Tuning a Guitar: Learn How To Tune Like A Pro With This Tutorial

Tuning A Guitar

There Are Many Disputes As To How To Best Tune Your Guitar. The Electronic Tuners Are Great - Until The Battery Dies!

Georgia Luthier Supply
Ultimate Guitar OnLine on Facebook

Bookmark and Share Subscribe

Tuning A Guitar:

Tuning a guitar has been a subject of much controversy over my many years of guitar playing. Just which way is best? There are several ways to accurately tune a acoustic guitar, classical or electric guitar, and I will let you pick your personal best, as a lot depends on how well-tuned your ear is toward relative pitch.

Ever had anyone ask you "hey bud can you tuna guitar". After reading this article you will be able to answer that  with a yes.

440A Tuning Fork

Tuning a Guitar with a Tuning Fork - 440A

Guitar Tuning By Ear Method - Compare To Single String

The first method for tuning a guitar is by the use of a . Get a 440A tuning fork. This will give you a "perfect" A on the fifth fret of the first or high "E" string. Forget about pitch pipes as they get crud in them and are not very reliable.

No matter if you later use an electronic tuner, you will still want a tuning fork in your case for backup.  If you are putting on new string be sure you arm yourself with a string clipper and a good . Ok, got the first string tuned up?

Next we will tune each string to the high "E"

1. Finger an "E" on the second string, fifth fret and compare to the open "E" first string. Tune the second string to exactly match.

2. Finger a "G" on the first string, third fret. Tune the open "G" third string to match exactly.

3. Finger a middle "E" on the fourth string, 2nd fret. Tune this to match the open "E" first string exactly. (Try not to let the one octave difference throw you off at this point).

4. Finger an "A" on the first string, 5th fret. Tune the 5th string  to match this exactly. ( Now this is a two octave difference and will be a bit harder to detect - you can do it though.)

5. Finally tune the open "E", 6th string to an open "E" first string. (Again a two octave difference).

Notice anything in common in this method of tuning? Yes, all the strings are tuned to the first string. A more common method of tuning a guitar is explained below, but there is an accumulation error in that method. You will see what I mean after you try to tune your guitar that way and will almost give up in frustration.

Tune By Ear Method - Compare To Relative String

This method for tuning a guitar also  utilizes a relative pitch method, buy comparing two strings to one another.

1. Get your "E" string tuned up as in the preceding method, with the tuning fork.

2. On the second string, finger an "E" on the 5th fret. Tune it exactly to the first string.

3. On the third string, finger a "B" on the 4th fret. Tune it exactly to the open second string.

4. On the fourth string, finger a "G" on the 5th fret. Tune it exactly to the open third string.

5. On the fifth string, finger a "D" on the 5th fret. Tune it exactly to the open fourth string.

6. On the sixth string, finger an "A" on the 5th fret. Tune it exactly to the open fifth string.

Repeat as necessary. Now do you see what I mean by accumulation error in this method? If each string is just a tiny bit off the error accumulates and becomes too great by the time you reach the sixth string.

Alright, lets fast forward a few decades here and talk about the age of electronics and how that helps to tune a guitar.

Electronic Guitar Tuner

Tuning A Guitar w/ the Korg CA-40 Electronic Tuner

Electronic Tuners

About the best electronic guitar tuner out there is the . It has a large meter area and will show when each string is "dead-on"  in tune with the green light signal. No need to finger any strings, so both hands are available for tuning duty and you can get your guitar perfect in no time. But keep that tuning fork in your case, because you will have a dead battery just when you need it the most.

iPhone Guitar Tuner

Tuning a Guitar With an iPhone!

Tuning a Guitar With An iPhone

Need another excuse  to buy  one of the ultra-cool  iPhone's? Yep you guessed it. There are several tuning a guitar tuner app's for the iPhone. One of these is called ModGuitars.com Tuner. Really cool! I'm going to buy this one for mine.

General Tuning a Guitar Tips

>Lastly, lets go over a few general Tuning A Guitar Tips

Always make  sure your strings are fresh. You can't get old strings in tune, not matter what electronic tuning marvels you have at your disposal.

If you have new strings, have tuned everything perfectly and find playing in the upper registers (higher frets), sounds "off-tune", you likely have an intonation problem. Read my article on checking intonation and how to adjust it.

When you start the process of tuning your guitar and after you give a tuning fork a good rap, place the base of the metal between your front teeth. If your head is wooden or hollow, like mine is, you will hear the tone long and loud while you tune that first "A".