Bass Guitar Hardware Part 2


The tuners are the parts on the headstock where the strings are attached. Tuners, sometimes called machine heads, consist of a post, gears, and a tuning key. The tuning post is the part the strings wrap around. The tuning keys stick out from the backside of the headstock and allow you to crank the gears that turn the posts. That’s how you will tune your bass.

Sometimes bass guitars have all of the tuning keys on one side of the headstock while others have them split between the top and bottom sides. This is just design and has no impact on the sound of the bass.

Some bass tuners are sealed while others are open-back. They are both good designs. You may need to oil the open-back ones maybe once every 10 years unless you find they are sticking. That’s not a concern.

You may see the term gear ratio. That refers to how many teeth the gears have. A higher gear ratio allows for finer tuning adjustments. This is not too important especially if you are buying your first bass.

Bass tuners are easily swapped out and not too expensive.

The tuning keys are sometimes described by their shape such as Shamrock, or clover-leaf. Brands you may see include Schaller and Gotoh.

A Hipshot tuner is a special tuner that allows a string to be tuned to two different notes. With the flick of a switch, you can change back and forth between these two tuning notes. A few bass guitars come with them or you can add one later if you want one.


The knobs are mainly decorative. Some knobs are metal while others are plastic or rubber. Knobs themselves aren’t too important and are easily replaced. We will discuss more what the knobs do in the electronics section.

Next: Bass Guitar Electronics

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