Learning how to tune a guitar is very important. Without tuning, your guitar is useless and non playable. So in this post, you are going to learn how to tune a guitar by ear.
How to tune a guitar Infographic:
You can read my earlier posts on strings and note names and sharps, flats and octaves if you haven’t read already and if you still don’t understand them. I really suggest you read them first before you read this post further. It will help you to understand better.
Learning how to tune a guitar by ear takes practice and time. So, I’d first suggest you to buy an electronic tuner, or buy an electro acoustic guitar which has a built in tuner. Or you can use our free online guitar tuner. That way you can keep your guitar in tune during the beginner stage and avoid wasting time trying to tune your guitar for hours. You can use the time to learn other aspects of guitar like chords, songs and other such stuffs. Besides, who wants to spend hours tuning a guitar and bore the friends. But keep in mind that learning how to tune a guitar by ear is an important aspect because you will not be carrying tuners everywhere all the time. Tuning by ear is a lot handier than that and cooler too. So let’s move on.
When you tune a guitar, you take a base string, tune it to standard tuning or anything you like, and then tune the other strings according to that base string. You can use any string as the base string but in the standard method, you use the 5th string (that is the A string) as the base string. One reason for using the 5th string is because it is fatter and usually does not get out of tune quickly. The thinner strings tend to go out of tune rather quickly after you play for some time.
You need to tune the 5th string to standard tuning and then tune the others according to the 5th string.
- Tuning the base string. You will need to tune your 5th string to standard tuning or any tuning that you want from an electronic tuner, online tuners or according to a song that you already know. Or you can just tune the string to your liking if you do not really need it to be in standard tuning. Remember that you can take any string as the base string. In this lesson, we are using the 5th string as base (that’s the standard method).
- Tuning the 6th string to the 5th (base) string. Now that you have your base string tuned, you are going to tune the 6th string to the 5th string. To tune the 6th string, you simply hold the 6th string on the 5th fret which is the A note. Then you play the 6th string on 5th fret and the 5th string open (which is also the A note). Both the sounds should match. If the sound does not match, tighten or loosen the 6th string by rotating the nuts accordingly. Be careful and rotate the nuts slowly because you don’t want to break the strings and you don’t want to go way too high from the required sound. The reason you hold the 6th string on the 5th fret is because the 5th string open is A note and you need an A note on the 6th string too which falls on the 5th fret of 6th string.This same theory applies when tuning any strings. You can read my earlier posts on strings and note names and sharps, flats and octaves to understand the sharps, flats, string names and note names.
- Tuning the 4th string to the 5th string. Now that you have the 6th and 5th strings tuned, let’s move on to tune the 4th string. The 4th string open is a D note. So you hold the 5th string on the 5th fret (which is also a D note). Then you pick both the strings and match the sound.
- Tuning the 3rd string to the 4th string. Next, you will tune the 3rd string to the 4th string. The 3rd string open is a G note. So you will hold the 4th string on the 5th fret (which is also a G note). Then pick both the strings and match the sound.
- Tuning the 2nd string to the 3rd string. The second string open is a B note. Now when you tune the second string to the 3rd string, you hold the 3rd string on the 4th fret (which is also a B note). If you apply the theory used in strings and note names on the 3rd string, you will notice that 3rd string open is G, 1st fret is G#, 2nd fret is A, 3rd fret is A# and 4th fret is B. And since the second string open is B, you need to hold the 3rd string on the 4th fret. Now pick the strings and match the sound.
- Tuning the 1st string to the 2nd string. The 1st string open is E note. Now, the 2nd string on the 5th fret is an E note. So you hold the 2nd string on the 5th fret, pick both the strings and match the sound.
Tuning 6th and 5th string: Hold 6th string on 5th fret
Tuning 5th and 4th string: Hold 5th string on 5th fret
Tuning 4th and 3rd string: Hold 4th string on 5th fret
Tuning 3rd and 2nd string: Hold 3rd string on 5th fret
Tuning 2nd and 1st string: Hold 2nd string on 4th fret
Video Demonstration for how to tune your guitar by ear :
So that’s the end of today’s lesson “how to tune a guitar by ear”. Remember that it takes time and practice. So keep practicing and until then, buy an electronic tuner or use our online guitar tuner so that you can at least spend some time learning other things like chords and playing songs. Enjoy learning and have fun.
You may also want to see our “Takamine E440C acoustic guitar review“.