How to Tune a Guitar

how to tune a guitar

No matter what you play & how you play, you will never produce that melodious sound if your instrument is not in tune. You should tune your guitar before every practice session as there are several reasons why your guitar loses tuning.

There are many ways you can optimize your guitar tuning. You can tune your guitar with your ears, using an external clip-on tuner, using your guitar’s built-in tuner or by using a mobile app. In this article, you are going to read the various ways in which you can tune your guitar & also how to tune your guitar using each method. The easiest & preferable would be our very own twelve fret’s Online Guitar Tuner. However, read on to know all the possible ways to tune your guitar.

What is Guitar Tuning

When you take a guitar & pick or strum a string without holding the fretboard, each string produces the sound of particular note. This is also called open strings (when you are not holding any frets). Each string and also its subsequent strings have a specific tuning, for example, in case of standard tuning the six strings are tuned as E(6th string), A, D, G, B, E(1st string). Therefore the 1st string is tuned to the note E, 2nd string to note B, 3rd string to note G & so on.

How to Tune an Acoustic Guitar by Ear & without a Tuner

A guitar can be tuned by human ear by tuning the guitar to itself & it’s harmonics. However, the only downside of this method of tuning is that the guitar may not be tuned to it’s the absolute pitch(The standard pitch).

Tuning the Higher string to the Lower String:
  • Let us consider the thickest string, the lower E. The 5th fret of the E string produces the note A, which is the 5th string. Therefore we can pick the 5th fret of the lower E, to create the note A and tune the 5th string until we have a similar sound as the lower string.
  • Now once the A string is tuned, the 5th fret of the A string produces the note D. Hence the 4th string can also be tuned
  • Once the D string is tuned, the 5th fret produces the note G.
  • The tuned G string’s 4th fret produces the note B.
  • The tuned B string’s  5th fret produces the note E.
Tuning the Higher string to the Lower String
  • Let us consider the thinnest string, the higher E. The 7th fret of the first  E string produces the note B, which is the 2nd  string. Therefore we can pick the 7th fret of the higher E, to create the note B and tune the 2nd string until we have a similar sound as the higher string.
  • Now once the B string is tuned, the 8th fret of the B string produces the note G. Hence the 3rd string can also be tuned
  • Once the G string is tuned, the 7th fret produces the note D.
  • The tuned D string’s 7th fret produces the note A.
  • The tuned A string’s  7th fret produces the note E.

These method of tuning without a tuner is quite tricky & needs a bit of practice. However, even if you master this skill, this way is not efficient enough as this method would not allow you to play with other instruments or musicians. This is because, in this method, the absolute pitch is not maintained. We take for granted that the base string(with respect to which we are tuning the other strings) is always tuned correctly. However, in a real-life scenario, all strings lose tuning & most probably, you would be tuning your guitar to a non-absolute pitch.

Train your Ears

Tuning your Guitar with respect to other Instruments

You can always tune your guitar with other instruments. For example, you have a tuned piano. You can play the E note in the piano & tune you’re the 6th string of the guitar until the sound matches the one from the piano. You can repeat the steps for other strings as well.

This method is also not recommended unless you have played other instruments & have a trained ear.

How to Tune an Acoustic Guitar with a Tuner

As we see that tuning with the help of ear is not efficient enough, the legends invented a device which tunes your guitar to the perfect pitch. Now there are basically two best types of tuner available in the market currently.

The Electronic Clip-on Tuner

These are the most recommended for beginners. They are very cheap & super easy to use. Also tuners generally small devices with a display that can be clipped anywhere in the guitar but preferably head stock. They show the accurate note at which the guitar is tuned, and you can continuously pick your guitar while tuning, to stop at the absolute pitch point of that note (440 Hz).

Here are some of our recommendations for clip-on tuners.

Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin (Current Model)
D’Addario NS Micro Clip-On Tuner
D’Addario Accessories Eclipse Headstock Tuner
Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner

Korg Tuner (GA50)
NEUMA Metronome Tuner for Guitar

Smartphone Apps

Nowadays, there are numerous apps available in the app store of your smartphones which helps you to tune your guitar to the absolute pitch. They work the same way as the clip-on tuner. You need to open the app, and then continuously pick the strings while turning the headstock tuner key until they reach the absolute pitch. Here are some of my app recommendations.

The only problem in this method is that beginners have a problem picking individual strings well enough to get a correct read on the tuner. However, this can easily be avoided. My recommendation is that, if you are facing a similar problem, you can pick the string with your thumb & then place the finger in the lower string immediately.

Here is one of our recommendation.

Guitar Tuna

D Standard Tuning

D standard tuning or D tuning is also called one step lower tuning and is quite similar to standard tuning. In case of standard tuning, we tune the strings to the key of E-A-D-G-B-E . However,in case of D standard tuning the strings are tuned to the key of D-G-C-F-A-D.

This can easily be achieved by using a tuner of any type. The string can be tuned manually to the key of D, and similarly, A  string can be tuned to G. This tuning are generally used by musicians who want to transpose a song or create a different tone for playing. This tuning is not recommended for beginners.


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