Tuning Your Guitar

If you're not perfectly in tune, you're missing out on the whole experience. When the notes of a chord are played together, the result should be one full sound that stands on it's own. This is what happens when you are in perfect tune.

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One of the things I remember when I was starting to play was that I didn't sound as good as my friend's big brother. Not because he was a better player, even though he was... we were playing the same chords but mine sounded crummy! Why? Because my guitar was not perfectly tuned! I went home that day and really worked on tuning my guitar. To this day I use several different ways to tune. Once I got it perfectly tuned, wow! The chords came to life! This is especially true when you're playing electric guitar with distortion. If you're not perfectly in tune, you're missing out on the whole experience. When the notes of a chord are played together, the result should be one full sound that stands on it's own. This is what happens when you are in perfect tune. There are two tools you can use when tuning your guitar. One is an electronic tuner, the other is your ear. Tuning by ear is far more important because you must be able to recognize different pitches in sound. This is essential to being a musician. Ear training takes time. Don't get discouraged because you can't tune by ear in a week. Your brain needs to get familiar with the notes in music. I want to share a few different ways to tune your guitar. The first is the most standard. It entails matching the notes on the adjacent strings as follows:
6th string, 5th fret and 5th string open
5th string, 5th fret and 4th string open
4th string, 5th fret and 3rd string open
3rd string, 4th fret and 2nd string open
2nd string, 5th fret and 1st string open
In this method, you are matching the notes exactly to get the proper tuning. The notes are the same in pitch. If you're off on one of the strings, the rest of them will be out of tune also, so be careful. Another way to tune is by octaves. An octave is the interval between two notes with the same name. If you played the C major scale: C D E F G A B C, the two C's are one octave apart. You can tune with octaves as follows:
6th string open and 5th string, 7th fret 
5th string open and 4th string, 7th fret 
4th string open and 3rd string, 7th fret 
3rd string open and 2nd string, 8th fret 
2nd string open and 1st string, 7th fret
By now you're probably wondering, "What about the tuning of the 6th string?" Good point. When you tune the rest of the strings from the 6th, it's called "Relative Tuning." Although you may not be in tune with a piano, you will be in tune with yourself and that's fine for practicing. If you want to be in "Concert Pitch," you will either need to tune from another instrument or from a pitch pipe. I recommend that you get a pitch pipe. It's good for ear training and it's easier to carry around than a piano! Yet another way that I will tune is by simply using chords. Once you know how they are supposed to sound, they become very handy in tuning. I prefer starting with E major, then I play a G major and tweak it a little if necessary. Then D major. All three are the open position chords at the top of the neck. I guarantee you'll be amazed at how great a perfectly tuned guitar will sound! After all, there is really no other alternative!

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111 comments sorted by best / new / date

    NOFXdescendents
    a guitar tuner is a great investment if you are just getting into playing. eventually tuning by ear can help if you just want to jam or octaves, as stated if you are the shit.
    Tedward
    this isnt really tuning or anything but when you play a lower string on 5th fret harmonic and a 1 higher string on 7th fret as a harmonic you can tell when the strings are almost perfect when the sound almost exactly the same.
    leon92
    i want to tune my elektric guitar and i bought a tuner but my strings are touching the freds without touching them:S:S:S p.s i am dutch and my english isn't good
    trueguitarhero
    anyone who can't get this is a complete retard. it works. i checked it with my friend electric tuner
    kandy2314
    sorry guys for the tab mess up its supposed to be 1st string fifth fret played with 2nd string open 2nd string fifth fret played with 3rd string open 3rd string fifth fret played with 4th string open 4th string fourth fret played with 5th string open 5st string fifth fret played with 6nd string open
    kandy2314 wrote: Um to bad this lesson sucks, Its supposed to be e-----0---- b-----0---5---- g-----0---4----- d-----0--5---- - a-----0---5----- E-----5----- For all who were wondering how to tune your guitar WITHOUT a tuner incase you ran out of batteries, camping and wanted to play guitar but it was out of tune... This is how you would tune it the cheese way even though the whole thing could be out of tune, at lease you could play.
    kandy2314
    Um to bad this lesson sucks, Its supposed to be e-----0---- b-----0---5---- g-----0---4----- d-----0--5---- - a-----0---5----- E-----5----- For all who were wondering how to tune your guitar WITHOUT a tuner incase you ran out of batteries, camping and wanted to play guitar but it was out of tune... This is how you would tune it the cheese way even though the whole thing could be out of tune, at lease you could play.
