One of the most frustrating things about learning to play the guitar, apart from the sore fingers is getting the thing in tune. Tuning your guitar is one of the most important basic lessons that you need to master. My first guitar was a rather cheap acoustic guitar purchased from a well known catalogue store. Perhaps not the best place to be purchasing a guitar but when you are 14 and desperate to play then anything will do. Sadly this sorry excuse for a guitar would just not stay in tune and I have to say I almost gave up on the whole idea of playing the guitar. But perseverance is my middle name, well it is when I don’t quit, and I eventually got quite good at tuning that guitar. So with that back story out of the way lets get your guitar tuned.
The best place to start tuning your guitar is with standard tuning and that is what we will cover in this short article. We are going to tune the strings E, A, D, G, B and E.
To start tuning the guitar you need to have a standard reference note to tune the guitar to. In this case we are going to tune the guitars top string, that is the thickest string, to the note of E. This can be done with a tuning fork or if you have a keyboard by playing the E note. It is possible to tune the guitar without a reference note, this is known as tuning the guitar to itself. This is perfectly acceptable and most of the time this is what I do. However, the drawback of this method is that when you come to play with other guitarists, or in a band, you will be out of tune with the other musicians.
If you are using a tuning fork, bang the fork gently on a solid surface and place it on the body of the guitar. The note should resonate through the body of the guitar and produce an audible sound which you can tune the top string to. This next bit is perhaps the most difficult part for a new guitarist to understand and is therefore the most complicated part of tuning your guitar.
Strum the top string of your guitar and turn the tuning peg until the note being produced by the top string of your guitar matches the note being produced by the tuning fork. When I started playing the guitar I found this incredibly difficult as I couldn’t quite grasp what I was trying to hear, but with practice my ear eventually became accustomed to hearing when the two notes matched in pitch. Keep practising and you will eventually get better at hearing when the two notes are matching. Once you have the top string tuned you can now proceed to tune the other strings.
If you put your finger on the top string behind the fifth fret and pluck the string, the note you have played is an A. Now strum the open fifth string, that is the fifth string played without being held down on the fretboard, at the same time that as the top string which is held down at the fifth fret. The two notes played together should be in tune. If not turn the tuning peg of the fifth string so that when you strum both strings the notes sound the same.
Now that the fifth string is in tune you can tune the fourth string. The process is similar to what you have already done. Hold the fifth string down at the fifth fret and play the open fourth string at the same time as the fifth string. Tune the fourth string so that it sounds the same as the fifth string.
Now hold the fourth string down at the fifth fret and play the open third string. Tune the third string so that is sounds the same as the fourth.
Tuning the second string is slightly different in that rather than holding the third string down at the fifth fret, this time hold it down as the fourth fret and play the open second string. Tune the second string so that it sounds the same as the third string.
Finally hold the second string at the fifth fret and play the open first string. Tune the first string so that it sounds the same as the second string.
At last your guitar should be in tune! If you strum a few basic chord shapes you can quickly notice if any of the strings are slightly out of tune. If they are quickly work through the tuning method described above to fine tune your guitar. As with any new process the more you do it the easier it becomes so it really is worth tuning your guitar every time that you pick it up to play it.
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