The Ultimate Guide to Guitar Tuning

Ultimate Guide to Guitar Tuning

How to Tune a Guitar: The Right Way

If there is one thing that makes all the difference when it comes to guitar, its making sure its in tune. Seems obvious right? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve played with that just didn’t tune before practice. It’s one thing to be out of tune when practicing at home , but with your band? Its kind of a slap in the face. 

That’s why I’m putting together this guide on each and every way you can tune your guitar and keep it that way. So you aren’t the idiot playing an out of tune guitar at band practice. Let’s get started.

Korg TM60BK Tuner Metronome, Black

How to Tune a Guitar

In this article I will explain how to tune a guitar. Tuning a guitar is relatively easy.  It is ideal to have a guitar tuner, but it is possible to tune without a tuner. For that skip down the page to Tuning a Guitar without a Tuner.

  • If you have an electric guitar, plug it into your tuner using an instrument cable. 

  • If you have an acoustic, rest the tuner directly in front of your guitar.

Most guitars have six strings. From top to bottom they are E-A-D-G-B-e. Those are the notes we want to be tuning to, most tuners will show that on the display to confirm you are tuning the string to the correct note.

Step by Step Tuning

Time Needed : 2 minutes
How To Tune a Guitar
  • 1. Step 1:

    Start by picking the low E string (the thickest string), watch the tuner at the same time.

  • 2. Step 2:

    The tuner's needle or LEDs will bounce around, your goal is to center the needle/LEDs right in the middle by turning the tuning knob.

  • 3. Step 3:

    I find it best to pick the note once every second, tuning upward until my picked note is perfectly in tune.

    (Its important to tune upward to your desired note, this ensures the string will remain in tune under tension, believe me this will save you ALOT of tuning time. Sometimes this means you'll need to detune the string first, then tune upward.)

  • 4. Step 4:

    Repeat this process with each string.

  • 5. Step 5:

    When finished, you can confirm everything is correct by strumming an open E chord. Your ear will learn to detect even the tiniest inconsistencies.

  • 6. Step 6:

    Rock On.

Tools
  • 1. Guitar Tuner (Clip On, Chromatic, Pedal, or Built In)
  • 2. A Guitar

What if I Don't Have a Tuner?

How to Tune a Guitar Without a Tuner

Assuming you don’t have access to a phone, computer, or any other digital means to tuning a guitar, there is another way…

Back when I started playing guitar a tuner was a luxury. No, its not cuz I’m that old, its cuz I was 10, and couldn’t afford a tuner. So, I got pretty good at tuning by ear. This method will help train your ear to be more sensitive to pitch. A good ear is a huge asset no matter what instrument you play. With a little practice you might be able to hum that Low E without a reference note.

   The fact is, a tuner is a piece of tech. It has to have power via batteries or power outlet. Batteries die, your ears won’t. So when you are in the middle of a gig, and your clip on tuner dies, you can shrug it off. You’ll have the confidence to tune by ear and continue the show.

Most guitars have six strings. From top to bottom they are E-A-D-G-B-e. Those are the notes we want to be tuning to. Without a tuner, the next best method will be to use the guitar’s fretboard as a reference. The only catch is, you’ll at least want to have your Low E string in tune. Without that, your guitars strings can technically be in tune with eachother, but your guitar could be off pitch with another instrument. You’ll see what I mean.

Step by Step Tuning...Without a Tuner.

*Pro Tip*

To get a really stable tune, stretch each string after you tune it, then retune. This will increase the longevity of your tune. By pulling on the string, you are taking out the tiny bit of slack left in the string wraps around the tuning post. 

The Key to Tuning Without a Tuner.

E String @ 5th Fret = Open A String

A String @ 5th Fret = Open D String​

D String @ 5th Fret = Open G String

*G String @ 4th Fret = Open B String

B String @ 5th Fret = Open e String

* Note that the fret changes for the Open B   String, Use G 4th fret. then tune upward.)

Time Needed : 5 minutes
How To Tune a Guitar...Without a Tuner
  • 1. Step 1:

    Pick the low E string (the thickest string) while fretting at the 5th fret, then pick the next string (A string).

  • 2. Step 2:

    The goal is to match these to notes. To do that, tune the A string to match the 5th fret E string.

  • 3. Step 3:

    The pattern will continue for each string.

  • 4. Step 4:

    When finished, you can confirm everything is correct by strumming an open E chord. Your ear will learn to      detect even the tiniest inconsistencies.

  • 5. Step 5:

    Rock On.

Tools
  • 1. Guitar Tuner (Clip On, Chromatic, Pedal, or Built In)
  • 2. A Guitar

Snark ST-2 All Instrument Clip-On Chromatic Tuner

D'Addario Accessories Eclipse Headstock Tuner, Black

Peterson StroboClip HD Clip-On Tuner | Guitar, Bass, Violin, Ukulele, Harp, Brass, Woodwind, Orchestral

Robo-Tuners

ROADIE 2 | Smart Automatic Guitar Tuner & String Winder | For Electric Guitars, Acoustic Guitars, 12-String Guitars, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin | 40+ Alternate Tunings | USB Rechargeable

ROADIE BASS | Smart Automatic Bass Guitar Tuner & String Winder | For All String Instruments (Bass, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Ukulele, Banjo, Mandolin...) | 40+ Alternate Tunings | USB Rechargeable

  • 1. How do you tune a guitar?

    1. Start by picking the low E string (the thickest string), watch the tuner at the same time.

    2. The tuner's needle or LEDs will bounce around, your goal is to center the needle/LEDs right in the middle by turning the tuning knob.

    3. I find it best to pick the note once every second, tuning upward until my picked note is perfectly in tune. (Its important to tune upward to your desired note, this ensures the string will remain in tune under tension, believe me this will save you ALOT of tuning time. Sometimes this means you'll need to detune the string first, then tune upward.)

    4.  Repeat this process with each string.

    5.  When finished, you can confirm everything is correct by strumming an open E chord. Your ear will learn to detect even the tiniest inconsistencies.

    6.  Rock On.

  • 2. Can you tune a guitar without a tuner?

    Yes totally! Without a tuner, the next best method will be to use the guitar's fretboard as a reference. (You can also use a piano, and play the E key as a reference.) The only catch is, you'll at least want to have your Low E string in tune. Without that, your guitars strings can technically be in tune with eachother, but your guitar could be off pitch with another instrument. You'll see what I mean.

  • 3. What are the best budget guitar tuners?

    That depends on personal preferences, but here are the most popular tuners.

  • 4. Which fretted notes correspond to open guitar strings?

    E String @ 5th Fret = Open A String

    A String @ 5th Fret = Open D String​

    D String @ 5th Fret = Open G String

    *G String @ 4th Fret = Open B String

    B String @ 5th Fret = Open e String

    * Note that the fret changes for the Open B   String, Use G 4th fret. then tune upward.)

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