How To Tune A Guitar
Whether you’re an aspiring musician or simply want to play some tunes over the campfire, owning a guitar can bring you and others countless hours of entertainment. However, one thing that people tend to forget is tuning. For the guitar to sound its best, it needs to be setup properly. I know it can be a pain to do but working out the kinks before you start jamming is the best way to obtain a perfect-sounding guitar.
You Don’t Need a Tuner
I know that a lot of people new to the world of music and guitars will gravitate towards using a tuner, but it’s not a must-have item. There are a few different tricks that I’ve learned to use with my guitars, none of which involve an electronic tuner.
Instead, you’ll learn some simple information and tricks that can be applied to all guitars. All I ask is that you have some basic guitar information, such as where the frets are and how some standard notes are played. It’s certainly not impossible to tune a guitar without knowing anything about one but modifying the sound will be easier with some background understanding. And for those still unfamiliar, there are great online guitar lessons that can get you started.
The Steps and Order of Tuning
It seems funny, but there is a certain order of tuning the strings on a guitar. There are six strings on a guitar, each with a different name and thickness. Hopefully you’ve familiarized yourself with the guitar’s strings and names by now, but if not here’s a quick rundown:
- The top-most string is called the sixth or low E string, and it’s the thickest of the bunch. As you move your way down, the order follows suit.
- Next is the fifth string, which is also known as the A string
- Fourth, or D, string follows
- The third string comes up after that, carrying the title of G string
- Almost nearing the end, the second or B string can be found here.
- Lastly, the first and high E string is the thinnest of all, carrying the highest pitch as well.
For me, starting with the sixth string is my recommendation, as you’ll use this as your “reference string” for setting up the others. This way, you’re starting with the lowest pitch first, and working your way up the sound profile. To manage the sound of your strings, you’ll use the pegs at the end of your guitar’s neck. You can open, which is loosen, or tighten, which tightens, the pegs to alter the soundstage. Also, remember that tuning does require some basic knowledge of how frets work.
Steps of Tuning
Now that you know how the guitar operates, I can walk you through the easiest way of tuning with your ear. This is a harder skill to learn, but once mastered you’ll find it’s the quickest and most convenient way to go about your guitar tuning.
- Find your reference pitch and tune your sixth string. If you want to play with other instruments, use those as your starting point.
- Now, you’ll need to play an A note. Once your fingers are in the correct position (inside the fifth fret), you can strum the note until the sixth string sounds like the fifth string.
- Next, you’ll play the fifth string in the fifth fret, followed by tuning your fourth string until the sound is similar.
- Using this same pattern, you can work your way down the guitar. The fourth string, fifth fret will be used to tune your third string. You’ll move over to the fourth fret with your third sting, tuning your second string until the sound the same.
- Last up is your first string which, as you probably guessed, you play your second string, fifth fret until the harmonics mesh.
That’s it! You’ve done it. When doing this, I recommend taking it slow the first couple times. Often, I hear about people being interrupted during the process, which can vastly change the sound outputs if you don’t remember to do it all at once. This way, you don’t have to start over. I don’t like to waste time, and I’d imagine many people share my sentiment.
Using a Piano is an Option
Maybe you have one on hand, or you feel confident in the. I know it seems weird bringing in other instruments to learn from, but the key here is you can use another source to help with the process. Using a piano to tune can be an easy way to familiarize yourself with the steps anyway, so I recommend it for first-timers.
The basic premise is that you’ll tune your low E to match the E note on a piano. Sure, I get that not everyone has a full-size keyboard to use always, but it can become a nice aid if you do have one laying around. If you plan to play your guitar with other instruments, like I and many others do, then you’ll want to consider using something like a piano to learn from. Otherwise, while the guitar will sound just fine on its own, it won’t carry the same harmony among friends.
Some of My Favorite Tuning Tips
The hardest thing to learn for any new guitarist is tuning, and I get it. This is a frustrating process, one that hinders your ability to just play the guitar when you want to. However, once you’ve heard and played a nicely-tuned guitar, you’ll find it pleasing to your ears. So, if you’re having some trouble identifying or listening to different notes, there’s a few things you can try.