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9/18/10

How to Tune a Guitar | Helpful Guide to Tuning Your Guitar

by Chris Jones
When learning the guitar you can be so busy trying to learn chords and songs that you may not even know if your guitar is in or out of tune. Being able to tune a guitar is very important when you begin learning. There is no point in learning your favourite song if your guitar is out of tune, is there? The first step to know about tuning your guitar is what sound you are looking for from each string. We need to know which note each string will be tuned to:

1st - e (Bottom and thinnest string)
2nd - B
3rd - G
4th - D
5th - A
6th - E (Top and thickest string)

As you can see above, starting from the bottom, the 6th string is tuned to the note 'E', the 5th is 'A', 4th is 'D', 3rd is 'G', 2nd is 'B' and the 1st is 'e'. Notice how I use a Capital 'E' and small 'e' for the 6th and 1st strings, this is to show the difference between the low E and high e string.

This has shown which notes should correspond with each string in 'Standard Tuning' (EADGBe).

At this stage, because you now know this information, you could easily use a pitch pipe or electric tuner which you can buy from any of your local music stores or online stores. However if you want to learn how you can tune your guitar without the use of a tuner then just read on...

If someone handed you a guitar and asked you to tune it, you would either have to have a really musical ear, or have one of the strings already in tune. For this lesson make sure your top string (E, 6th) is in tune, if you are unsure you could use a piano, a tuned guitar, or even a YouTube video to match the sound of that string.

If you start to practice listening to the sound of the top E string now, eventually you will be able to tune the guitar by ear. Using the help of the method below you will be able to tune your guitar on your own without the use of any equipment.

We are going to use a method called relative tuning. At this point you should have your low E string in tune. The reason we call it 'relative tuning' is because we are going to be tuning a string relative to the string above it, the first example is tuning the A(5th) string to the already tuned E(6th) string. I'll show you what I mean:

e|------------------0---|
B|-------------0---5---|
G|---------0---4-------|
D|-----0---5-----------|
A|-0---5---------------|
E|-5--------------------|

---- 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
---- A. D. G. B. e.

We already have our E string in tune, so now take the following steps:

1. The 5th fret of the Low E, is the same sound as the A string open, so play the E string with your finger on the 5th fret and the sound you hear is what the A string should sound like. All you have to do now is tune that open A until it matches the sound of the 5th fret on the top E string.

2. Same as above except you are using the 5th fret of the A string you just tuned to tune the D string. Turn the tuning peg of the open D string until you can match the sound of the A strings 5th fret.

3. Same as above except you are using the 5th fret of the newly tuned D string to tune the open G

4. This time there is a difference when tuning the B string relative to the tuned G string. Instead of using the 5th fret, like we have done previously, we use the 4th fret, this is the only one which is different. The method is still the same just make sure to use the 4th fret of the G when tuning the B.

5. Once you have tuned the B string you are now onto the last string (the high e). To tune the high e string using the B just use the exact same pattern as you did in steps 1, 2 and 3 above.

Another point to make is that the 6th and 1st strings are the same note (both E), so if one of them is in tune then it can be used to tune the other simply by playing them both at the same time and adjusting whichever is out of tune until they match up.

Like most things, the more you repeat this method, the better you will become at it. Once you manage to tune your guitar the first time, it gets easier, as most of the time it is quite close to the correct tuning already. The more you hear the sound of a tuned guitar the more your ear will be trained into knowing that sound. Even if it's just the top string you recognize, then you can use the relative tuning method to tackle the rest. Now you have your guitar tuned you can start learning all your favourite songs. Good Luck!
How to Tune a Guitar | Helpful Guide to Tuning Your Guitar

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