How to Tune a Guitar

Tuning a guitar makes each string sound like a particular note. This is accomplished by tightening the string using the tuning mechanism at the end of the guitar neck. A traditional guitar has six strings while a bass guitar has four, and tightening the string stretches it so that when the string is played, it vibrates at a certain frequency that matches a particular note.

For regular guitar-tunings, the distance between consecutive open-strings is a constant musical-interval, measured by semitones on the chromatic circle. The chromatic circle lists the twelve notes of the octave. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regular_tuning

Tuning Methods

The various methods of tuning (the process to determine that a string has been tuned correctly) include tuning strings to another instrument (typically a piano), or to a tuning fork, a clip-on tuner, an electronic tuner, or tuner apps on a phone or a tablet device.

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The tuning fork is a U-shaped piece of metal with a handle at the base of the U shape. When the fork is struck off an object, it will vibrate — because of its length and the thickness of the metal — producing the E note. After striking the fork against an object, the best way to hear the note the tuning fork is producing is by placing the end of the handle of the fork against the body of the guitar. This connection between the fork and the body of the guitar will use the acoustics of the hollow body of the guitar to amplify the sound the same way the hollow body amplifies the sound when playing the guitar.

When tuning a guitar with a tuning fork or a piano, you can tune one string and then tune the rest of the strings from that string.

A clip-on tuner clips on to an instrument. Generally, musicians prefer to attach the tuner onto the headstock of a guitar. A sensor that detects vibration is built into the clip, and this transmits the instrument’s vibrations to the circuitry of the device. Because these tuners do not use a microphone, it makes such tuners able to operate without any impact from background noise. This feature allows musicians to tune their instruments in noisy environments, such as on stage or at a rehearsal, while other musicians are tuning or playing.

See some Fender and Yngwie Malmsteen clip-on tuners.

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Electronic tuners can tune can each string individually through the use of a microphone, which in most cases will produce a more accurate tuning, since it doesn’t depend on the hearing of the person tuning. The electronic tuner will either display the results digitally or use a spring gauge. Some highly rated tuner apps include Guitar Tuna and Tuner – gStrings. For standard tuning on the traditional six-string guitar, the strings, note and audio frequency when the string is played open is as follows:

1 – E – 329Hz

2 – B – 246Hz

3 – G – 196Hz

4 – D – 246Hz

5 – A – 110Hz

6 – E – 82Hz

It is also possible to structure a non-standard tuning for a different style of playing. Non-standard tunings represent a wide array of possibilities, and are typically referred to as open, crossnote, modal, dropped, instrumental, and regular.

Steps to tuning a guitar

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Step 1- E: String E as accurately as you can using one of the tuning methods mentioned above. It is important to have a tone to reference.

Step 2- A: Place your finger on the fifth fret of the E string (this is an A note). Keeping your finger on that string, adjust the A String (below E) until the 2 strings are in harmony. Tightening the peg will heighten the pitch, while loosening it will lower the pitch.

Step 3- D: Place your finger on the fifth fret of the A string (this is a D note). Keeping your finger on that string, adjust the D String (below A) until the two strings are in harmony.

After completing step 1 of tuning the E string, you are pretty much just repeating the process down through each string, harmonizing it with the previous one. The most important step is making sure that E is tuned correctly (which is why it is important to have a tone to reference). Standard tuning for a six-string guitar

How long will it stay in tune?

Frequency

Once a guitar is tuned, many factors will impact the length of time it remains in tune. Those factors include, but are not limited to: heat, cold, air pressure, vibration, moisture and machine head component quality (the mechanism by which you tune a guitar). [On a side note, it is a good idea to always loosen the strings on a guitar prior to a flight.  Both the temperature and the air pressure could not only result in the guitar going out of tune, but they could also be responsible for breaking the strings.  Without taking care of the strings before a flight, it would be perfectly reasonable to expect that even if the strings didn’t break, they are highly unlikely to still be 100 percent in tune when you land.]

Additionally, the more you play your guitar, the more your playing style directly affects the frequency with which you will need to check the tuning. It is not uncommon during a live stage performance to see a musician adjusting the tuning on a guitar. Sometimes this will be to re-adjust the sound and other times this will be to implement a non-standard tuning, as mentioned previously.

Strings

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Typically, Classical/Flamenco/Spanish guitars will use nylon strings while electric, acoustic/acoustic electric guitars will have metal strings. Within metal strings there are five types.

Acoustic guitar string gauges are “extra light,” “custom light,” “light,” “medium,” and “heavy.”

Electric guitar string gauges are “extra super light,” “super light,” “light,” “medium,” and “heavy.”

It’s never a great idea to go for the cheapest option in guitar strings. Generally, it is fair to say that expensive strings on an inexpensive guitar will produce surprising results.

Regular tuning

Tuning a guitar regularly as a beginner will not only help you keep your guitar in good shape, it will also help you recognize chords and how to play them, so you get a two-for-one benefit whenever you do it. There is over 3000 guitar instructors on Lessons.com that would be glad to help you tune your guitar as well!

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