In this article, we will discuss how to tune a guitar manually. There are many different types of tunings that one can apply to their guitars. Some guitarists even make their own custom tunings. However, in this article, we will discuss only the standard tuning – the most common guitar tuning.
The standard guitar tuning is most common since it simplifies the learning of the fretboard for beginners. Moreover, as we shall see, this tuning makes playing the guitar convenient and comfortable. It creates ease for the player to move from chords to scales.
Each open string in standard tuning is assigned a note. These notes, starting from the thickest to the thinnest string, are as follows:
E A D G B E
The tuning follows intervals of perfect-fourths from low-E to G. After that, G and B have an interval of a major third. The last two strings, B and E, again have an interval of a perfect fourth.
In order to tune the guitar, you must first have some kind of a reference tone/note/frequency. You do not need a reference note if you are playing by yourself. In this case, you may tune each guitar string by using the previous string as a reference. However, you must use a reference tone if you are playing with other musicians or with a backing track. Alternatively, you can buy a guitar tuner that tells you which note each guitar string is at when you pluck it. You can then tune each string until the tuner tells you that it’s the correct note.
You can find the reference notes using online guitar tuners which provide you with the exact tone you need to tune each guitar string to. One may also use another instrument for this. Tuning forks also come in handy here. However, in this article, we will focus on using online tuners as those are readily available for everyone. Below are some popular online tuners:
How to Tune a Guitar Manually
The strings of a guitar are held tightly between the tuning keys on one end and the bridge on the other. The specific note that is produced upon plucking an open string is determined by how much tension there is in the string. Therefore, tightening the string will make the frequency higher. Conversely, loosening the string will make its frequency lower. The tuning keys on the head of the guitar are rotated to tighten or loosen each string.
From the online tuner, play the lower E-note. You can play it more than once to register the note properly. Next, play the bottom string on your instrument, that is, the thickest string. Depending on whether the string’s tone is lower or higher than the tone on the tuner, tighten or loosen the string. Try your best to match the note of the guitar string with the note played by the tuner. This process of accurately matching notes takes some practice.
Now that you have tuned the lower E-string, you can use this string as a reference tone for the other five strings. Since we know that the bottom string is now tuned to E, the fifth fret of this string must give you an A-note (as circled in the image below). This is the note we need to tune our second string to. Use the same process as outlined above except this time the reference tone is the fifth fret of the lower E-string. Play this note alongside the open second string and tighten or loosen this string to match the two notes.
The fifth fret of the now-tuned A-string corresponds to the D-note. You can use this note (circled below) as the reference to tune the third string. As above, play D on the A-string’s fifth fret and match the open D-string to this note.
The fifth fret of the now-tuned D-string now corresponds to the G-note. As above, use this note to tune the open fourth string to G.
For the B-string you must use the fourth fret of the G-string (not the fifth!) as this is the note that corresponds to the B-note. As above, match the two notes to tune the open fifth string to B.
Finally, the fifth fret of the B-string corresponds to the E-note. As above, match the two notes to tune the open sixth string to E.
Once you are done, double-check the tone of each string with the corresponding notes on the online guitar tuner. If the notes match up, congratulations! You have now successfully tuned your guitar in standard tuning.
The ability to tune your guitar manually surely has its benefits but can take quite a bit of practice. It also provides one with great ear-training. Any guitarist who perfects this ability has no need for a guitar tuner. They can simply use their ears to tune their instrument – anytime, anywhere.
So, this is how you can tune your guitar manually. Check out this article about improving English Speaking Skills.