Guitar Tuning – The Ultimate Guide
It’s pretty much unavoidable: if you own a musical instrument, it is going to need a certain amount of maintenance every so often to ensure that it stays in full working order. In the case of stringed instruments, this maintenance needs to happen far more frequently, and the most frequent type of maintenance you will have to perform on your guitar is tuning.
Now, if you bought your guitar already stringed and tuned then you may not be familiar with the practice of tuning your guitar but it really needs to be done whether you’re practicing at home or playing gigs on a regular basis. Changes in temperature and humidity as well as simply moving your guitar around will cause it to slowly drop out of tune over time, so instead of avoiding moving the guitar altogether and keeping it sealed up in a room with 0% humidity and at a constant temperature, it is easier to simply learn how to tune the damn thing and keep it there.
This is a short list of hints and/or tips concerning how to get and keep your guitar in tune so that it won’t sound like you’re strumming on the intestines of 6 live cats.
Guitar Tuning – Buy a Tuner or Find one Online
Unless you have perfect pitch and know that each string of the guitar should be tuned to (low-high: E, A, D, G, B, e, with the lower-case e always signifying the high e string), it is best to simply look online for a tuner that will play each note and allow you to tune it. After you tune your guitar this way a few times, you will learn which string needs to be at which note and won’t have to rely on the internet all of the time.
Alternatively, there are many guitar tuner apps out there that work perfectly well. I recommend GuitarTuna since it is easy to use and extremely functional. Only when you have learned the notes for tuning or have a good tuner/ guitar tuning app available will you be able to tune whenever and wherever you want.
This is a practice that should be observed after you replace the strings on your guitar and it is known as stretching. Don’t go bending over to touch your toes, though; it is the strings that need stretching once they are properly fitted in order to prevent them from slipping out of tune.
After tuning the strings roughly, your aim is simply to put your middle finger on the 12th fret of each individual string and bend it upwards with a fair amount of force (though not enough to break the string) before bringing it back down again. Do this a few times with each string, re-tuning each one as it slips out of tune. Afterwards, your guitar should remain in tune for longer. Here is a great piece on stretching your guitar strings to help you get it right.
After tuning your strings, you may think that’s it and you can simply continue as normal, but all may not be ok in guitar land. In fact, it is quite common for strings that you have just tuned to slip slightly out of tune as a result of tuning the strings above it. Don’t worry, this won’t happen all the time, but this is a result of the tension changing slightly in the neck as you tune each string. Make sure when you have tuned each string once to go back and re-check/re-tune them a few times until all notes are perfect.
Seriously, always check that all strings are tuned well in relation to each other by strumming out a few standard chords after tuning: if the chord sounds a little off then you might need to re-tune one or more strings. This is an easy way of saving embarrassment that a tuner may not have picked up or that you may have overlooked by relying too much on your knowledge of the individual notes.
When tuning your guitar, make sure to always tune from a flat note upwards, and never to rely on turning the tuning peg so that you drop down onto your desired note. This is because tuning down to a note always leaves a little bit of tension on the string which will result in it slipping out of key after a few twangs.
Always tune up from flat to sharp. There’s a reason it’s not called tuning down you know (unless you’re actually tuning down a few keys, but even then you should tune below the note and tune upwards to it).