How to tune your Guitar
OK, so you’ve bought your first guitar and already your mind is dreaming about rock superstardom. Pretty soon you’ll be joining the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Page and Jack White in the pantheon of all-time rock gods. There’s just one problem though: you’re not entirely sure how to get your shiny new music-box in tune.
The good news is it’s relatively easy to tune a guitar. In the digital age we live in, there are all kinds of fancy electronic tuners on the market that will have your guitar tuned in minutes. Of course, you can’t always completely rely on technology and at some point you will have to tune up manually.
The first step to tuning a guitar is learning the names of the strings. Even if you’re not learning to tune your guitar this should really be your first step. Just in case you haven’t gotten that far, here are the names of the strings. The sixth string is the lowest and thickest.
E = 6th string
A = 5th string
D = 4th string
G = 3rd string
B = 2nd string
E = 1st string
So once you’ve got that memorized in your brainbox — learning a few simple chords will make the process easier — it’s time to start tuning. The first step is the trickiest bit. You’ll need to get one string in tune so that you can tune the other strings to that. Generally the easiest string to start with is the low E string (6th). There are a number of options when it comes to getting this string in tune. One is to tune it to a pitch pipe. A pitch pipe is a small reed instrument that allows you to tune an instrument or voice. If you have one handy, blow into the low E and raise or lower the pitch of the string until the two sounds match.
Another way is to tune the string to another instrument. This is ideal if you’re playing with someone else. You should always make sure you’re in tune with each other beforehand. Matching pitches like this is often difficult for the beginner as their musical ear is probably not all that developed. Don’t worry though; you will get better at it over time.
If you find you are having trouble matching the pitch of the E string to the same note on a pitch pipe or other instrument, get it in tune using an electronic tuner and work from there, at least until your ear develops a bit.
Once the E has been sorted, what then? Next you’ve got to get the A string in tune. So play the fifth of the E string and then play the open A string. The two notes should be perfectly in tune. If they’re not, you’ll have to alter the pitch of the A string to the fifth fret of the E string. Once the A string is in tune, go on to the D string. This time play the fifth fret of the A string and match it to the open D string. Once you’ve managed that, move onto the fourth string. Again, tune it to the fifth fret on the string above it.
At this point it might be worth going back over the top four strings and checking if they’re all still in tune. They will slip out of tune quite quickly, until the guitar has been played a few times.
Once you’ve ensured the strings haven’t slipped out of tune move on to the B string. This is tuned to the fourth fret of the G string not the fifth. Finally, the first string is tuned to the fifth fret of the B string. Here’s a helpful synopsis of how it’s done:
A tuned to fifth fret on the E string
D tuned to fifth fret on the A string
G tuned to fifth fret on the D string
B tuned to fourth fret on the G string
E tuned to fifth fret on the B string
So there you go. Mastering the art of tuning will not make you the next Hendrix overnight, but you definitely won’t become a guitar great without mastering this most basic of skills.