Tuning your Guitar


HOW   |   OTHER TUNING AIDS   |   ACOUSTIC GUITAR TUNERS   |   ACOUSTIC GUITAR STRINGS

Before you can play anything you need to have a tuned Guitar.
The standard tuning for a guitar is:

STRINGNOTE
6th string(the fat one)
E
5th string
A
4th string
D
3rd string
G
2nd string
B
1st string(the thin one)
e
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I suggest buying a tuner that does all the work for you. A good tuner can go for 10-50 bucks at any guitar retailer. But if you're too lazy or too poor to get one, there are alternitives.


1. First thing you need to do is get one string in tune(preferably E).
2. Then all you've got to do is this:

-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the E string. That should match the tone on the open A string. Turn the A tuning key until they match.
-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the A string. That should match the tone on the open D string. Turn the D tuning key until they match.
-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the D string. That should match the tone on the open G string. Turn the G tuning key until they match.
-Put your finger on the 4th fret on the G string. That should match the tone on the open B string. Turn the B tuning key until they match.
-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the B string. That should match the tone on the open e string. Turn the e tuning key until they match.


Maybe not so easy for some of us. Be Patient, it just takes a little time before our ears learn the tones and their relations to each other.


Alternate Tunings - Dropped D tuning:
All the strings except the low E (fat string) have the same tuning. You tune the low E DOWN to a low D. To do this you just tune down until the tone matches the tone of the high D string.(of course these tones are an "octave" apart, which means they're both D's, but one's higher than the other.)

e|----------------------------------------------------------------|
B|----------------------------------------------------------------|
G|----------------------------------------------------------------|
D|-----------0----------------------------------------------------|
A|----------------------------------------------------------------|
D|-------0--------------------------------------------------------|  
         |   |
         |   |
         |___|___ These two notes will share the same tone. The low D 
                  will be an octave below the high D.


Staying in tune consists of a few key elements:

  1. Properly stretched strings--basically this means that when putting on a new set of strings, you need to tug on the strings to stretch them out. you cannot simply tune the new set up to pitch and expect it to hold--you have to yank on the string and then keep retuning until it no longer goes flat after you yank. i prefer to use an electronic tuner for this--not because my ears stink, but because more often than not i find myself doing the stretching in a very noisy environment, such as a club or during soundcheck when the drummer is whacking the hell out of his snare drum.

  2. A well-cut nut--this means a nut that is just perfect for the string gauge that you use. if it's too tight, when you use the tuner, the string will get pinched in the nut, and then when you bend or play, this pinching will give, causing the string to go flat.

  3. Stable tuners--this is not as big of a deal, since most tuners--even the really bad ones don't slip.

  4. Proper tuning technique--this sounds really STUPID, but it's EXTREMELY important. when you tune, always tune in the SHARP direction. let me give an example:

    suppose you are trying to tune the fifth string to A. currently the string is flat. In order to tune properly you need to turn the tuning gear until you hit A. If you go SHARP, the WRONG thing to do is to turn the gear down until you hit A. The reason this is incorrect is because there is still a minute amount of slack in the tuner--no matter how good the tuner is, there is ALWAYS some slack.

    for those of you who would doubt this, try overshooting your target note and then tuning DOWN toward the note. once you hit the note, take your finger and give the string a big yank. now check your tuning again--i GUARANTEE it's going to be flat, if only a few cents or so.

    If you go too far sharp, the PROPER way to tune is to turn the gear so that the resulting note is DELIBERATELY flat. In other words, going back to our example, if you overshoot your A note, then turn the tuner so you are FLATTER than A. now give the string a tug as you would do when you are stretching. the slack in the tuner will give. now tune towards the A, being careful not to overshoot. if you overshoot, repeat the process. The key is to tune in the SHARP direction only!

If you fail to observe any of these points above, you're going to be in a mess, because stable tuning requires all of the above elements to be in place. Likely you're going to find that your tuning problem is the result of a combination of the above factors--after following all of the above guidelines, I usually find that even the worst and cheapest guitars stay in tune just fine.


How do I tune my guitar?

Standard tuning for a guitar is from low to high (thickest to thinnest string): E-A-D-G-B-E.

You can tune your guitar a number of different ways. Probably the fastest and easiest is to purchase one of the many electronic tuners available. These cost between $15 and $40 for an inexpensive model. Although not necessary, for a little more money you can get a chromatic tuner, which will allow you to tune to any note in the chromatic scale which is useful if you get into alternate tuning later. Most of these tuner come with built in mics, as well as a standard guitar cable jack so that you can tune an electric or acoustic. Just turn the tuner on, strum the 6th string, and continue to periodically strum while adjusting the tuner knob until the string is tuned properly. Then move onto the next string. Follow the directions with the tuner.



Here's a tip from the Play It Again Sam Newsletter, Nov 3, 1998

Ever been stuck without an electronic tuner, pitchpipe, or any method of getting your instrument in tune, when you'd do just about anything to get a reference tone? No problem, just pick up the phone, and listen to the dialtone! It's very close to an "F" note, anywhere in the United States, and maybe in some other countries, too. Guitar players can use this "F" note to tune the first string at the first fret, then just tune the rest of your guitar to that string. Call it a Teletuner!


