Guitar tuning is the first step to every practice time or jam session! This guide will go over how to tune your guitar with and without a tuner, the notes of each string, and tips and tricks on how to keep your guitar in tune.
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First, let’s start with the basics of guitar tuning, The Tuning Pegs! The tuning pegs are located on the head of your guitar, and change the pitch of the guitar strings. To make the pitch go up, turn the pegs to tighten the strings. To make the pitch go down, turn the pegs to loosen the strings.
It’s a good idea to tune your guitar every time you go to play it! Guitars can go out of tune for numerous reasons, for example from warm weather to cold weather, or even playing for a long time. If you are playing a chord correctly and your guitar doesn’t sound right, you need to break out a tuner, before you continue to practice.
The best way to tune the guitar is with an electronic Chromatic or Pitch Tuner. You can also tune by ear, and by using another instrument for reference notes. For beginners you might even consider using a free guitar tuning app, that can walk you through each step of the process.
Relative Guitar Tuning is a technique many guitar players use to quickly tune a string if it goes out of tune. It also is a way for you to “tune” the guitar to be relatively in tune with itself. (Relatively in Tune means you are tuned based off the 6th string, regardless if the 6th string is the correct pitch).
To start, press your finger on String 6, Fret 5, and listen to the pitch. While plucking String 6, Fret 5, tune the open String 5 to match the pitch of String 6, Fret 5. Then move down a string and repeat the process for each string (String 5, Fret 5, tune open String 4 and so on). There is one exception, when we get to String 2, press String 3, Fret 4, and tune open String 2 to match that pitch. Continue with Fret 5 for the remaining strings.
As you may already know, each guitar string has a letter name and assigned number. For guitar tuning purposes, we are going to refer to the string names by their letter names.
We can remember the order of the strings with this saying: Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big ears.
Guitar tuning begins by tuning each string one at a time. Start with the thickest string; the E string. Pluck the string near the device so that the mic picks up the sound. You should see the arrow start to move. Tune your pegs until the arrow lines up with the correct note. (Most tuners turn green when the note is correct).
If the string is flat (too low in pitch), turn the tuning peg to tighten the strings. If the string is sharp (too high in pitch) turn the tuning peg to loosen the strings.
Continue plucking the string and turning the peg until the arrow reaches the middle and the check mark appears. Repeat this process for the A and D strings.
If you have an electric guitar with all tuning pegs on one side, you will tune the G, B and high e strings this way as well. For bottom tuning pegs, the process is exactly the same except for one thing: the rotation of the tuning pegs is reversed.
Your guitar won’t stay in tune forever, but there are three things that you can do to help it stay in tune longer. The Three C’s:
Clean your strings. Every time you play your guitar dirt and grease from your fingers gets onto and under your strings (gross, I know). This corrodes the metal and shortens their lifespan. Wiping your strings off with a cloth or using GHS Fast Fret will add weeks to your strings and help them stay in tune longer.
Change your strings. When your strings start to sound dull or more like rubber bands than a guitar, it’s time to change your strings! New strings produce a clearer tone (and something called ‘harmonics’) which help them sound and stay in tune better and longer.
Care for your guitar. Changes in temperature and humidity are two big reasons why guitars go out of tune. It is always best to store your guitar in its case when not playing it. Store your guitar inside at room temperature to avoid damaging or warping the neck of your guitar.
Now that you’ve tuned your guitar, play it a little bit. Does it sound better? If so, great job! But it is quite possible that you need to go back and try again. No worries, just start at step 3 and repeat the process as many times as you need. You’ll get better at tuning with practice.
Still need some help? Watch our in-depth video on how to tune your guitar!
3 NEXT STEPS: Check out these options to help you get started!
We use 34 inch 3/4 size guitars in all of our classes. These two Acoustic or Electric Guitar packs have everything you need to get started and are tough enough to stand up to your young energetic musician!