# Is it accurate to tune with harmonics higher than the third harmonic on the double bass?

I typically play an A4 with my tuner when I am tuning because that is the note that the violin would be playing.

On the bass, I would be playing the A harmonic on the D-string in fourth position. If I set my tuner to simply record my intonation, the note I play is consistently flatter than 220 Hz, even though it feels in tune against a drone. If I then play the harmonic an octave above that (somewhere F on the D string), that high A is recorded more correctly 440Hz.

I know that pianos and plucked instruments exhibit stretched tunings because of inharmonic strings, but I had thought I read somewhere that bowed instruments have perfectly lined up overtones because of the bow action, but I don't know if this still applies to playing the harmonics themselves.

So what I'm asking is: Is it okay to use harmonics as high as the 6th (5th?) harmonic to tune the instrument? Why or why not? If not, should I tune by ear, playing the lower A harmonic and the A440Hz; or should I train myself to get the tuner to line up to 220Hz?

• Once you have one string 'in tune', how do you tune the others?
– Tim
Mar 14, 2020 at 7:14
• @Tim With the third and fourth harmonics in fourth position. Mar 14, 2020 at 11:38
• @Tim - Although of course one can use either convention- the fundamental or the octave is the first harmonic- it's more congenial to the math to call the fundamental the first harmonic, and the octave the second, because that way the numbers of the harmonics are also their relative frequencies. Mar 14, 2020 at 15:50
• @ awe lotta - You should be in third position to tune with harmonics, not fourth. Mar 16, 2020 at 1:22
• Harmonics should bring you in tune. When you tune and say you "feel" like you're in tune with the drone could you be mistaken? Perhaps you are not as close as you think? And when the recorded note by the tuner registers flat, by how many cents?
– user50691
May 18, 2020 at 13:46