11 Ways to Tune Your Guitar
11 Ways to Tune Your Guitar
All beginner guitarists sooner or later face the problem of how to tune a guitar. There are several ways to tune your guitar. All of them give a good result with the right approach.
However, the choice is, of course, up to you. In addition, results of the tunings using different methods have small differences, but experienced musicians can hear this difference.
It is important to reach sufficient precision in tuning – enough for the audience to consider the tuning quite harmonious. Here you will learn the most popular ways of how to tune a guitar.
In music theory, it is agreed that A4 or note A of the One-lined octave has a frequency of 440 Hz. Frequencies of notes, located across one octave differ twice. One octave contains 12 semitones.
So, let`s get to the guitar. Standard guitar has six strings. According to the “Standard guitar tuning”, each string must be tuned to a specific note. Notes are represented in Latin letters:
- first string – First octave note “E” – frequency is 329,627 Hz
- second string – Low octave note “B” – frequency is 246.94 Hz
- third string – Small octave note “G” – frequency is 195.9977 Hz
- fourth string – Small octave note “D” – frequency is 146.83 Hz
- fifth string – Great octave note “A” – frequency is 110 Hz
- sixth string – Great octave note “E” – frequency is 82.4 Hz.
#2 Portable Guitar Tuner
Guitar tuner is an electronic device that analyzes frequency of the sound (with the help of a microphone or an input cable) or vibrations of the guitar (a clip-tuner, when it`s fixed on the headstock of your guitar). It helps you tune your guitar quickly and accurately. Another advantage is that this kind of tuners allows you to tune in a loud place, like at the concert or rehearsal.
It works like this: you pull the string, and tuner shows the letter of a note you`re playing (pay attention to be tuning the right note for particular string) and the difference (on the scale or the screen) between right note and the one that your guitar makes, so you will have to tighten or loosen the string.
If the arrow appears to the left from the center, you have to tighten the string, if it appears to the right – you have to loosen, if it stops in the middle – the tuning of this string is completed.
Turn the tuning machines until all the strings are in tune. Sometimes this kind of tuners have led indicators: green in the middle and two red ones to the left and right. Principle is the same, center – is good.
To tune a guitar with a portable tuner, you need to know the names of the notes and to what note each string must be tuned. It does not require a good musical ear, but this method of tuning a guitar does not help you develop your ear also.
#3 Software and online tuner
With this tuner, you can tune both acoustic and electric guitars. In order to tune an acoustic guitar you need a microphone (built-in or connected to the microphone input of your computer). For the electric guitar, you can use a line-in input and a cable.
It works the same as a portable tuner. When you make the sound of a string, tuner shows the note, which corresponds to the frequency of string vibrations. This way you can easily tune all the strings. Tuner shows the note to you, as well as what you have to do with a string, tighten or loosen. Turn the tuning machines of your guitar until the indicator is exactly centered, showing the right notes.
To tune a guitar using an online tuner, you need only a minimum of knowledge, namely, what are the names of notes for each string. For tuning guitar online you can use any online-tuner you will find on Internet, just remember to check if it is set on the default 440 Hz.
#4 Smartphone tuner
You also can find different kind of tuners for your cell phone, smartphone or tablet and use it as a portable tuner.
If you have a 3.5mm input for headset on your phone (which most of the Android and Apple devices have), you can consider buying a headset splitter. Small wire, which splits stereo-headphones and microphone inputs. This way you can plug your guitar directly to your device and tune in a loud place, like using real portable tuner.
#5 Classic tuning, with the help of a tuning fork
If you are unable to use a guitar tuner, then there are several ways to tune a guitar using your ears, but they are more complex.
Tuning fork – is a metal fork, which produces the sound of a certain note when you hit it. Tuning forks come in two types:
- Tuning fork, that makes standard sound of A is very popular, its frequency is 440 Hz
- Another type is tuning forks in a note E (an open first string).
