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Jazz Bass Lessons: Electric Bass: Tuning the Bass

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[MUSIC]
The way people tune,
any instrument in fact,
especially the bass.
Cuz we have an instrument
that started in 1950, to 51.
So the tuning of the instrument
has evolved over the years.
And when I started learning how to play,
tuning was strictly,
you either used the tuning fork,
or you tuned to the piano.
The piano would play a note for
you, you'd ask for a G.
You'd ask for
the open strings on the bass.
You'd go from the top, say G, D, A and E.
And the piano would play a note, and
you would tune to it using your ear.
Now, what I'm gonna do is use the sound
on my tuner to get a sound, okay?
So, there you hear that note, that's an A.
Now what I'm gonna do
is simply tune my bass.
Say, you picked up your bass and
the A string was tuned down a little bit.
What you have to do is practice hearing
the difference between flat and sharp.
So here's flat, and
we're gonna go up to the note.
[MUSIC]
Now, I just went to the twelfth fret and
I touched it lightly,
that's called a harmonic.
I'll turn that off for a second.
So I'm trying to match pitch.
I'm coming from below the pitch,
[MUSIC]
and I'm gonna check it at the 12th fret.
[MUSIC]
That sounds pretty good.
[MUSIC]
Okay, so
I'm gonna check it also with the tuner.
I have a tuner.
And you know, the tuner you hit the note,
and there's a needle.
And when it goes straight up,
it's in tune.
If it goes a little to the left,
it's flat.
A little to the right, it's sharp.
So by now, you've seen those.
So I did good.
We're in tune actually, believe it or not.
Ha!
So now, we're gonna tune
the other strings from that A.
And one of the popular methods over
the years is to tune using harmonics.
Something called a harmonic.
When you touch a string lightly and
you don't press it all the way down,
you get a harmonic.
So here's the A at the 12th fret.
We tune to the A.
Say we used the other notes of the piano,
we could have taken each note
individually from the piano and
tuned each note to the piano, or
each note to this sound on the tuner.
But I'm gonna show you how to
start with one note from a source,
an external source.
Here it was the tuner, and
then tune the bass from there.
So, say I'm gonna tune the D string flat.
And one way is to play
the harmonic of the A, and
then play the open D and see if you
can make it sound good together,
which will be the interval of a fifth,
five notes apart.
The open D in this case will
be lower then the harmonic cuz
the harmonic's higher up on the string.
So some people tune like this.
That doesn't sound very good right there,
but
here
[MUSIC]
all of a sudden it sounds good now, right?
You hear that?
Now I'm gonna go higher, and
say the D string was sharp.
[MUSIC]
That sounds pretty
good now, right?
And when I check my, I'm checking now.
[MUSIC]
So I played the open D string with
the harmonic of the A to
get the D string in tune.
Now you can do the same
thing with the G string.
Now we have the A and the D in tune.
So now, let's play the harmonic on the D
string at the 12th fret by touching it
lightly, and
then we're gonna play the G string open.
Let's say we were flat.
[MUSIC]
Pretty good?
[MUSIC]
I was a little sharp.
[MUSIC]
So this is the way to try to train your
ear so that you're not always
depending on the tuner.
Let's do the last note.
Let's tune the low E string to the A.
So now we're gonna play it.
We're gonna use the A harmonic again.
Actually, we're gonna use the E
harmonic and play the A open.
So let's make the E flat,
let's say it's flat.
[MUSIC]
That one's
harder to
hear.
So the other way to tune is by using
all harmonics at the fifth and
the seventh frets.
So here, if we had gotten the harmonic A.
[MUSIC]
From the piano.
Remember, we got it from the tuner here.
One way to do it is check.
You take your fourth finger,
we're numbering one, two,
three, four, on the seventh fret.
You play the harmonic there.
And then you go to the fifth fret on
the A string, which is over the note D.
And you get another harmonic.
Again, I'll tune it down so
you can hear the difference.
[SOUND] So you hear it when it
stops beating, then it's in tune.
[SOUND] So now you do the same thing.
You go down a string.
You wanna get the E string in tune,
now that the A is in tune.
You go to the seventh fret on
the A string, you play the harmonic.
And now we're gonna play a harmonic
on the fifth fret of the E string.
[MUSIC]
Say it was flat.
[MUSIC]
And there it is.
[MUSIC]
Check out the octave.
And now the last one,
remember we have the D string
in tune because we played
the A harmonic on it.
Now we're gonna go to the fifth fret
on the D string and hit a D note, and
then we're gonna check it,
the seventh fret on the G string
which is gonna give us a D harmonic.
Now let's turn the G
down so that
[MUSIC].
Okay,
[MUSIC]
so that's the basic way to tune.
This way you're not
dependent on the tuner.
If somebody gives you a note,
you can use the open strings
to tune your instrument and
then tune by harmonics, if you want.
So that's tuning.
We dealt with tuning in fifths.
We dealt with tuning with the harmonics.
And like I said,
you can also just have the piano literally
pound out [LAUGH] to the G, the D, the A,
and the E and tune individually to those.
That's pretty much the most common
way to tune the electric bass.
[MUSIC]