How to tune classical guitar?

Are you struggling to get your classical guitar in tune? Proper tuning is essential for producing great sound and getting the most out of your instrument.

Whether you are a newbie or an experienced player, knowing how to tune your guitar accurately and effectively is crucial for good guitar playing.

In this article, we will explore the importance of tuning in guitar playing and the different methods for tuning a classical guitar.

Additionally, we will discuss different tools that can be used for tuning, including electronic tuners, tuning forks, and pitch pipes.

By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge and tips you need to tune your classical guitar like a pro.

The importance of proper tuning

You can’t hit the right notes if your strings are out of tune – it’s like trying to cook a meal without the right ingredients.

Every guitarist must understand the importance of tuning and make it a part of his practice routine.

Tuning your classical guitar properly can make all the difference in the sound you produce. It affects the pitch of each string and the overall tone and quality of the music you play. Without proper tuning, you risk sounding off-key and producing a less-than-pleasing performance.

The basics of tuning

To tune your guitar, you need to adjust each string to make it sound just right – not too high, not too low. This “just right” sound is called the pitch, which depends on the string’s tension and vibrating length.

To adjust the tension, you twist the tuning pegs on the head. The tighter the string, the higher the pitch.

Guitar strings have different thicknesses, with string 6 being the thickest and string 1 being the thinnest. The note produced by an open string depends on its thickness. When you hold the guitar, string 1 is at the bottom, and string 6 is at the top.

In a standard setup, the open strings produce the following notes:

  • Low E (6th string)
  • A (5th string)
  • D (4th string)
  • G (3rd string)
  • B (2nd string)
  • High E (1st string)

Tuning methods for classical guitar

fret harmonic

What makes classical guitar players different is that they have two primary methods of tuning: harmonics and unisons.

Tuning classical guitar with harmonics

When tuning with harmonics, you play the fifth or twelfth fret and adjust the pitch to match the corresponding harmonic. You should keep in mind that the harmonics at the seventh fret will be different pitches than the fretted note at the same fret.

Also, tuning at the octaves (5th and 12th frets) may be inaccurate depending on the instrument. It’s best to use harmonics at the 5th and 12th frets with fretted unisons for a more reliable method.

Tuning classical guitar with unisons

With unisons, you play the same note on two different strings and adjust the pitch until they sound the same.

What is an equal temperament?

Equal temperament is a tuning system used in music that divides the octave into equal parts. Each part is represented by one fret on the guitar, meaning the notes we play are fixed in pitch.

This system has been used since the sixteenth century and is based on the pitch A tuned to a frequency of 440Hz. While some intervals will be perfectly in tune on a guitar tuned to equal temperament, others (especially major and minor thirds) will be slightly out of tune. This compromise allows us to play in any key relatively in tune.

Alternative tuning methods

While equal temperament is the most common method of tuning used today, exploring alternative tunings can be a fun and rewarding way to expand your musical horizons. Whether you choose to tune to a specific reference pitch or experiment with different tunings, there are many options available as a classical guitarist.

Here are a few alternative methods of tuning your guitar:

Roland Dyens’s tuning method

Roland Dyens, although commonly referred to as a classical guitarist, transcends the limitations of that label. He is a versatile musician who delves into diverse genres such as tango, jazz, and pop. He has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting guitarists of his time. In addition to his impressive performance skills, Dyens is also a composer, having written several influential pieces for the guitar, as well as an arranger, expanding the repertoire of the instrument to include tunes that are not traditionally associated with it.

Dyens believed that tuning should be a musical and artistic act rather than a burden. He recommended tuning to block chords or arpeggios taken from the main chords of a piece. While this method makes sense within the equal temperament system, it may result in out-of-tune chords outside of the main classical harmony.

Historical tuning systems

Pythagorean tuning of the spheres, meantone, just intonation, and the well-tempered system are all examples of tuning systems used in the past. These systems often produce a more natural and harmonious sound but can be difficult to use in contemporary music.

Tuning a classical guitar with electronic tuners

As you pick up your trusty classical guitar with its nylon strings, you may find tuning to be a bit more challenging than with other types of guitars.

However, with the help of an electronic tuner, you can achieve accurate and consistent tuning without the need for a perfect pitch.

How do the electronic tuners work?

The electronic tuners use a microphone to pick up the sound of your guitar and display the pitch, indicating whether the string is too high or too low. Some tuners even have a built-in metronome to help you keep time while tuning.

To use an electronic tuner, simply clip it onto the headstock of your guitar or hold it close to the sound hole. Play each string one at a time, adjusting the tuning peg until the tuner indicates that the note is in tune.