    AlabastyrGlyttr
    Very useful one small correction at the top it says 6th string, 5th fret and 5th string open, it's actually 6th string, 4th fret and 5th string open. At least that's how it works on my guitar.
    Scarlatti
    Just buy an tuner... You can get one from 20 euros... I've tried to tune it by ear, and it didn't sound even like the way i tune with my elektric tuner
    metica
    slash snakpit has a bad aditude, but this is helpful thanks to the author
    Killswitch_77
    i got a electric tuner but i only kno how to tune it to standard. is there a way to use the tuner to get to drop C, drop D etc.??
    SgSurpreme
    Ok i have a question ever tiome i tune my top E string it seems to go flat as soon as you strum it how can i fix that... ?
    darkfenix
    ok if you need to know what the note is when you add another flat remember this....music notes chromatically (every half step) are as follows starting with C: C, D flat or C sharp, D, E flat or D sharp, E, F, G flat or F sharp, G, A flat or G sharp, A, B flat or a Sharp, B, C that's your standard C chromatic scale...so if you need to know what a note is when you add a nother flat, find your note on that scale and go one backwards...should be simple enough... you just need to keep in mind how many steps you are going down with all of them and the chromatic scale should let you know what each string should be tuned to. let me know if you have more questions.
    SooUnreal
    tuning by ear is the best way, here is your starting point in learning it..
    bigEsmalls
    ok all of the shit i find for tuning dont help me i have a bass not a elec how is tuning for an elec going to tune my damn bass??? i have a 4 string bass high to low... d, g, a, e.... ok how do i make it so its like that??? cause its not close
    Guitar_psyho
    Yes...that is true ladies sure like to look at you sitting on the sofa plucking same strings over and over again. If u take this guys advice dont be suprised if all the ladies suddenly have to go somewhere. Offcourse every real guitarist needs to know how to tune his guitar by ear, but i'm pritty shure that the electronic thingy works better with the ladies.
    Bo_Bo_Bob
    SOLO wrote: I think that most of what people dont understand with the tuning process demonstrated, is that u have to get the big fat string tune perfect already. So u either gotta know what the note E sounds like, or go to a piano or somthing. Then u can go follow the 6th string, 5th fret instructions. And stop yelling about getting an electric tuner, dont u think you look more pro for the ladies if u can just grab a guitar, tune it in front of them, then start playing? Thats called ladying
    lol nice
    Bo_Bo_Bob
    some of u ppl r dumb... some begginers might b in band or something they prolly know more about pitches and stuff then we do
    Bo_Bo_Bob
    some of u ppl r dumb... some of these "begginers " might be in band or somethind and know more than we do about pitches and stuff
    Bo_Bo_Bob
    some of u ppl r dumb... some begginers might b in band or something they prolly know more about pitches and stuff then we do
    Mr.Glue
    DOES ANY ONE KNOW TUNING??? I know that standard on a bass tuner iz no flats (E,A,D,G) and five flats are low B (B,E,A,D) and I know that two flats are (D,-,-,-,) or somthin but what are 1,3,and4 flats called PLEEZ SOMEONE TELL ME!!!If u can THNX!!!
    drumstixbb
    Once diesel_bass made the correction to the B string, his explanation of tuning was the best I've seen printed so far. When the strings are in tune, there should be no "vabrato" sound, it should be smooth sounding, like one note.
    MonteCristo
    If you want to tune your guitar then download this Tuner [url=http://www.akordite.com/component/option... k,doc_download/gid,1/Itemid,34/]AP Guitar Tuner[/url].Wait a little while the instal wizard begin.If you have accoustic guitar tune it by microphone.If you have electric gutar put the cable in Line In and tune.That's all!!
