How To Tune A Guitar

One of the most important steps for any beginner guitar player is to first learn how to tune your guitar. In this lesson we will teach you everything you need to know in order to be able to tune your guitar.

Tuning Basics

The first thing you need to do is to learn the names of the strings. A guitar has 6 strings and each one of them is tuned to a particular note.

  • The first string (thinnest string) is tuned to the note E
  • The second string is tuned to the note B
  • The third string is tuned to the note G
  • The fourth string is tuned to the note D
  • The fifth string is tuned to the note A
  • The sixth string (thickest string) is tuned to the note E

This means that you need to tune your first string to match an E note. This way, if you played an E note and a Piano played an E note you would hear that the pitches match, and would be “in tune” with each other.

A great way to remember the names of the strings in order from thinnest to thickest. is by using the sentence “Easter Bunnies Get Drunk At Easter” where the first letter of each word matches the name of the strings. You can use the sentence “Eddy Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie” to remember the order of the strings in the order of thickest to thickest.

The Musical Alphabet

The musical alphabet contains the notes: A, B, C, D, E, F & G. It is also important to know that there are notes between most of these notes.

  • Between A and B there is a note which can be called A# or Bb
  • Between C and D there is a note which can be called C# or Db
  • Between D & E there is a note which can be called D# or Eb
  • Between F & G there is a note which can be called F# or Gb
  • Between G & A there is a note which can be called G# or Ab
  • There are no notes between the B & C note or the E & F note.

This is crucial to know, because A and A# are different notes and many beginners make the mistake of note noticing a # or b symbol next to the note letter on their tuner and end up tuning their guitar to the wrong note. So for example, if you need to tune your first string to an E note but the tuner tells you it is a D note, you need to tighten the string until either a D# or Eb note appears (they are the same note,) and then keep tightening until the D#/Eb note turns into an E note.

How To Tune Your Guitar Using With A Guitar Tuner

By far the easiest way to tune a guitar is by using a guitar tuner. You can either get a physical tuner from your local music store when first buying a guitar or you can download a guitar tuner app on your smartphone or tablet. There are a plenty of tuners on the market and any of the top 10 will be good enough to use.

Tuners usually work by telling you what note the string is currently tuned to and indicating whether it needs to be tightened or loosened using an arrow or meter of some kind. You will need to adjust the string using the tuning peg.

Now that you have a tuner, you need to know how to use it. Here is a step by step process for how to tune your guitar.

  1. Turn your tuner on.
  2. Pluck the first string.
  3. Look at the note on the tuner and determine whether it is sharp, flat or in tune.
    1. If the note is sharp as indicated by the # symbol, you need to loosen the string.
    2. If the note is flat, as indicated by the b symbol, you need to tighten the string.
    3. If the you are in tune, leave the string as it is.
  4. Make an adjustment.
  5. Pluck the string again and make an adjustment while the string is still ringing out
  6. Repeat this process until the string is in tune.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 with each of the 6 strings until your guitar is in tune.

Other Tips

  • Tune your guitar at the start of every practice session and every three songs if you are performing or playing with others.
  • You should pick the string and turn the tuner while the string is ringing out. This will help your ear get used to hearing the notes change and will also allow the tuner to hear the change.
  • Be mindful of the # and b symbols when tuning. If your guitar is lighting up green on the note Eb or is listing a note as D# you are 
  • Pick the string with the same force that you would normally pick when playing normally.
  • Make sure your tuner is set to 440hz otherwise your guitar will sound out of tune with most standard music recordings.
  • If your tuner has multiple instrument settings, make sure you have it set to G for Guitar or C for Chromatic (or B for Bass if you are tuning a bass guitar). Many a performance has been ruined by people who accidentally have their tuner set to violin mode.

Standard Tuning & Alternte Tunings.

When a guitar is tuned to the notes E, B, G, D, A, & E it is said to be in Standard Tuning. The vast majority of contemporary music is played on guitars tuned to standard tuning and most tuners with a guitar mode will try and help you to tune to this. It is also possible to tune the strings to different
notes, this is called using Alternate Tunings, and doing so can allow you to explore different sounds on the guitar.

Some popular alternate tunings are:

  • Drop D Tuning (E, B, G, D, A, D) – Where string 6 is tuned to a D note instead of an E.
  • Half Step Down Tuning (Eb, Bb Gb, Db, Ab, Eb) – Where all the strings are lowered by 1 half step.
  • Open D Tuning (D, A, G, D, A, D) – The guitar has been tuned to an open D chord and you can get some great sounds.

It is worth noting that using certain alternate tunings can effect the shapes & patterns you use for chords & scales, so be mindful of this and how it works before you experiment with open tunings.

In Conclusion

Learning how to tune your guitar is a very important skill and one that you will learn how to do relatively quickly as a beginner guitarist. It won’t take you long to master this skill and having your own guitar tuner and knowing how it works will make the tuning process much easier. Get used to tuning your guitar to standard tuning first and then explore alternate tunings when they come up in a study piece. 

If you are learning how to play guitar and are looking for Online Guitar Lessons we can go over everything you need to get started with a free introduction to guitar session with one of our real teachers online via Zoom.

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