How to Tune a Guitar

Are you a beginning musician or guitarist and you haven’t mastered how to tune your guitar? Here is an article that’s going to help you learn about:
Standard tuning notes in a guitar
Tuning your guitar with electronic guitar tuners
Guitar tuning using smartphones
Tuning your guitar with other instruments
Guitar tuning using its strings (by ear)
Sounds good? Let’s get to it then, shall we?

Guitar Tuning in Standard Tuning

There are various tuning profiles you can use in guitar tuning. The popular one at the moment is called standard tuning. In this guitar profile, the notes are arranged from the thick strings to the thin ones.

To tune your guitar to these notes, look at the headstock of your guitar (It’s the thin part of a guitar), and you will notice some small knobs which can be turned. They are called machine heads. All of the guitar strings are usually attached to machines of their own. Turning the machine head changes the pitch of the string that it is attached to.

Guitar Tuner YouTube

How to Know the Note That the Guitar Strings Are Tuned To

This is actually very simple. You just use what the tuner tells you. Therefore, you have to listen very closely to master how to tune your guitar. In case you’re wondering how you can tune your guitar using what you have at hand, here are four effective methods you can use:

Guitar Tuning Using an Electronic Guitar Tuner

Even though there are a lot of options you can use to tune your guitar, electronic guitars will always be the best go-to option. Why? They enable you to tune your guitar accurately and fast. If you have a good electronic guitar tuner, you never have to stress about how you will tune your guitar.

Most tuners have interfaces that are almost the same in that when you pluck any note, the tuner shows you which note you’ve played. An electronic guitar tuner shows you notes in three different ways. They include:
An electronic guitar tuner shows you the guitar strings it thinks you might be trying to tune.
The tuner uses an oscillating needle to show you how far you are from getting to the note you are trying to tune to.
An electronic guitar tuner also shows you whether the note is too high or too low. It does that using a light that you see in the tuner.

Getting the Needle in The Middle

You’re supposed to make sure the needle always stays perfectly in the middle. The needle is a thin black vertical line in the electrical guitar tuner. You’ll be sure that the needle has fit perfectly at the center when the green light is lit. For instance, if let’s say you are tuning the A string, you’ll see the tuner indicating A on the graphic display.

If you don’t fit the needle perfectly at the middle, and it goes over to your left side or over to the right side, the red light will light up showing that the note is very flat (too low) or very sharp (too high) respectively.

Understood? Great. Now let’s get to the guitar tuning.

  1. The first step is making sure that the tuner is switched on.
  2. If necessary, you can tell your tuner what string you need to tune. There are tuners that auto-detect the strings while there are those that need you to tell them manually the string you want them to tune.
    Note: if you’re using a manual tuner, you need to ensure that it listens for the right string you need to tune. In case its settings indicate that it should listen to a certain string, make sure you don’t over tune the strings to avoid making them snap.
  3. The third step is plucking a string
  4. After you pluck the guitar string, check to see if the needle is at the center. If it isn’t, then you need to turn the machine head.
  5. Pluck the string again. To which direction did it go to this time? If it headed towards the center, then keep going, but if it went to the other side then turn your machine head to the other opposite side.
  6. Repeat this, pluck a string, observe the tuner then turn the head of the machine head until you get your needle to the center perfectly.

Strike the String

When you’re a beginner, you might be a little timid and find yourself plucking the guitar strings only once then waiting for ages as your tuner continues to listen for a note that is not ringing. Try and avoid doing that.

The more times your guitar rings out notes, the easier the tuner is able to listen and hear them. Therefore, ensure you pluck a lot. Plucking once every two seconds is good for a start.

The 3 Types of Electronic Tuners

  1. A vibration-based tuner
  2. Microphone-based tuner and
  3. A pedal based/ Plug-in one.

You need to learn how to tune a guitar using the three types. Yes, that’s right. But don’t worry as you’ll learn how to do all that here, so keep reading. It’s actually very easy. However, in everything, you must make sure that keeping the needle at the center remains your major goal throughout the process.

Electronic Vibration-Based Tuners
These tuners are clipped on to the headstock of your guitar. Most guitarists absolutely love this type of tuner. A dependable model is the D’Addario Eclipse.

Vibration-based electronic tuners are brilliant, especially if you are in a place that’s really noisy because they detect the pitch of your notes through vibration. So, if there’s a lot of noise where you are, that won’t affect the performance of your tuner. How? Well, that’s because this tuner doesn’t rely on the tuner’s microphone.

