Harmonic Tuning For Bass Guitar

How to fine tune your bass guitar using harmonics.

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This is a guide on how to tune your bass guitar with harmonics. Tuning with harmonics is a great way to tune your bass because you can hear both notes ringing as you tune the pegs. In reality, you will use 2 methods of tuning. Tuning with an electronic tuner, then harmonics to "fine tune" the bass. Producing A Harmonic. Producing a harmonic is rather easy. It will not sound very clear if you don't have your bass plugged in. Put your finger lightly over the 5th fret of the E string. Make sure you are right over the fret. Strike the string with your picking finger. You should use your thumb or a pick when you are tuning. You should hear a high pitched sound. This is a harmonic. It is usually represented in tabs as an * or a +. After making a harmonic, you can release your fretting finger and let the harmonic ring out. If you are not familiar with harmonics, you should practice this: Example (we're just going to use the * as a harmonic):
G|----------7*-------|
D|-------5*----------|
A|----7*-------------|
E|-5*----------------|
Tuning With Harmonics. Tuning with harmonics will only really work if your bass is already in tune to standard (GDAE, high to low) Harmonics are just a way of "fine tuning." Get you bass into standard with an electric tuner. Make a harmonic on the 5th fret, E string (as shown above) using your thumb or a pick. Then make a harmonic on the 7th fret, A string. If you did the exercise above, you will notice that the two harmonics sound alike, but if they are not the exact pitch you might hear a beating sound. It sounds like an in and out sound (like a flanger pedal). You will know if you hear it. Make both harmonics (E string, 5th fret and A string, 7th fret) with your thumb or pick and let them both ring. Tune the bass up or down. If the beating sound gets faster you are going more out of tune, as it gets slower and slower, you are getting more into tune. When you don't hear any beating you are perfectly in tune. Do this with the rest of the strings and you will be exactly in tune. This should become a habit every time you pick up the bass.
Harmonic tuning:
G|-----|
D|-----|
A|---7*|
E|5*---|

G|-----|
D|---7*|
A|5*---|
E|-----|

G|---7*|
D|5*---|
A|-----|
E|-----|
All the harmonics should sound the same with no beating.

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Mr.Glue
    Ok I kinda get everything but I have a guitar/bass tuner and it has flats I know that no flats iz regular tuning E,A,D,G drop D iz two flats D,A,D,G and five flats iz B,E,A,D but what are one flat, three flats, and four flats called??? Does any one know???
    zzyzyx55
    oh and I forgot to say,there are harmonics on the 5th,7th, 12th, and 19th frets.But theres another.Hahha this is cool.Its up past the fret board up near the pickup.Say as if there was a 30th or 31st fret.Actually if you think about it it might be the 5th past the 24th because it starts over correct? Anyway hunt around up there and you will find it."SEEK" and ye will find.Glhf.
    zzyzyx55
    Hey theres alot of comments so Ifigure mine dont mean much.But I want to say Yes.This is way cool. Now to the guitarist who got lost.This is for a bass.hahahhahahha. people are funny.Problem is Im one too so it sort of suks.Glhf everyone.
    aaron_masta
    blablablabla123 wrote: Actually this is bad way to tune your guitar-cause we use temporal tuning system where fifth is out of tune for 2 cents...(and harmonic on 7th fret is interval octave+5th higher then open string) if you don't believe me tune your guitar this way and then check low and high e string and you will notice they are not in tune more on this here: http://www.truetemperament.com/main.php?... or if you really want to go to town with this type of thing: http://www.truetemperament.com/main.php?... http://www.truetemperament.com/main.php?... /~huygensf/doc/bib.html
    well then... master please explain how to correctly tune please!
    TonySixx
    how do you tune the G string if theres no string under it to hit a 7* ??
    PluckU
    so when i touch it do i touch it to where my skin is barely scraping it or do i put more pressure on??? i do not get this lol
    blablablabla123
    Actually this is bad way to tune your guitar-cause we use temporal tuning system where fifth is out of tune for 2 cents...(and harmonic on 7th fret is interval octave+5th higher then open string) if you don't believe me tune your guitar this way and then check low and high e string and you will notice they are not in tune more on this here: http://www.truetemperament.com/main.php?... or if you really want to go to town with this type of thing: http://www.truetemperament.com/main.php?... http://www.truetemperament.com/main.php?... /~huygensf/doc/bib.html
    Dwardom
    Hey PM me on how to tume BEAD. Just explain like... "tune E down whole scale) like that
    Mr.Glue
    DOES ANY ONE KNOW TUNING??? I know that standard on a bass tuner iz no flats (E,A,D,G) and five flats are low B (B,E,A,D) and I know that two flats are (D,-,-,-,) or somthin but what are 1,3,and4 flats called PLEEZ SOMEONE TELL ME!!!If u can THNX!!!
    aravind
    awsome lesson. the guy who wrote this is sitting right beside me in class.
    powerage225
    theoretically good, but for very accurate tuning you need perfect intonation string to string
    Mahonri M
    Hey, this is bbc code, kinda like gaia... anyways. Thats cool, but when you tune A to D strings, do you still use 7th fret on the A string?
    mong12345
    it's simple to memorize the E string tone and then u can tune other strings off that once you get used the string sounds u will memorize all of them it only gets difficult tuning a 5th string
    blu9999
    how do you tune your bass to GDAE if you dont have anything to tune it to?
    It would be a good idea to buy an electric tuner, unless you have perfect pitch. A cheap tuner only costs about $5(USD).
    blu9999
    im a dork, so i have to ask how do you know which way to tune when you hear the flanger sound?
    If you tune up and the sound gets faster, your going the wrong way. So that means you tune down. Just keep tuning it (up or down) until you don't hear the sound anymore. This is kinda why your bass should be in standard tuning already. You should alwasy start with the E and A strings.
    herrly
    pretty simple and straight forward, 4 maybe 5 stars. and also, Bass123, you know you're cool, when you put 1st.
    technoguyx
    rooster6 wrote: I think this works with guitar aswell, does it?
    Yeah, in fact this is how I tune my guitar