The first thing a beginner needs to learn on the guitar is how to tune. An out-of-tune guitar will make even the best player sound bad.
The best way to learn guitar is to first learn how to tune it. Then, everything you play will sound better, and the whole musical world will thank you!
I recommend you tune your guitar before every guitar lesson, practice session and certainly before any performance. In the end, training your ear to know what it sounds like to play in tune is the best way to learn guitar. In this post, I will show you three ways to tune your guitar.
1. Using a Tuner
The easiest tuning method is to use a tuner. There are many types of tuners, including ones designed specifically for the guitar. If you have a smart phone, you can simply download an app for tuning your guitar. I personally use PitchLab on my phone.
When using a tuner, make sure you are tuning to the correct pitches. The strings, from lowest to highest, should be tuned to E2, A2, D3, G3, B3 and E4.
I recommend that you also learn to tune your guitar by ear.
Why is this important? Because you can still tune your guitar if you forget your tuner or your phone is dead. Even more importantly, it will help develop your ear for pitch.
There are two methods of tuning the guitar by ear. Both methods require having the lowest-sounding string in tune. To do this, find a piano or someone who is already in tune and match your bottom string to their E pitch.
If you are just practicing, then you can tune the E2 string using your tuner. In fact, if you are just practicing on your own, you can simply tune to the lowest-sounding string. Even if it isn’t perfectly on pitch, at least the guitar will be in tune with itself.
2. The Fifth Fret Method
1. Play the lowest string (E2) at the fifth fret, and then tune the A2 string to this pitch.
When tuning to a note, it is best to loosen the tuning peg until you are below the pitch, and then bring it up until both strings sound like one pitch.
2. Play the A string you just tuned at the fifth fret, and then tune the D3 string to this pitch.
3. Play the D string at the fifth fret, and tune the G3 string to this pitch.
4. The next string is different from all the others. Play the G string at the 4th fret, and tune the B3 string to this pitch.
5. Finally play the B string at the fifth fret, and tune the E4 string to this pitch.
3. The Harmonics Method
1. This method requires being able to play harmonics. To play a harmonic lightly, touch a string at the fifth fret, and pull your finger away as you pluck the string. This should produce a higher, more bell-like sound. It usually takes some practice to get this to work well. Harmonics can be easily produced at the fifth, seventh and twelfth frets.
2. Play the harmonic on the fifth fret of the lowest string (E2). Then, play the harmonic on the seventh fret of the A2 string, and tune it to the E string. Due to the pure sound of harmonics, it is easier to hear whether you are perfectly in tune.
3. Repeat this for each string, using the fifth fret harmonic to tune the seventh fret harmonic of the next string, except for the B string. You will have to tune the B string using either the fifth fret method or a tuner, because the harmonics method does not work for this string.
Now that you have learned to tune your guitar, go out and make the world a better place for all music lovers by always playing with an in-tune guitar!
Jerry W. teaches classical guitar, composition, trombone and trumpet in Grosse Pointe, MI. He received his Bachelor of Music in Theory and Composition from Cornerstone University and went on to receive both his Master’s and PhD in Music Composition from Michigan State University. Jerry has been making music and teaching students for over thirty years. Learn more about Jerry W. here!
Photo by A Klar