    RockThGIBSON12
    4 all u tards who r whinin about the 555545 tuning not working ive been playing for a year now and its always worked perfect for me. are u sure ur 6th is in tune? that would explain it
    louise95
    havnt started learning guitar yet but i have my boyfriends guitar for now and its really out of tune :L im not sure i understand some of this, which way are the frets counted from??
    DezelD
    Hi there. Thanks heaps for this lesson. I to am starting to play guitar from the very begining. I will buy a Pitch Pipe and learn to tune by ear. Chow for nowz.
    learnin2jam
    THANKS! that helped alot but... for sum reason my top 3 or 4 strings matched up easily first try but as soon as i got to the one on 4th fret instead of 5th... they never sounded the same and ive been trying for over an hour now... my bottom 3 strings i couldnt get to work lol... but still is fairly close was just wondering if theres any way to get my bottom 3 to sound a bit better?
    -YkCuL-
    hi, i'm very much interested on learning how to play a guitar and i wonder if you can help me. the lessons posted here shows clear explanation bt it's hard to follow or do it. i guess what i'm saying is maybe you can include some videos on the lessons. i know it's too much to ask but i'm going to do this from scratch. thanks
    D-man89
    ok so this is driving me nuts, how the hell do i get my guitar into drop b tuning
    Guitar Hero X
    Wow,sounds so complicated...personally,i tune my guitar by playin the notes on my piano and try to tune the strings in the same pitch
    Drome371
    Also, if you go to school and have some type of music class, just ask the music teacher, and they can help you out.
    Drome371
    Guys, it's easy! Just take any other instrument and play an "E", and you can tune the other strings from there. And for those of you who don't know the notes of each open string, it goes like this: e B G D A E It's easy enough for me though, because I play violin in an orchestra at school, and because the open strings are G,D,A, and E, I can tune almost pitch-perfect. But I understand that for some people, it takes practice. And, I recommend rather than using the 5th fret method, you should just tune each open string based on the notes above, because my guitar is tuned almost perfectly and the 5th fret on the low "E" is a little bit off from the open "A".
    Darkdeviless
    Tuning by ear is way betta, u don't have 2 rely on an electronic thing, it's a good skill 2 have
    theberzerker!!!
    veryone that is so cheap they can't be bothered to buy anything to help such as a tuning fork or elctric tuner just type in online guitar tuner into google and some websites ill have audio files which play the strings open
    Wolfer0624
    I'm retraining myself on the guitar, and I never knew about the octave way of tuning into standard. Very nice man, thanks!!
    woobow
    wow everyone chill out. i tune by ear because i can' be bothered gettin an electric one. and if im playing with people we all just tune our intruments to 1 persons open E. if that makes sense.
    Scarlatti
    Scarlatti wrote: Just buy an tuner... You can get one from 20 euros... I've tried to tune it by ear, and it didn't sound even like the way i tune with my elektric tuner
    After 9 months of playing, I slap myself for the head for saying that.... Nowaways, I reccomend everyone to tune by ear, and nice lesson btw. Although, I prefer tuning with harmonics.
    Scarlatti
    Festive Cow wrote: There are alot of stupid people posting "comments" here. You say why waste time tuning by ear, and get a tuner,well this is what I say to that, what happenes when you lose that tuner you tone def morons? When I started learning about 7 months ago, I didnt have a tuner all I had was a pitch pipe and my dad(even better then an electric tuner). I got my dad to tune the guitar until I started getting better at tuning by ear. Now and 7 months I can almost perfectly tune my guitar. And By the way, how can you not understand this? My dog almost gets it.
    Well said. These comments made me laugh, someone even said this was a lie? Anyways. This guy has a point, you might lose your tuner, and you'll won't be able to play your guitar untill you have a new tuner. By the way. Nice lesson. I would reccomend you all to leave your tuner behind, and start tuning by ear.