Tuning forks are less common than pitch pipes (see below) as they are not very handy. In order to tune your guitar, you need other free hands.
How to tune the guitar with a tuning fork (A):
Hit the tuning fork with something. While it is ringing, put it to the deck of your guitar, pull the string and compare the sound with the sound of a tuning fork. If the sound of the 1-st string, held on the 5-th fret differs from the sound of a tuning fork – then you need to tune the 1-st string by adjusting the tuning machine on the headstock up to the right pitch of the note.
Before that, you want to determine by ear: does the 1-st string on the 5-th fret sounds below or above comparing to the tuning fork. If the string sounds lower than the fork, then you need to pull the 5-th string using matching tuning machine. This should be done carefully and slowly until the sound of the string will be indistinguishable from the sound of tuning fork. If the string sounds higher than the tuning fork, you should loosen the tension of the first string, by turning the tuning machine in the opposite direction. It will be easier to hear when the sound is right if you loosen the tension a little bit more than it`s needed, and then pull the string higher until it sounds just right. After tuning the first string, you can tune the rest of the strings by ear with no additional equipment, using the classic way of tuning the guitar.
This classic way of tuning the guitar is the most widespread among beginning musicians due to its relative simplicity and clarity. What you have to do is:
- Hold the 1-st string at the 5-th fret and adjust A = 440 Hertz.
- Hold the 2-nd string on the 5-th fret, set up in tune with open 1-st string.
- Hold the 3-rd string on the 4-th fret, set up in tune with open 2-nd string.
- Hold the 4-th string on the 5-th fret, set up in tune with open 3-rd string.
- Hold the 5-th string on the 5-th fret, set up in tune with open 4-th string.
- Hold the 6-th string on the 5-th fret, set up in tune with open 5-th string.
Do this comparing the sounds and turning the tuning machines, as you did with the tuning fork, until every pair sounds the same. After that, you can test the tuning by playing some simple chord, like E, and if it sounds right – the tuning is finished. If not – you will have to repeat the tuning until you find the string that is not in tune and correct that.
#6 Tuning with the help of the phone
If you are in the field, where there is nothing can help you to tune the first string – you cell phone can help you. Just make a call and put it on speakerphone. Beeps used when waiting for a response should sound in unison with the first string, held on the fifth fret. After the first string is tuned, tune the rest using classic tuning.
#7 Using guitar pitch pipe.
Pitch pipe is a simple device that works as an ordinary whistle. The device is designed to make a certain note when you blow in it. The sound it makes is similar to one of the strings of a guitar.
The advantage of this device for tuning a guitar is that it is possible to make a sound of not only one, but three or even all six notes, corresponding to each string. Pitch pipe has three or six holes (depending on model) for this. This simplifies greatly the process of tuning the guitar. In order to use a pitch pipe, you need a good ear, but compact dimensions and low price makes it almost indispensable. In addition, unlike the tuning using an electronic tuner, tuning fork develops your musical ear.
How to use a pitch pipe:
Hold the pitch pipe with your lips; play the string with your right hand, with your left – turn the tuning machine. That’s it! Moreover, it worth much less than any orchestra tuning fork.
#8 Software and online pitch pipe.
It`s just a simple program or a video. You can find lots of programs and videos like this if you just surf the web. Choose a string, and it will start to sound. Nevertheless, there’s a trick. If the pitch of a note can be determined by your settings and is generated by computer, then it is good. However, if it just plays a recorded sound (for example Flash program or YouTube video) this can be an issue. Because recorded instrument could be tuned not exactly on 440 Hz.
#9 Tuning by ear or by voice.
Some people have a what`s called an absolute musical ear, they can just pick strings and tune with no additional tools. All of the six strings! Singers, can howl to a certain note, straining their vocal cords with a certain force and adjust strings to their voice. So if you have really good ear for music you can just remember how each string sounds when tuned.
