How to Tune Your Guitar

How to Tune Your Guitar

by Phil Barrow March 24, 2011

Have you ever picked up your guitar and started to play, only to have everything just sound “wrong” or slightly “off?” If so, your guitar was most likely out of tune. Learning how to tune your guitar is something that the majority of beginners struggle with, but it’s also something that you need to figure out if you want to succeed. That’s because even the most talented musicians can sound bad if they’re playing a guitar that’s out of tune.

Guitars tend to go out of tune quickly, especially the lower-priced guitars that most beginning students use. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure your guitar is tune when you first sit down to practice and you’ll have to check it while you’re playing-that’s because the act of playing the guitar can cause it to go out of tune. Frustrating? Maybe at first, but it doesn’t have to be.

When first starting out, tuning your guitar may take you a little while. Once you’ve gotten used to doing it and you’re more confident with the process, you should be able to tune your guitar in less than a minute.

Tune Your Guitar with a Reference Pitch or By Ear

The easiest way to tune your guitar is with a reference pitch. Your reference pitch could be another guitar, a piano, a tuning fork, or an electric guitar tuner. There is even a free Gibson iPhone app available that you can use to tune your guitar, and many music websites play a reference pitch that you can use.

Please note that if you’re by yourself and do not have a reference pitch to use, you can still tune your guitar by ear. If you’re tuning your guitar with this method, your guitar will sound fine on its own, but will probably sound out of tune if you try to play along with another instrument.

The open strings of a guitar, from the thickest to thinnest, are as follows:

  • E – the 6th string; it the thickest or lowest sounding string
  • A – the 5th string
  • D – the 4th string
  • G – the 3rd string
  • B – the 2nd string
  • E – the 1st string; it is the thinnest or highest sounding string

Now let’s tune your guitar!

Step 1: Tuning the E String

Again, if you don’t have a reference pitch or any type of tuner, don’t worry. Just tune the bottom E string by ear as accurately as you can. Chances are pretty high that it’s in already tune because it’s the thickest string and therefore the least likely to go out of tune.

Step 2: Tuning the A String

Now you’ll need to get the other five strings in tune. Place your left hand index finger just behind the fifth fret on the bottom E string so that you’re playing an A. Keeping your finger on that fret, pick the fifth and six strings in turn. You’ll need to gently adjust the fifth string tuning peg until the two notes sound the same.

Step 3: Tuning the D String

Moving on, now place your left hand index finger just behind the fifth fret on the A string so that you’re playing a D. You’ll want to tune the 4th string-the D string-to that note.

Step 4: Tuning the G String

Next you’ll want to place your left hand index finger just behind the fifth fret on the D string so that you’re playing a G. Tune the 3rd string-the G string- to that note.

Step 5: Tuning the B String

You’re almost done! Place your left hand index finger just behind the fourth fret on the A string so that you’re playing a B and tune the 4th string-the B string-to that note. Always remember that the B string is the only string that you’ll tune from the fourth fret. The rest are done from the fifth fret.

Step 6: Tuning the E String

Finally, place your left hand index finger just behind the fifth fret on the B string so that you’re playing an E and tune to your first E string to that note.

Once you’ve tuned your guitar strings, you’re ready to play! Have fun!

Thanks to CoreForce for image.

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Phil Barrow

Phil discovered his passion for music in his early teens when he began learning to play the guitar. He later attended the VCC School of Music where he studied jazz and contemporary guitar performance. Phil joined Resound as a guitar teacher in 2013 and has been the school’s Director since 2014. You can also find Phil blogging about teaching guitar at GuitarTeacherAcademy.com.

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