference. Michael Manring mentioned how he always has a tuner plugged in for practising fretless intonation.

    No music teacher I have met in 20 - 30 years has recommended learning to tune without a reference - relative pitch yes - but absolute no!
  18. lo-end


    Jun 15, 2001
    I can get a perfect C from "Adam's Song" by Blink 182. Its the first song I ever learned to play on my bass (way back in '99 :p ), and I used to practice it sooooo much that the notes are etched into my brain.

    One time I woke up in the morning and my little brother was standing next to my bed and my bass is next to my bed. I got up, hummed a C and played a C on the bass. They were the same exact pitch. My little brother was like, "Whoa! Thats awesome!"
  19. Ziggy


    May 9, 2001
    Orange County, CA

    It appears there's been more than enough replies to help you out... and, ofcourse, you mention purchasing a tuner;^)

    Additionally, many of the replies suggest a song or two to play and see if it sounds correct. Personally, having played for about 5 years now, it's the sound of the open 'G' string I've learned and burned into my audio memory banks.

    Or, if you're at home in a 'pinch', pick up your telephone... the dial tone is an open 'A';^o