Bass Blog

Check here for regular bass tips, articles, and information on bass player culture.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

4 Reasons Your Bass Won’t Stay In Tune


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Obviously, playing a bass that's in tune is a must, especially if you are playing with other people. An out of tune instrument will immediately sound unprofessional, and will leave you looking like a less-valuable member of the band. Surprisingly, many players overlook intonation. Though newer players won’t always know when they are out of tune, as you continue to play, listen to music, and hone your skills, you will be able to hear when you are out of tune even without the help of a tuner. Listening to your bass and being sure it stays in tune not just when you start playing, but during the entire set or time that you are playing, is a must. Many players tune before a gig, and then don't think about it again. The truth is, outside factors can cause your intonation to change, even throughout a gig. However, you can usually expect your bass to stay in tune for your entire set or practice session. If it doesn’t, your bass may need some TLC!

Tuning Pegs

Tuning pegs, if you don't know, are pegs you turn on your headstock to change the pitch of your bass strings. They should never be loose or rattling. Tuning pegs that wiggle or rattle won’t keep your bass in tune. However, your tuning pegs shouldn’t be tight; they should be snug, allowing your tuning peg to move. If the tuning pegs of your bass are not functioning as they are supposed to, then all that work you did tuning was most likely for nothing.

Aging Strings

If you’ve been keeping up with our latest blog posts, you will have read about the importance that the age and condition of your strings play in the tone quality of your bass. Your strings will also affect the intonation of your bass as well. The brand or quality of your strings as well as the gauge of your strings will affect how well they stay in tune. Investing in quality strings is a must!

Temperature Fluctuations

Because your bass is made of wood, and wood expands in warm weather and contracts in cold weather, the temperature of your environment will affect the tuning of your bass. If your bass is kept in a cooler space, or you travel to your gig in cold weather, there is a good chance that when you get into the warm club, you will need to tune your bass again. Also, as your bass sits under the hot stage lights, you may also have to make minor adjustments to your tuning throughout the gig. Even the warmth of your hands touching the instrument can be a temperature fluctuation if the bass was previously cold. 

The Nut

Like the tuning pegs, the nut is a crucial part of your intonation. Each string should be correctly seated in its respective nut slot to keep your tuning stable. If your bass isn’t staying in tune and you hear a ping sound as you tune your pitch upwards, there is a good chance that the nut slots aren’t wide enough and they need to be filed out. A qualified instrument technician can fix the issue by widening the nut slots.

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