Learning to tune your Guitar of Bass Guitar is a matter of hearing a tone or pitch and matching it.
At first, if you are not used to hearing for the purpose of matching a tone it can be a little difficult, but
becomes easier the more you do it. Learning to tune is an absolute must for every player.
If you've attended a concert of a Symphony Orchestra, you may have noticed that the Concert Master
gives a tone and the the rest of the Orchestra checks their tuning against that note. Usually the tone
given is a concert "A 440". This is done before every performance because it is essential to the
enjoyment to the music to have a large force perfectly in tune.
As a player in a smaller group, such as a four or five piece band the same is true. It is essential to the
enjoyment of both the player and the audience to hear the music with each instrument perfectly tuned.
So, one of the first things to learn is how to tune your instrument each and every time before playing it,
whether you are playing in a group or just practicing by yourself. The reason you would want to make
sure that you are tuned properly every time is to get used to hearing the tones you play in tune because
you are developing you ears.
The ability to hear accurately is a musician's greatest asset and a lot of training goes into the ability
to develop good relative pitch. For that reason I advocate always getting a starting note from a reliable
source, a well tuned piano, a pitch pipe, a tuning fork, etc. To begin learning to tune I do not suggest that
you get one of the devices that aid the process of tuning by reading a meter as you tune. This is simply
to get you to work with your ears as your only guide.
To tune the Guitar or Bass Guitar I suggest your starting note be "A", however everything I've seen on the
Internet suggest that you start with the string closest to you which, in standard tuning, is the "E" string and is
the lowest tone. So, I will acquiesce to the majority.
First, listen to the starting tone (from a reliable source) and then try to match it exactly. It is best to bring the
the pitch up to the tone and if you tune past the tone, you can lower the tone by loosening the string and try
matching the pitch by bringing the tone up. It is then suggested that once you are satisfied that the "E" string
is in tune, you place your finger on the fifth fret on the "E" String for the next tone which is "A".
You would then tune the next string (the neighboring string) to match that tone. Make sure that the open "A"
string and the the tone produced by holding down the "E" string at the 5th fret match exactly. You would
again hold down the 5th fret on the "A" string and produce the tone "D" As it is suggested that the method
of tuning up to the note is preferable and will give you a better result than tuning down to the tone you may
want to loosen the string slightly to make sure you are tuning up to the tone.
Repeat this with the "D" string by placing your finger in the fifth fret to produce the tone "G". Make sure the
open string "G" matches the the tone produce when pressing the "D" string at the 5th fret with your finger.
Once you are satisfied that the tones are an absolute match if you play the the bass guitar you have tuned
Then, bass player, play a major scale starting on the "E" string and another starting on the "A" string. Check
how the scale sounds when playing notes in relation to each other. Is it musical? If your answer is yes, then
you are ready to play or start your practice.
Guitar players have 2 more strings to tune, the "B" string and the "E" string. This is where the method is
altered slightly. Once the "G" string is tuned and you are ready to tune the "B" string, place your finger on
the 4th fret of the "G" string for the tone "B". Once you are satisfied that the "B" string is in tune, then you
return to the original method of holding down the 5th fret to get your note to tune the "E" string.
If you've heard accurately you should be perfectly in tune. Play a chord or run a scale to check you the tuning
and above all let your ears be your guide.
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