Immediately, you have these tuners ready and powered up. They show you the note that the guitar strings are tuned to after plucking any of them. With vibration-based tuners, you shouldn’t have to worry if it has auto-detection or if it’s manual.

Microphone Based
These electronic tuners don’t disappoint and are just awesome as they don’t bring clutter to the headstock of a guitar compared to the clip-ons used with a vibration-based tuner which does.

One problem with these tuners is that their microphones have to clearly hear the guitar. For instance, if there is some music playing in your room or just any sound near you, that noise will likely cause it to miss the note.

You can also use microphone based electronic tuners with acoustic guitars. In addition, if they have jack inputs, you can also use them with electric guitars.

These tuners work the same way a clip-on used in vibration-based tuners works as they sometimes detect guitar strings automatically. However, this depends on the model you are using because, with some, you need to preselect the notes manually.

A great recommendation for a microphone-based tuner is the Korg GA30.

This type of tuner is usually accurate and dependable. Plug-ins connect easily to any electro-acoustic, electric guitar or bass guitar through 1/4 inch jack inputs. These tuners are very expensive. However, they don’t fail you. Hence, they’re totally worth it. A good recommendation would be the Boss TU3.

Guitar Tuning Using a Smartphone App
Smartphone apps are a great starting point for anyone who wants to learn how he/she can tune a guitar. There are a lot of both paid and free smartphone applications you can use. These smartphone apps work in the exact same way microphone based electronic tuners work.

A good one was Guitar Tuna, but it’s getting outdated now. You can also use Omnituner. It’s a helpful smartphone app too. Search around in the Google Play Store or App Store as the applications landscape is changing quickly, and there are new upcoming apps that are turning out to be very helpful in learning how to tune a guitar.

How to Properly Tune Your Guitar with Other Instruments

If you’re a musician or beginning guitarist who already plays another musical instrument, you can also tune your guitar using that instrument. It’s easy, especially if your instrument has a fixed tuning like an electronic keyboard, for example.

To tune your guitar using another instrument, you have to get the E2, A2, D2, G2, B3, and E4 on that instrument. (It could be on a piano or keyboard, the E2 is found two octaves under the middle C).

You or a bandmate should play every note on the instrument while holding it facing down. Why so? Doing that helps you listen carefully for when the notes from both the guitar and the instrument will resonate and start sounding the same.

How To Tune A Guitar By Ear Using Its Strings
You have to listen closely to use this method. Here is a 6-step method you can use in case of emergencies like, for instance if your electronic tuner isn’t available at that moment. This method is reliable as you can use it anytime no matter where you are.

I. Tune Your Sixth String
Make sure you tune your thickest string correctly to the low E. Estimate what the thick string should sound like and other strings should tune relative to that sound.

II. Tuning Your Fifth String
The second thing you need to do is place a finger on your fifth fret at your thickest string. Doing so gives you the A note which sounds just the same way you need your fifth string to sound. At this point, you are able to tune your fifth string so it matches the note of your sixth that you are holding.

Pick the sixth string gently, and open fifth string while keeping a finger on your fifth fret. Now gradually turn the machine head of the fifth string until both notes sound alike. You, therefore, have to listen carefully as both notes need to ring to know that they match.

III. Tuning Your Fourth String
You will do the same things here too except that you’ll do it one string higher. So, place the first finger at your fifth fret at that fifth string so you can make a D note.

Pluck your fifth string while keeping a finger at your fifth fret. Then, pluck your fifth string. After that, open your fourth string as you turn the machine head of your fourth string until the note of your fourth string produces a similar note as the fifth fret of your fifth string.

IV. Tune Your Third String
The same way, place the first finger at your fifth fret. Doing so gives you your G note. Pluck your fourth string then open that third string while keeping a finger on your fret and turn your machine head of your third string until the third string matches with your fifth fret on the fourth string.

V. Tuning Your Second String
This step is a little different from the others. Place the first finger at your 4th fret on that third string. Doing so gives you the B note. Pluck the third string as you open your second string alternatively while keeping a finger on your fourth fret and turning the machine head of the second string. Do this until you hear the second string ring brightly with your fourth fret of your third string.

VI. Tune Your First String
Place a finger at your fifth fret at your second string so you can make your E note. Now tune your last and thinnest string to it by turning your machine head until the tone of that first-string rings with the fifth fret of your second string.

The art of learning how to tune a guitar might seem easy to some while a little bit tricky to others. What’s important is being consistent, patient, and believing in yourself. Do that, and you will undoubtedly learn how to tune a guitar and be great at it with no time.

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