Beginner Basics - Tuning the Guitar


Tuning the guitar

How do I tune a guitar? Is it difficult? What do I need?


There are several ways to tune a guitar. The most used ones are:


Tuning the guitar by comparing each string to the other strings


This is a very simple method, yet it requires that you can hear whether one pitch is lower or higher than the other.


It is done like this:


Fret the top string of your guitar, the 'low E', on the 5th fret. Play that note and listen. Next, play the second string from above, the A string, without fretting it, WHILE THE E STRING IS STILL RINGING. Those two pitches should be the same! If they are not, the two strings will sound either very bad together, or there will be a slight wavey sound to them.


Now, tune the second string, the A, by using the corresponding tuning peg on the guitar's headstock. Just twist it a little bit and play both notes again. If the sound gets uglier, you turned the wrong way. If it got better, keep turning the tuning peg by little bits and listening to both strings at the same time. If the sound gets that little wave, tune some more until the wave finally disappears.

Voila, your two strings are in tune. Next, you'll want to tune the third string. Fret the A string that you've just tuned on the 5th fret and play it. The 3rd string from above, the D string, should have the same pitch. If it doesn't, tune the D string.

guitarhow lesson - tuning - boss tu80


Next, tune the other strings the same way. BUT, beware, the 4th string from above, the G string, has to be fretted on the 4th fret. This is because the interval between the notes G and B is a major third, and not a quarter, like the other intervals between 2 neighbouring strings. The good thing about this method is that you don't need anything except the guitar. The bad thing is that there is no way to tell if the top E string, to which all others are tuned, was in tune to start with! For that, you would need either a tuning fork or an electric tuning device.


Tuning the guitar by comparing string harmonics

This is the way to go if you want to tune the guitar very accurately. Start again with the top E string, but now play the harmonic of the 5th fret. On the second string, the A string, play the harmonic of the 7th fret. Those should be the same. The 5th string from the top, the open B string, should also have that pitch! Now work on the A string and the B string until they match the top E string. The other string pairs that should be tuned to the same pitch, are then:


A string, 5th fret harmonic and D string, 7th fret harmonic. Tune the D string.

D string, 5th fret harmonic and G string, 7th fret harmonic. Tune the G string. The B you have already tuned.

B string, 5th fret harmonic and E string, 7th fret harmonic. Tune the E string.


That's it. If you can not get a good sound on the harmonics, make sure that your finger is right above the fret, just barely touching the string, and pick the string very close to the bridge of the guitar. This will make it louder.


Tuning the guitar with an electric tuner

Tuning your guitar is most precise using an electric tuner.

There are simple ones as made by Boss and Korg, or more expensive ones like the Peterson strobe tuners. My personal favorite is the BOSS TU-80. Fast, lightweight, small and cheap, and even has a metronome!


guitarhow lesson - tuning the guitar - tuning fork