Guitar Tuning - Part One

There are a few reasons why you should tune your guitar correctly. The obvious benefit is that it is much more enjoyable and inspiring for you and the listener if you play on an instrument that sounds good. An accurately tuned cheap guitar sounds better than an un-tuned expensive one.

Another good reason to tune correctly is to keep a consistent tension on your strings so that your playing will be consistent. As a beginner, if you tune your strings too high today and then too low tomorrow, they will feel different to your touch, and that can affect your technique. For example: It is easier to press the strings against the fretboard and bend them if they are loose (low). It is also easier to inadvertently bend them and you can slightly change the pitch of some notes in a chord, which would make it sound as though the guitar hadn't been tuned at all. If you go from playing on strings that are tuned too low and then tune higher, your fingers would not as easily be able to press or to purposely bend the strings, so playing would be slightly more difficult than usual. Ideally, you want to tune your strings to the same pitch every time you tune your guitar.

If you are playing solo (I mean, "playing alone" rather than playing "a solo" in a song) it doesn't matter if you are tuned to some standard or not. However, if you tune your guitar to a "standard" pitch, you will be in tune when playing along with other tuned instruments, whether it is another guitar, a piano, a bass, or a fiddle. That includes singing while playing. You want to always sing a song in the same key - a key that suits your vocal range. Tuning to a different pitch each time you tune changes the pitch of the melody and could force you to sing beyond your vocal range.

Before tuning your guitar, you should see the lessons regarding Guitar Maintenance because unless your guitar neck is straight and the bridge and intonation are set properly, your guitar will only be correctly tuned in some frets, but not in all.

Tuning Tools

If you don't have an electronic tuner and you are having problems tuning your guitar, you might want to check out our online tuner to help you tune your guitar to the standard mode.

Tuning your guitar is easier and more accurate than it used to be, thanks to electronic tuners. You can buy such tuners for as little as a few dollars, or pay much more for tuners that allow you to tune to a variety of tuning modes. These gadgets save time and, more importantly, they provide an accurate standard reference to which you can tune your instrument. That means your guitar will be tuned correctly in relation to other instruments, provided they are also tuned to a standard reference pitch as well. Electronic tuners use circuitry that can accurately 'hear' a note played on each string and compare it with an internal oscillator tuned to the correct frequency for that note. The tuner then displays the relative difference between the frequency of the note you played and the internal oscillator frequency by using a meter, a series of lights, or a digital display.

Electronic tuners require batteries. If the batteries go dead and you don't have extras on hand, you will need to tune using the old manual method(s); In other words, you would have to "tune by ear". You should buy a tuning fork (tuned to E), or a pitch pipe, to use as a reference note for your top (E) string.

You can still tune your guitar without any reference note at all, but you need to consider that subsequently, you might not be tuned accurately with other instruments you accompany. As stated earlier, that isn't a problem if you will be playing alone and will not be singing, and, if you do play along with another instrument, it doesn't matter whether or not you are tuned to any standard reference note, provided you are tuned to each other,


With "Standard Tuning" your six strings are tuned to the following notes:

E A D G B E (from Top string to Bottom string)

There is a simple procedure for tuning your strings to those notes once you have tuned your top string. As mentioned above, it doesn't always matter if your top string is accurately tuned to a standard reference frequency or pitch, but it is important that your strings are tuned correctly in relation to each other.

The 5th Fret Method

Tuning with the "5th fret method" is simple, but there is one exception to the pattern used to tune your B (5th) string, which I will clarify below. Unless you were born with - or trained your ears to have - perfect pitch, you will need to use a tuning fork or pitch pipe to sound an E note so you can tune your top (1st) string. The idea is to tune your top string so it and the tuning fork or pitch pipe are in unison, or at least sound like one note.

Regardless of whether you used a pitch pipe, a tuning fork, or nothing at all, we'll assume that your top string is tuned and we'll continue by tuning you're A (2nd) string to it. Start by placing a finger in the 5th fret of your top string (E). Play the top string, then play the 2nd string ('A') and let the notes ring for about a second. Repeat them one after the other a few times and then play them together. When these two strings are tuned they will sound like one string, or at least, one note. So, if they don't sound like one note, then the two strings are not tuned.

Play the strings together again and, -USING YOUR STRUMMING HAND - turn the tuning key for the 2nd string slowly in one direction or the other. Play the two notes again as described above. If you begin to hear vibrations, it means the notes are close to being the same but are definitely NOT the same. Turn the tuning key for the 2nd string slightly more in the same direction you first turned it. If the vibrations become faster, then turn the tuning key in the opposite direction until the vibrations become slower. Listen closely and you should hear the vibrations getting slower as you turn the key slightly. If the vibrations get faster, then turn the key in the opposite direction. When the vibrations disappear and the two notes sound like one, then the top string and the second string are tuned to each other correctly.

Once your 1st and 2nd strings are tuned, use the procedure above for tuning the rest of the strings. Place your finger in the 5th fret of each string as you work your way down from top to bottom string, and play that string together with the one below it. HOWEVER, when you tune the 5th string (B string); *** You must place your finger in the 4th FRET OF THE G (4th) STRING AND PLAY IT AND THE 'B' (5th) STRING TOGETHER. *** Once the 'B' string is tuned you then tune the bottom 6th string by placing a finger on the 5th fret of the 'B" (5th) string and play it and the bottom string together while adjusting the tuning key of the bottom string.

Once you have tuned the bottom 5 strings, go back to the top and start again to be sure none of the strings have "slipped" or stretched slightly while you were tuning. Use the 5th fret (remember to use the 4th fret of the G (4th) string to tune the B (5th) string) and play the string below it while making adjustments to the tuning keys if necessary. If they are tuned correctly, each set of two strings should sound like one string.



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