#10 Tuning a guitar, using guitar harmonics
Here we come to the most difficult way of tuning a guitar. Mostly professional guitarists use it.
Guitar harmonic (or flageolet) is a way of playing sounds overtones with twice increased frequency. The sound of guitar harmonic gives you the opportunity to hear subtle differences in unison. That`s why tuning your guitar using guitar harmonics is the most accurate method.
Guitar harmonics can be easily played on 12-th, 7th, and 5th frets. Natural guitar harmonic is a way of making a sound on the string without pressing it to frets, but with a light touch of the finger pads in the place, where the string is divided into two, three, four etc. parts.
To make the sound of guitar harmonic, you have to touch slightly the sixth string on the fifth threshold (directly above the metal part, between fifth and sixth frets) with the tip of your finger. Then with your right hand pick the string and immediately remove the finger of the left hand off the strings. You must not remove your finger ahead of time, because you`ll get the sound of an open string. Then immediately make the guitar harmonic on the seventh fret of the fifth string. Both sounds should be straight, with no dissonance.
This way of tuning is advisable to use as a finishing after the standard guitar tuning method.
How to tune the guitar, using guitar harmonics:
- First string is tuned on A 440
- The harmonic on the 7-th fret of the 1-st string must sound in unison with the harmonic of the 2-nd string on the 5-th fret.
- The harmonic at the 12-th fret of the 3-rd string should sound in unison with the 1-st string held on the 3-rd fret.
- The harmonic on the 7-th fret of the 3-rd string should sound in unison with the harmonic of a 4-th string on the 5-th fret.
- The harmonic on the 7-th fret of the 4-th string must sound in unison with the harmonic of 5-th string on the 5-th fret.
- The harmonic on the 7-th fret of the 5-th string must sound in unison with the harmonic of the 6-th string on the 5-th fret.
#11 Can’t tune your guitar?
Sometimes it happens that in spite of all the tested ways of tuning the guitar, it is still “not in tune”. There may be many reasons. The most painless is the aging of the strings. Strings that have been used for a long time become a subject of micro deformations because of their contact with frets, and this changes the frequency of sound waves.
If replacement of the strings did not resolve the problem, you may need to adjust the scale length, string action and truss rod of your guitar (search the web on how to do it).
If nothing helps, then you may need to take your guitar to a guitar repair service. If you did not leave your guitar in the pouring rain, bathe it in a lake, and dried in the hot sun, it’s likely that this can be fixed.
If you are looking forward to learn guitar in Malaysia
Here we have several suggestions for you:
- Classical and Acoustic guitar lessons in Taman Permata KL
- Contemporary guitar class in Wangsa Maju
- Private guitar lesson in Pandan Indah
- Classical guitar lesson in Kepong
- Classical and pop guitar lesson in Mahkota Cheras
- Guitar group class in Kajang
- Classical and Acoustic guitar class in Bukit Rimau, Shah Alam
- Beginner Guitar Class in Sungai Dua, Penang
We have several music centres to suggest for you
- Guitar Soul Music in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur
- VITA Music Centre in Bukit Rimau, Shah Alam
- MAX Music Centre in Cheras
- Serene Music Centre in Kepong
- Rockstar Performing Studio in Pandan Indah
- PAZZO Music Studio in Taman Suri Utara, Kuala Lumpur
- Maple Musicology Academy in Taman Taynton View, Cheras
- Children Music Education Studio in Kajang
- House of Suono in Bandar Puchong Jaya
- Carol Music & Learning Centre in Taman Permata, Kuala Lumpur
- Artistic Music Learning Studio in Taman Usahawan, Kepong
- Guidance Musical Learning Centre in Bandar Mahkota Cheras
- Lara’s Place in Seksyen 17, Petaling Jaya
- Ferris Music and Dance in Taman Bunga Raya, Setapak
- iMusic in Taman Pelangi, Johor Bahru