Knowing how to tune a guitar is necessary for people wanting to learn the instrument. You can’t expect the strings to be in perfect harmony forever, can you?
Fortunately, there are several easy ways to tune a guitar even beginners can follow. You can adjust the instrument using your ears, a digital tuner, tuning software, or even with other instruments.
Consider finding this post as a stroke of luck!
We’ll walk you through the steps of tuning a guitar using these methods. So, keep reading, and let’s kick up your guitar-tuning skills a notch.
So, you’ve bought your first guitar. And now you learned that before you can start singing along to your favorite songs, you need to tune and maintain the strings first.
What a bummer, right?
Well, not necessarily so. Tuning your guitar ensures all its strings are in the correct positions to play the proper notes and chords.
Plus, no one would want to sing with an out-of-tune guitar!
But, before you start tinkering with your instrument, let’s briefly go over the fundamentals of tuning, including learning the standard tuning notes of a guitar.
Guitars are commonly tuned from the lowest to the highest note: E, A, D, G, B, E. You can memorize this order by the phrase, “Elvis Ate Dynamite, Goodbye Elvis” or “Every Boy Gets Dinner At Eight.”
The thickest string, or the 6th string, corresponds to the first E note. People often call it the “low E note” because it’s the lowest note you can play on a guitar.
The second thickest string, or the 5th string, corresponds to the A note. Then, moving down the fretboard would be the fourth string (D), third string (G), second string (B), and first string (E).
The standard tuning applies to both acoustic and electric guitars. So, be sure to remember this tuning configuration for future reference!
Now, without further ado. Let’s move on to the methods of tuning a guitar.
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Are you looking for the quickest way to tune your guitar? Using tuner software is the easiest and fastest option you have.
You can easily find these types of tuning software online. You can also install free guitar tuning applications on your iPhone or Android for a convenient tuning session.
Here are the steps to tune your guitar using tuning software:
If you already have a tuning app on your phone, you can almost immediately start tuning your guitar. These types of software are essentially open-and-go.
Most applications and websites will have a straightforward user interface. Most will show guitar string animations that detect and respond to the string you play.
After setting up your tuning application, place your device close to your guitar. The software will use your device’s microphone to “hear” the notes and suggest adjustments.
These applications will tell you if your string note is flat or sharp via animations. You then tighten or loosen the string until you hit the right pitch.
One advantage of tuning software is that you don’t have to adjust the strings in order. You can pluck any string on the fretboard, and it’ll show how far you are from the correct pitch.
So, pluck the string, watch the app, adjust the tuning peg, and repeat until you hit the mark. Do this process for all six strings, and you should be good. Quick and easy!
A headstock guitar tuner is a device that functions similarly to the software. Simply put, it detects and displays the pitch of a guitar string when played close to the device.
There are several advantages to having a specific device for tuning your guitar. You can’t bring your phone or PC everywhere, can you?
They may be old, but these devices can tune your instrument as quickly as an app!
Digital tuners detect pitch through vibrations, unlike software that detects sounds through a microphone. So, you need to attach the device to the guitar, close to the tuning pegs.
Most headstock tuners use a clipping mechanism—much like a capo. So you simply pry the clamp open and let it bite into the headstock of your guitar.
The process is pretty much straightforward after setting up your tuner and guitar. And while they detect sounds differently, these devices use similar concepts as software.
Digital tuners will display a pitch spectrum you can read. It will also display a needle that will tip left or right, showing the “flatness” or “sharpness” of notes.
Some digital tuners will change colors when you’re on or off the mark.
Headstock tuners automatically detect the string you’re playing. It will also display the specific note you’re trying to tune.
What you need to do is make the needle or visual note readout hit the center of the spectrum. And you can do this by plucking the string, reading the tuner, and adjusting the tuning pegs.
Work through all the strings, and you’re good to go!
Just like using an app or software, audio plugins allow you to digitally tune a guitar. But, within your DAW.
There are TONS of tuning plugins out on the market today. They range from standalone options to tuners within amp simulation plugins.
The process for tuning a guitar using plugins is the same as for an app or software. In this scenario, you will use a microphone plugged into your audio interface or computer to capture audio. For electric guitar, you can go directly line-in to your interface for the best results.
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Before the invention of automatic tuners, people tuned their guitars by ear. It means you have to listen to the notes carefully so you can make adjustments.
One advantage of this technique is that you can use it without applications or tuning devices. As such, it’s a practical skill to add to your armory as an artist!
Sounds hard? No worries, we’ll teach you the trick of this trade.
Some blessed guitar players have a perfect pitch, so they don’t need any reference when tuning by ear. However, you’ll likely need a reference tone if you’re a newbie.
You can use a piano, a metronome, or a tuning fork as a reference tone. Play the E chord and match your low E string (6th string) with the note’s pitch.
That said, it’s worth noting that your low E string doesn’t need to be in perfect pitch. So you can use it as your reference tone to tune the rest of the strings.
Let’s assume you decided to use your low E string as your reference tone. The next step is to go to the fifth fret of the low E string and pluck.
The sound of that note will be an A, which is the note of an open fifth string. Listen to the note’s sound carefully and adjust the tuner peg of the fifth string to match it.
After successfully duplicating the fretted A note to your open fifth string, you can repeat the process down the fretboard.
Go to the A string’s fifth fret, pluck, and listen. The sound it will produce should be a D note, which is the sound of an open fourth string. Listen and adjust.
Follow similar steps until you reach the third (G) string.
Tuning the second (B) string will require a tiny adjustment. Instead of the fifth, you’ll need to press the fourth fret of the third string to produce the B note.
That said, this is the only change in this tuning method. So, once you successfully tuned the second (B) string, you can simply go back to the “fifth fret process” to finetune the first string.
One thing to remember is that tuning by ear requires some time to master. Listening and copying notes can be tedious, but it’s an effective method if a tuning device isn’t available!
Another straightforward technique to tune your guitar is to use other instruments. However, your reference should be in tune for this method to work.
Remember the reference tone when tuning by ear? Well, it’s a similar concept, only you’re using the sound of other instruments.
You can use any available instrument at your disposal. Ideally, you’d want something that produces clear notes, such as a piano or another guitar.
Simply play the notes of the standard tuning notes (E, A, D, G, B, E). Then, imitate the sound to match each guitar string accordingly.
This method is helpful for guitar players who want to play in a group. It allows the instruments to match each other—a crucial element for coherent harmonics!
Keeping your guitar in tune is a rudimentary responsibility as a guitarist. You need to take care of your instrument so it can produce excellent sound!
Keep your guitar tuned by regularly changing the strings. If you’re an avid guitar player, you might need to change once every month.
Note that guitars will naturally drift out of tune over time. And beginner ears may not notice the slight changes in the notes.
So, keep tuning a part of your routine and take care of your instrument!
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