Tuning a double bass – what’s the best way?

There's a time and a place for each of these tuning methods.

With Jason Heath · San Francisco, CA

Tuning a double bass is an essential step that every bassist must take before playing. There are various ways to tune a double bass, but this article will focus on two methods that have been tried and tested.

As a double bass player, you want to ensure that your instrument sounds perfect when you play. Tuning is a crucial part of achieving that goal. In this article, we will explore the two most effective ways of tuning a double bass.

Tuning with a Chromatic Tuner

Tuning with a chromatic tuner is one of the easiest and most accurate ways to tune a double bass.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Choose a chromatic tuner that can clip onto your double bass or use a tuning app like Tonal Energy.
  2. Turn on the tuner and place it somewhere on the bass where it can detect the sound. The best place to put it is on the bridge.
  3. Play each open string and wait for the tuner to indicate whether the note is sharp or flat. If it’s sharp, loosen the string to bring it down to the correct pitch. If it’s flat, tighten the string to raise it to the correct pitch.
  4. Repeat the process for each open string until all four strings are perfectly in tune.

Using a chromatic tuner is a convenient option, especially in an ensemble setting. It can be challenging to hear the bass in a noisy environment, which makes it difficult to tune by ear. With a chromatic tuner, you can quickly and accurately tune your bass.

Tuning with Harmonics

Tuning with harmonics is a traditional method of tuning a double bass. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Place your finger gently on the string over the harmonic point for the “5th fret and the 7th fret.”
  2. Bow the string and let it ring out.
  3. While the string is still ringing, place your finger gently on the harmonic point for the next string, and bow the string.
  4. Match the pitches of each string by adjusting the tuning pegs until they are in tune.

The reason why bass players use harmonics instead of open strings is that the pitches of open strings are so low that discerning the intonation can be challenging, especially in a noisy environment. Harmonics, on the other hand, produce a clear and distinct pitch that makes it easier to tune.

Conclusion

Tuning a double bass is a crucial step that every bassist must take before playing. Whether you choose to use a chromatic tuner or tuning with harmonics, it’s essential to ensure that your bass is perfectly in tune. Using these methods will help you achieve that goal quickly and accurately.

In summary, tuning with a chromatic tuner is a convenient option, especially in an ensemble setting, while tuning with harmonics is a traditional method that produces a clear and distinct pitch. By using both methods, you can ensure that your double bass sounds perfect every time you play.

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