How To Tune Your Guitar

tuning01Learning to tune your guitar when you first start can be both difficult and frustrating. However, it is important you persevere and learn this skill, as it is very important. You will have great difficulties in hearing how songs should sound if your guitar is always out of tune.

Tuning requires using your ears to bring the guitar to the correct pitch. Tuning can be difficult if you have a poor sense of pitch, or if you are in some way tone deaf.

You could consider purchasing an electric tuner to help you, however buyer beware! Purchasing a cheap electric tuner could prove to be more of a headache than a good investment. Spend the money on a good tuner that will give an accurate reading. Download high resolution printable document of this entire section for a small fee! This download is a high resolution printable PDF document (300dpi) of all lessons in this section. Any website animated images are displayed using a step by step presentation method. These lessons are ideal for learning offline or handing out to students. Pricing is comparable to lesson content.

Tuning - Where to Start

There are a few different ways you can tune your guitar:

  • Comparing one string to another (As shown in the following method)
  • Using an electronic tuner
  • Tuning to another instrument (piano, another guitar, keyboard, etc)
  • By using natural harmonics on the guitar
  • By listening to the sound of any major chord (this method takes a little experience)
  • Comparing octaves

Each one of the above tuning methods uses the beating effect (as shown on the following pages). If you don't understand this method, then tuning will be difficult.

When you tune the strings on your guitar, you're tuning one string to another. You will tune your 5th string by the sound of the 6th string, once your 5th string is tuned you will then tune your 4th string to the sound of you 5th string. Then tune your 3rd by your 4th, 2nd by your 3rd and 1st by your 2nd.

How To Tune One String To Another

There are three variables that make a string sound different;

  • Length
  • Tension
  • Thickness

When you tune, you are changing the tension of a string to matching the pitch of one string to another. In this method of tuning you are finding the same sounding note on the thicker string and comparing it to an open note on the thinner string below.

  • IMAGE 1: This diagram shows all the notes up to the 5th fret on all strings. As you can see all strings except the "G" repeat the note on the following string on the 5th fret. This means that if you can find the same note on another strings then you have another note to reference your tuning note with. Providing your starting note is correct all other strings will tune in properly.
  • IMAGE 2: This diagram shows how the "A" note on the 6th string is the same a the "A" 5th string open. If you sound both these note together you will hear they sound the same. Remember to play on the tip of your finger so you don't mute out the 5th string when pushing down on the 6th. If both these notes don't sound the same then your guitar is out of tune.
  • IMAGE 3, 4 & END: These strings are also tuned the same, 5th fret on the thicker string and open note played directly underneath it.
  • IMAGE 5: This is the only string that is tuned by the 4th and open. This is because "B" is found on the 4th fret on the 3rd string.

When A String Is In Tune

Hearing When A String Is In Or Out Of Tune

Cycles

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  • To understand how to tune it helps if you can see how a note looks in a graphical view. To the right you can see the animation showing what looks like waves (these waves are known as cycles). When a note is sounded it makes vibrations in the air, this is how those vibrations are represented visually. The lower the note the further away the cycles are. When the pitch of the note is higher, the cycles are closer together.