5 string bass tuner ~ is it just me ?

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I've had my 5-string bass guitar since 2005 and done lots of recording and live work with it. I went over to flat wound strings some years ago, and I've noticed over the last 9 or so years that when I tune it using a tuner, the E, A, D and G strings are wonderfully in tune, but when the B is showing on the tuner that it's in tune, aurally, it sounds out to me. The E at the 5th fret does not sound in tune with the open E.
When I tune it by ear to get that low B in tune, the actual tuner is showing that it's way out of tune. But it sounds perfectly OK to me and never sounds sharp or flat when I'm playing.
Has anyone ever experienced this ? I still find it hard to believe my ears are better than an actual tuner.
 

VomitHatSteve

Hat STYLE. Not contents.
I've often found that tuners have trouble detecting on a low B. Do you play the string open or do you play the 12th fret harmonic?

Also, it may be worth just bringing your bass in for a professional setup.
 

Tadpui

Well-known member
I never could tune the open low B string on my 5-string with a tuner. I guess it's just out of range of what the tuner is calibrated to (or capable of). I usually use the 12th fret harmonic to tune the low B. And with my Snark tuners, I have to do the same with the low E string, which seems to be below the range of the guitar-focused Snark. If the intonation is in good shape, then the 12th fret harmonic should get the open string pretty close.
 
Yeah, it's usually a range issue because a Low B is really slow... so for example when using ReaTune in Reaper DAW for example you'd need to set the "Window" to 200ms or something... because a B1 is like 61hz and it takes longer for the Tuner to register it. Hope this makes sense. I expect if your Bass is in good intonation using the 12th fret harmonic like everyone else suggested is the way to go.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I always tune to the harmonic - but the time the tuner has counted the cycles, the volume has dropped below threshold. God our ears and brains are clever!
 

Gtoboy

Well-known member
I have a tuner that does the low B but I never remember which one it is so I usually tune the B at the fifth fret and let it go at that.
 

ashcat_lt

Well-known member
If the intonation is in good shape, then the 12th fret harmonic should get the open string pretty close.
Harmonics are always in tune with the open string kind of by definition. Intonation only really affects fretted notes. If the scale length is far enough off, the "12th fret" harmonic might not be actually directly over the fret, but if you get it to sound, it will be exactly in tune with the open string, and likewise, if you get that harmonic in tune, the open string can't help but follow.

BUT intonation affects fretted notes, and OP did say "The E at the 5th fret does not sound in tune with the open E", which sure sounds like an intonation issue to me. On some instruments, that might just need a little tweak to the bridge saddle position. On others, it might actually need an adjustment at the nut. On most, especially with big fat strings (and low B is about as fat as it gets), it's generally going to be a compromise one way or the other. A lot of folks try to intonate the fretted 12th fret with that octave harmonic, but sometimes that puts lower frets out, and if you end up playing those lower notes more often, you might think about optimizing the intonation for that area, and just kind of let the higher frets be out. You're playing bass for crap's sake, why do you ever need to get that high? :)
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
I've often found that tuners have trouble detecting on a low B. Do you play the string open or do you play the 12th fret harmonic?
Both.
It just seems weird to me that a tuner that is made to tune, basically doesn't tune !
Also, it may be worth just bringing your bass in for a professional setup
That's definitely on my meagre "to do" list.
if your Bass is in good intonation
This I've wondered about for a very long time. That said, I can get the bass in tune all over. Just not with the tuner.
OP did say "The E at the 5th fret does not sound in tune with the open E", which sure sounds like an intonation issue to me
That's when I use the tuner. It shows the B is in tune, but hearing it, it sounds out. When I tune it by ear, the E at the 5th fret sounds bang on the open E.
You're playing bass for crap's sake, why do you ever need to get that high? :)
Hey, I gave that kind of stuff up years ago ! I saw enough of the universe.
 

dfackler

Member
My tuners don't register the low B either. As there is a drop tuner on that string, I drop the B to A and tune in octaves with the A string.

~d
 

grimtraveller

If only for a moment.....
My tuners don't register the low B either
My tuner registers it. It's just that it isn't in tune when the tuner says it is on the low B.
It's not actually a problem, as I can get it in tune by ear. I am curious though, as to whether this is a common thing with tuners and 5 string basses.
 
It's fairly common. It's possible that the tuner while picking up that it's a B is just not accurate enough at those slow low freqs, if you're saying that the open B itself is "not in tune" by ear after the tuner says it is... if the B is in tune by ear... and anything else on that string is out... it's probably a setup/intonation issue... does the nut slot look good and pushing the low B down at the first fret not cause too much movement to the fret board? High action at the nut would throw everything else out on that string even if the open B itself is in tune with the tuner (if it is accurate).
 
Top