It doesn’t matter how amazing you are. If your guitar is out of tune, you’re going to sound terrible. As a private lesson teacher, one of the most vital things I teach is how to tune your guitar the right way.
Even using an app or tuner without knowing what you’re doing will result in a slightly out of tune guitar. A small amount of tuning issues isn’t noticeable right away, but your ears will tell over time. You’ll get frustrated with how you sound, but you may not realize why. Playing guitar will be taxing on you, and you’ll probably quit.
This is why you need to know these tips for tuning guitars.
#1 Start On The 6th Or Lowest String
When tuning, start from the bottom up. Your lowest string, the low E string, is the place to start. This is the thickest string and the basis for your guitar. Only proceed to the next one when this one is in tune.
Then, work your way up with the A string, D string, G string, B string, and E string again. Pay close attention to the B string; it’s always tricky.
#2 Tune Up From Below The Pitch
Most non-musicians make the mistake of just strumming on a string and tuning up or down based on the tuner. This isn’t all wrong, but the human ear hears better when tuning upward.
Loosen your string to lower the pitch before you tune. Don’t do a lot; a little will do. Then, play the string, wait for a second, and then tune it up slowly as you watch the tuner or compare it to the correct pitch. You’ll have more success this way in almost every case.
#3 Tuning By Tone Or By Light
Decide whether you want to tune by tone or by the light/display of the tuner. Going by tone is tougher; you need to know what to listen for (look at #5 for this). Using a tuner display is simple, but it isn’t always as accurate.
In reality, you should use a combination. Start by tuning with the tuner light or display. Get it as close as possible. Then, play the correct pitch and make micro-adjustments until it’s perfect.
#4 Eliminate Extra Sounds
This may seem obvious, but when tuning, it helps to have all sounds removed. Experienced musicians can tune with extra sounds going on, but it’s harder. I’ve tuned a guitar while an audience was chit-chatting before a concert at my school, and it took me a minute or two. Normally, it only takes seconds (this is with a lot of practice). For new players, silence and focus is a must.
#5 Listen For The Vibrations
This single trick is something very few non-musicians know about, but almost all musicians listen for it when it comes to tuning. Whenever you play two notes next to each other, the vibrations collide and cause a “warble” of sorts.
When two notes really close to one another are played, the warble gets faster. This is why an E and Eb, when played together, are tough to listen to.
As you tune with a tone playing (or drone, so call it), you’ll play your string and hear the warbles. Adjust your string slightly; the warbles get faster or slower. When the notes are extra close (the same note on a tuner), the warbles slow down. When the note is in tune, it disappears.
Adjust the string and listen. If the warble gets faster, go the other way. If the warble gets slower, keep going until it stops. Then your note is in tune.
#6 Use A Quality Tuner
There are a ton of free apps or tools online, and most of them are total junk. They won’t pick up your sound correctly, they’re not exact enough, and they’re designed cheaply. All in all, most tuners will hurt your experience.
You need a quality one. I usually recommend you buy one from a music store, but there’s also an amazing online and app version with JamPlay. Unlike other apps and online tuners, this one is coded to tune your guitar correctly and be exact, so you never have to struggle with a horrible-sounding guitar again.
Keep your guitar tuned and keep on practicing,