High E Tip replace your "g" string with a high "e" and then tune it up to "g". This is a variation of Nashville tuning which uses all octave strings for the wound strings, i.e. a twelve string tuning without the bass strings. This set-up produces a novel rhythm guitar sound with or without a second normal rhythm guitar
from Guitar Newsletter #15


The Kink in the Tuning - article by Kirk Lorange, from Guitar Newsletter #12
"I had a friend in England who decided one day to tune all his strings to the fifth fret of the next one down, in other words E A D G C F. He did this to see if it would make soloing easier, which of course it did... Then he started to realize his folly: he had robbed himself of the richness of possibilities that normal tuning offers..."

Other Tuning Aids

Best Guitar Tuner A discussion on the guitasite forum about finding the best guiter tuner for under $50


Crash course in Drop D slide guitar "I then tried a drop D tuning, but only tuning the 6th string down: D A D G B E. I settled on this tuning, and now I always play in this tuning, whether I�m playing slide or not, and no matter what key I�m in. This gives me the best of both worlds: The bass strings ( D A D ) wind up being 2 tonics and a V. Neither minor nor major. I can grab those three strings with the slide and I have a nice low, thick open-tuned sound, which I can play against either minor or major chords"


Digital guitar tuner design guide.


Dansm's Acoustic Guitar Basics: Tuning
Tuning may be the most important thing for a beginning guitarist to learn. If you aren't in tune, you will never sound good, no matter how incredible a player you are. These pages are designed to teach you how to tune your guitar. Follow them step-by-step and you will be able to tune quickly and easily, without the need for an expensive electronic tuner.


The Internet Guitar Tuner Tune your guitar, quick, accurately and free here! Java Applet that allows you to tune up and go! plus a growing selection of quality quitar links


Guitar tuner options. You have many choices when it comes to buying guitar tuners. Read reviews from other guitarists and make the right choice.


Because the chromatic scale has twelve notes and each fret on the guitar moves up one half-step, every note appears on all six strings somewhere before the twelfth fret. In other words, there is an 'E' on every string, an 'A' on every string, a 'Gb' on every string, etc.



Really neat tuning method from the Guild of American Luthiers - many guitarists are frustrated because of their attempts to tune the guitar to pure chords (free of beats). These particular players have very sensitive ears that prefer pure intervals and reject the mandatory equal temperament. They tune their guitar beautifully pure on one chord only to discover that the next chord form is unacceptable. In too many instances they assume that there must be a flaw in the workmanship on the fingerboard. Their problem is not in the construction of the guitar. It is one of pure tuning verses equal temperament.


How to correctly tune your Guitar
There are several ways to tune a guitar. One is to use a set of pipes for all six strings. I do not recommend this since a single pipe can have the same result, and moreover alternate tunings are not covered by the 6pipes-set. The second way is to use a single pipe as already mentioned. Tuning with harmonics---other than the 1st harmonic on the 12 fret which is an octave above the open string---are not correct equal-tempered tunings. The frequencies of natural harmonics (notes as found in the nature) which are based on the length of vibrating strings (1/2, 2/3, 3/4, ...) do not match the frequencies of the artificial equal-tempered tuning which is used in the western music.

A tuning is called octave based tuning when we are comparing unisons or octave intervals while tuning all the strings. Every octave based tuning tunes a guitar correctly, if it is correctly done.


You may play like Eric Clapton or Steve Howe, but if your guitar is out of tune you'll sound like fingernails on a blackboard. Learn how to tune your guitar. I BEG you!!!!


Guitar Tuning By Harmonics by Jim Campbell The usual method of tuning a guitar involves tuning each high string by matching the pitch played at the fifth or forth fret of the next lower string. Another method uses harmonics produced between the fifth fret of the lower string and the seventh fret of the next higher. I have seen this method used by tuning the harmonics until the beats disappear, but I found when I tried to do this, the tuning never came out quite right. It turns out, that as a consequence of the equal tempered scale, these harmonics must be mistuned very slightly for this to work out. I have found that I can get a suitable tuning by this method, but that the beat rates required are not always the same


Guitar FAQs - "I am having problems tuning my guitar that has a floyd on it. I have managed to get it tuned, but the bridge is not level with the surface of the guitar, it has therefore lowered my string height". You are not alone with Floyd Rose tuning problems. I believe this is one of the greatest innovations for electric guitar in the last 20 years. When they are set-up properly, they are a phenomenal tool. This system is incredibly sensitive to changes in string tension thus using the same gauge/brand of strings will save you a lot of headaches each time you change them.


Teaching the Folk Guitar Because the 6th string is the largest string on the guitar it will not go out of tune as easily as the others. We can, therefore, "assume "that it is in tune. When you are playing by yourself the 6th string does not have to be exactly in tune with any other instrument. However, when we play with other musicians we must tune our E string with an E note of another instrument.


Walley Multi-Strobe Pitch Reference The Walley Multi-Strobe Pitch Reference tells you WHICH string to tune. Get used to strumming while tuning, the Multi-Strobe Pitch Reference tells you the status of every string at a glance. When you tune the string that needs it most, you bring your whole instrument into tune with minimal peg turning.


Guitarology: Tuning the Guitar If you have an electronic tuner, your ear won't be involved. If you have a piano, harmonica or a pitch pipe and have an idea of where some of the notes are, you can tune your guitar by matching the pitch of each string to the pitch of the other instrument. Or, you can tune your guitar strings in relation to one of the strings on your guitar


See a list of further TUITION sites


Classical Guitarists Resources & Biography
Classical Guitar: Artists 1 | Artists 2 | Anatomy | History | Museum | Links


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