Get Adobe Flash player

Fig.1   Closeup of Tuning Head ( Machine Head or Gear Head)
used to wind strings and adjust string tension when Tuning.

            Click the Tune up Button at any time to go to the Tune Up assistant.  Use your browser’s back arrow to return to your page.

-The importance of regular tuning can not be stressed enough.  Always tune your guitar before playing.

-Regular tuning is required on all guitars.  They all slip out of tune due to factors such as temperature.

-Tune before playing or practising and recheck the tuning during playing.  Especially if it sounds out.

-Many factors affect tuning and will cause your guitar to slip out of tune.  The strings stretch over time, new strings must seat themselves, the machine heads may be of poor quality or perhaps the machine heads were accidentally bumped.

 Tuning Explained

-In order to make music, your guitar the strings tension must be adjusted to produce the proper pitch.  Tightening increases  the pitch while loosening decreases pitch.

-If a string is too loose with the pitch too low, the string is said to be FLAT.
If a string is too tight with the pitch too high, the string is said to be SHARP.

-A universal standard tone has been set to produced an “A” note when the “A” string (5th string) vibrates at 440 times per second.  This is known as the A440 standard.  This is the standard all instruments, including the piano, are tuned to.  A440 creates harmony amongst instruments allowing them to be played together in a band.  It’s what allows you to jam along to different songs on the radio without having to change the tuning of your guitar.

-As you play, the tension (tuning) of the strings will change due to stretching, slipping and temperature change.
“Newly installed strings will need to be broken in by retuning them a few times as they stretch out and seat themselves on the tuning posts and in the saddle of your guitar.  When you first put new strings on you can bend each one a few times (see bending) to speed up the break in process”.

-When tuning it is important to always start with thickest string (E) and work your way to the thinner strings.
Here’s why:

The guitar’s neck is flexible.  Each string pulls on the neck as it is tightened and as they tighten the neck flexes.
As the neck flexes the other strings become looser and go out of tune.
The  thicker the string the tighter it pulls.
If you tune the thickest string first then the subsequent strings will not be pulled out of tune as much by the neck flex affect.
Although there will be a slight loosening of the strings as the thiner strings are tightened, repeating the tuning process a second time will bring them all into perfect tune.
Therefore it is important to:
-Tune all strings TWICE beginning with the thickest string.
-The only exception is if you know that your guitar is very close to being in tune.  Only then may you get away with tuning just once.

-When tuning always loosen the string to be tuned and tighten it to pitch.  This will prevent the string from binding in the nut during tuning and slipping out of tune when you play.

Video 1. Always lower the pitch then Tune Up when tuning an open string otherwise it will not hold the tuning.

-There are various methods of tuning your guitar. Use one of the following methods:

1.  Guitar Tuner – This is by far the easiest and most popular method of tuning a guitar.
The guitar tuner is an  electronic device which gives a visual indication of the string’s pitch.  The major drawback of this type of tuning is that since it is visual it does nothing to help train your ear.  Its advantages are: it can be used in noisy environments and it is fast.
The clip on type are a favourite.  Fig. 2. There are many other types including:  desktop, built into amp, pedal and apps.

  Fig. 2.  Clip on guitar tuner.

2.  Recording – A properly tuned guitar is recorded and then played back allowing you to match each string.  Click the GFT Logo anywhere in this site to use this method.  I works well to train your ear to identify pitch variation.

Video 2. Tune up from a recording of a properly tuned guitar.

3.  Another Instrument – Use a pitch pipe, piano, horn, bass, harmonica or any instrument with a set pitch to give you a reference tone with which you can tune your guitar.  For example: use a reference tone to tune your low E then tune the rest of the strings using the 5th Fret or Harmonics Method.

Video 3. Grab a reference tone off another instrument then tune Up using Harmonics.
Harmonics are an excellent method of accurately tuning your guitar.  A noticeable oscillation is present between two strings and is
eliminated when the two are brought into tune with each other.

4.  5th Fret Method – This is the beginner method of tuning your guitar when there is no tuner available.  Tune the low “E” (thickest) to pitch using a pitch pipe, tuning fork, piano, another guitar or a song you know is in E.  Then use the E to tune the other strings.  This method is not as accurate as using Harmonics.

Video 4. Tuning off the 5th fret (using a song to obtain the Low E string tone).

    Referring to Fig. 3:

1. Fret the black note & pluck it.
2. Follow the green arrow and pluck the open string (same note).
3. Move the tone from a lower pitch to a higher pitch (tune up) until it matches the fretted note’s pitch.

        Note: to loosen (lower the pitch) turn the tuning head clockwise & to tighten (raise the pitch) turn the tuning head counter clockwise.

Fig. 3.  Use the tuned string fretted at the 5th fret (4th for the G string) to tune the next string.

5.  Non Standard Tuning – Occasionally used for ease of playing and Slide Guitar.  Note that this is an advanced concept.

Video 5. In this example of Non Standard Tuning, the open strings are tuned to the notes of the “Open” E Chord.  This tuning is popular with slide guitarists.

      REMEMBER: Always tune your guitar each time you play!!


Leave a Reply

GFT Categories

Join: GFT “VIP Lessons””

Pick Position when Strumming

GFT Web Picks