If you’re completely new to playing guitar, the topic of learning how to tune your instrument might be a little intimidating. Luckily, with a little guidance, tuning your guitar will quickly become second nature to you. In this brief guide, we’ll show you why keeping your guitar in tune is so important, and how to tune your instrument through different tools and methods. Let’s get started!
Why is tuning crucial?
Because it’s natural to want to play your guitar as quickly as possible, taking the time to tune it might seem like an unimportant obstacle. But without being properly tuned, it’s impossible for your guitar to sound the way it should––even when it’s played correctly. Tuning your guitar ensures that the strings of your instrument will be set at the right pitches to make chords, scales, and riffs sound the way they should. In short, if your guitar isn’t tuned, it’s not playable.
Know your parts
To tune your guitar, there are a few parts of the instrument you’ll need to be familiar with.The instrument’s strings are what you’ll need to tune. Depending on the type of guitar you’re playing, they could be metal or nylon.
At the top of your instrument, which is called the head, you’ll find tuning pegs that will be used to tune each string. To tune your strings, you’ll turn each tuning peg slightly. For pegs on the left side of the head, turning the peg towards you tunes the string lower. Turning the peg away from you tunes the string higher. One the left side of the head, the direction you’ll turn to tighten or loosen strings is flipped.
Pitches and Tuning
There are endless ways guitarists tune their instruments. But for beginners, conventional tuning is what’s recommended because it’s the most useful and well-known tuning. When holding the guitar, the largest string and one closest to you is the 6th string. The smallest string and one furthest away from you is the 1st string. Note that while the first and sixth strings are both tuned to E, the first string needs to be tuned to an E note that is much higher than the sixth string.
Tuning with devices and apps
Before you learn to tune the guitar by ear, we recommend using a device or app.
Clip-on tuners are easy to use, reliable, and inexpensive. After clipping this tuner onto the head of your guitar, it measures the vibrations of your strings and tells you if they need to be higher or lower.
Foot pedal tuners work by pressing a button down with your foot. While these tuners work well and are easy to use, they’re only intended for guitars that have cable inputs. These tuners are generally recommended for guitarists who perform on stage.
Standalone tuners are often paired with metronomes, which make them good for beginners. These tuners can be plugged into for use and also feature microphones that detect pitches.
Computer and smartphone apps can help you tune either by detecting the pitches of your strings or by producing reference notes for you to tune to.
Tuning by ear isn’t difficult, but it’s something you’ll need some practice to master. To tune properly by ear, at least one of your strings will need to be tuned to the correct pitch––preferably the sixth one.
If your sixth string (E) is correctly tuned, start by pressing down the fifth fret of that string and comparing its pitch to the fifth string (A). Make adjustments as needed. Repeat this process for every string on the guitar other than the third string (G) which needs to be pressed down on the fourth fret, not the fifth. Then, on the second string (B), return to the fifth fret again and repeat the process.
Tuning is like everything else with the guitar in the way that you’ll get more comfortable the more you do it. After some practice and experience under your belt, tuning will become a part of your guitar routine that you’ll do before practices and performances.
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