Guitar Tuning - Part Two

Harmonic Standard Tuning

This next method of tuning requires a technique that needs a light touch and a bit of practice. By placing a finger lightly on any string in the 5th, 7th, or 12th frets, then playing that string and quickly lifting your finger from it, you will hear a bell-like tone. This effect is called a “harmonic”. It is easier to play harmonics on new strings and on a guitar neck that has been aligned correctly, but once you perfect the technique you will be able to play harmonics on any guitar and in quite a few frets on every string.

The trick is to place your finger flat and lightly on the string without pressing down, and then almost simultaneously striking the string and removing your fret finger from it. Try it first by placing your middle finger flat and lightly in the 12th fret of your top string. Now, using a pick, pluck the string and remove your fret finger from it immediately after plucking it. It's just a matter of light touch and timing. Practice this until the bell tones ring clearly and last for several seconds.

Let's take a brief but deeper look at this. We'll just assume that your top string is tuned to a standard E note. If you place a finger in the 5th fret of that string and press it against the fretboard and pluck it, you would hear an A note. However, if you place a finger lightly on the string in that same fret (5th) and remove your finger from the string as you pluck it, you get an E harmonic note. Let's also assume that your 2nd string (A string) is tuned and you placed a finger in the 7th fret and pressed it against the fretboard while plucking it. You would get an E note. But, if you place a finger lightly in the same (7th) fret of that string and remove it just after plucking it you would get another E harmonic note. In other words, when two adjacent strings are tuned, the harmonic note in the 5th fret of one string is the same harmonic note found in the 7th fret of the string below it. NOTE: THERE IS ONE EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE, WHICH IS EXPLAINED BELOW!

After practicing the technique for a while, place your index finger on the 5th fret of your top string (E) and your ring finger on the 7th fret of your 2nd string (A). Play a harmonic on your top string and follow it with a harmonic on your 2nd string. Let the two harmonics ring. These two strings are tuned when the two harmonics sound like one note (just like the 5th Fret method described earlier. You simply move down one string at a time and play a harmonic in the 5th fret of the uppermost string along with a harmonic in the 7th fret of the string below it. At the same time you turn the corresponding tuning key until the vibrations disappear and the two harmonics sound like one and the same note. WHEN YOU TUNE THE B (5th) STRING YOU MUST USE THE HARMONIC IN THE 7th FRET OF YOUR TOP STRING (a B harmonic note) AND THE HARMONIC IN THE 5th FRET OF YOUR B (5TH) STRING (also a B harmonic note) TO TUNE THE B STRING. YOU CAN THEN TUNE THE BOTTOM (6TH) STRING USING THE 5TH AND 7TH FRET HARMONIC NOTES AS YOU DID FOR THE TOP 4 STRINGS.

Once you have tuned all six strings, repeat the procedure from the top to ensure that none of the strings have slipped out of tune. You can also confirm the tuning using the 5th Fret Method described in the previous section. There are other modes of tuning, but being that these lessons are all geared toward chords, scales, and patterns related to Standard Tuning, I won't go into the other modes in detail here. (More about them at a later date). For now, I will only list the other 2 most common alternative tuning modes along with the notes to which each string is tuned for the mode.

DROP D Tuning: Top-> DADGBE <-Bottom

DROP A Tuning: Top-> AADGBE <-Bottom

If you prefer to do things the easy way (nothing wrong with that!), use our online tuner to help you tune your guitar to the standard mode.


Title Banner