How Do You Tune A Guitar?
By Rado Randriamamonjy
Tuning the guitar is a vital part of the guitar experience. Without a tuned guitar making good music is hard to do. Before we delve into the 2 most common ways to tune a guitar, let's first get familiar with name of each string.
6. Low E - the thickest and lowest string
5. A string
4. D string
3. G string
2. B string
1. High E string - the thinnest and highest in pitch
It's important to memorize the names of the strings. A common mnemonic used to remember the string names is "Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie". E, A, D, G, B, E.
With that under your belt, let's check out the 2 most common ways to tune the guitar. The first is more accurate but more time-consuming; the second is quicker once you get the hang of it, but less exact.
Method 1 (Using a Qwik Time QT11 Tuner):
The most accurate way to tune a guitar is to use a strobe tuner. These are expensive and used primarily by guitar techs who need very accurate measurements for fixing and rehabbing guitars. Short of that, the average guitar player can have their tuning needs met by a good electronic tuner. There are many tuners on the market these days: clip-on tuners, electronic tuners, tuner apps for smart phones and even old-fashioned pitch pipes. A highly-recommended inexpensive tuner for people just starting out is the Qwik Tune QT11. They retail for about $10 online, and they come with an onboard electronic pitch pipe.
This part of the article will show you how to tune using the Qwik Tune QT11. Tuning with other electronic tuners will be similar to this process.
Before you begin, if you have an electric guitar, you can plug an instrument cable directly from the guitar into the QT11. Next, turn on the tuner by pressing the purple button. Now, press the “Pitch Pipe” button on the QT11. It will emit a consistent ring. That ring is the sound of the note E. Tune your Low E string by ear to that sound, by turning your tuning pegs till the sound of your string matches the sound of the ring. You are only closely matching the sound or our string to the ring of the QT11's pitch pipe for now. Once you get the guitar closely tuned, you will finish tuning using the QT11's tuner.
Next, press the “Pitch Pipe” button again. This time the QT11 will emit the sound of the note A. Now, tune your A string till it closely matches the sound of the A note being emitted by the QT11.
Repeat this for all remaining strings.
After you’ve closely tuned all the strings to the QT11’s pitch pipe, you're ready to tune the guitar more closely and finish up.
Press the purple button again. This time it will shut off the pitch pipe and activate the actual tuner aspect of the QT11.
Now, strike your your Low E string once. The virtual needle on the QT11 ’s meter should move, indicating whether you are in or out of tune. If the needle is off to the left, your string is flat. If the needle is off to the right, your string is sharp. If the needle is dead-center the string is in tune.
There are also a set of LED lights above the meter to help you. They are as follows:
CENTER green LED = String is in tune
LEFT red arrow = FLAT
RIGHT red arrow = SHARP
These LEDs work in tandem to show you if you're in or out of tune in this way:
A solid green LED means that your string is in tune.
A solid green with a blinking red arrow means that your string is slightly out of tune.
A solid red arrow with a blinking green means that your string is further out of tune.
A solid red arrow means you are grossly out of tune.
If you’re using an electric guitar, the QT11 will pick up the sound of your strings via the instrument cable running from your guitar to theh QT11. If you’re using an acoustic guitar, the QT11 will pick up your sound via its onboard miniature mic.
Tune each string using the meter and LEDs as guides until all the strings are in tune. You might need to spend some time on each string before it gets in tune. On a side note: it is often difficult to get each note PERFECTLY tuned. Usually, the meter's needle will not stay dead-center in the "In Tune" position for more than a moment on each string. If you can get the strings tuned even to that point, you'll find the guitar is in good enough tune to play.
Also, do not strike the strings too hard or loud when tuning. The harder you hit the string, the sharper it will be until it settles into its normal vibration. This initial sharpness when played too hard can make things confusing. Play each string just loud enough to move the needle on the tuner.
When you've tuned every string, play a few open chords to see if your guitar sounds in tune. If your guitar still sounds out of tune, double-check the tuning of each string using the tuner (not the pitch pipe). Repeat this process untill your guitar is in tune.
You can use this method when there is no tuner available and when you are going to play by yourself. You will be essentially tuning to the sound of your Low E string, whether its in "actual" tune or not. Again this method works well if you're playing alone; because essentially you will be in tune with yourself, but not an objective note or frequency (like one provided by a pitch pipe or tuner).
Here it is step by step:
The Low E string:
For starters, we do not "tune" this string. Instead, we use it as our first point of reference for tuning the remaining strings.
The A String:
Place the second finger of your left hand just behind the fifth fret on the Low E string. That note is called A. Keep your finger on that fret. Now play the fifth and six strings in turn, gently adjusting the fifth string tuning peg until the two notes are the same.
The D String:
Place the second finger of your left hand just behind the fifth fret on the A string. That’s the note D. Tune the 4th string, the D string, to that sound.
The G String:
Place the second finger of your left hand just behind the fifth fret on the D string. That’s a G note. Tune your G string to that note.
The B String:
Place the second finger of your left hand just behind the FOURTH fret (note the B string is the only one that uses the fourth fret to tune the next string. The other strings use the 5th fret).
The High E String:
Place the first finger of your left hand just behind the fifth fret on the B string. That’s the note E. Tune your High E to that note.
Again, when you’re done, play a few open chords to see if your guitar sounds in tune. If your guitar still sounds out of tune, double-check the tuning of each string using this method. Repeat this process untill your guitar is in tune.