Read more about the different types of guitar tuners here.

Tuning a classical guitar by ear

get your guitar in tune

It’s important to note that relying only on electronic tuners may not always result in perfectly accurate tuning, so it’s useful to develop the skill of tuning your classical guitar by ear.

Tuning classical guitar using natural harmonics

The easiest way to tune your classical guitar by ear is by using natural harmonics. This is how you can do it:

  • Start by playing an open string and lightly touching the 12th fret with your finger, creating a harmonic.
  • Then, play the harmonic at the 12th fret of the string above it, and adjust the lower string until both harmonics sound at the same pitch.

Tuning classical guitar using octaves

Another method for tuning by ear is to use octaves. Here’s how:

  • Play an open string followed by the same string fretted at the 12th fret, which should produce an octave.
  • Then, tune the next string to match the pitch of the fretted note.

For example, if you’re tuning the A string, play the open A string, then the A string fretted at the 12th fret, and then tune the D string to match the pitch of the fretted A string.

Remember that tuning your classical guitar by ear can take practice and patience. Start with one string and work your way through all six strings, checking and adjusting each string as you go.

And don’t forget to check your tuning frequently while playing to ensure that your guitar stays tuned throughout your practice or performance.

Tuning a classical guitar with an app

App guitar tuners are mobile applications that can turn your smartphone or tablet into a guitar tuner. They use the device’s microphone to detect the guitar’s sound and analyze its pitch. To use one:

  • Download and install a guitar tuning app on your device.
  • Open the app and choose the tuning you want.
  • Play each string one by one, and the app will display the pitch and indicate if it’s sharp, flat, or in tune.
  • Adjust the tuning by turning the tuning pegs until the pitch is correct.

Tuning a classical guitar with virtual tuners

Virtual guitar tuners are software-based tools that work on computers or mobile devices with an internet connection. They use the device’s microphone to detect the guitar’s sound and show the pitch of each string on a visual interface. These tuners can be downloaded as apps or used on websites for free. Here’s how to use a virtual guitar tuner:

  • Open the virtual tuner website or app and grant access to your device’s microphone.
  • Play each string separately, and the virtual tuner will analyze the pitch and indicate whether the string is in tune.
  • Some virtual tuners may offer various tuning modes and the option to calibrate the tuner to match other instruments or tuning standards.


Now that you’ve learned the importance of tuning and the different methods for tuning a classical guitar, it’s time to put your knowledge into practice.

Remember that tuning your guitar is not a one-time task. It must be done regularly to ensure your instrument produces the best sound possible.

With the tips and knowledge you’ve gained from this article, you’ll be well on your way to producing beautiful and harmonious music on your classical guitar.


What is the difference between tuning a classical guitar and other types of guitars?

When it comes to tuning your classical guitar, there are some differences to keep in mind compared to tuning other types of guitars.

For starters, classical guitars typically have nylon strings instead of steel strings, which means they don’t need to be tuned as tightly.

Additionally, classical guitars are often tuned to a slightly different pitch than other guitars, with the A string tuned to A440 or even higher.

It’s important to use a tuner specifically designed for classical guitar tuning or to use an app that can help you get the right pitch.

Remember the old saying: “if you’re not in tune, you’re out of time.” So take the time to tune your classical guitar properly to ensure the best possible sound.

If you want to tune other types of guitars, we recommend checking these articles:

Tune an acoustic guitar

Tune an electric guitar

Can changing the strings of a guitar affect the tuning?

Changing the strings of your classical guitar can definitely affect the tuning. New strings need to be stretched out and settled in before they’ll hold a stable tuning.

Also, different types of strings, such as nylon or steel, can have different tensions and require different tuning methods. It’s important to give your new strings time to adjust and to tune them frequently during the first few days of use.

Remember, proper tuning is crucial for good guitar playing, so take the time to ensure your strings are tuned correctly before every practice or performance.

Check this guide if you want to know how to restring your classical guitar.

How often should a guitar be tuned?

On average, a guitar should be tuned every time you play it. This may seem like a hassle, but it’s crucial for proper sound quality.

Even small changes in temperature or humidity can affect the tuning of a guitar.

Playing the guitar puts stress on the strings, causing them to stretch and lose tension over time.

Regular tuning will ensure that your guitar sounds its best and will help you develop a good ear for pitch. So, before every practice session or performance, take a minute to tune your guitar and enjoy the beautiful sounds it can produce.

What is the ideal environment for tuning a guitar?

A proper environment and equipment can make the tuning process easier and more effective. Here are some tips from us on how to achieve it:

  • Find a quiet space with minimal background noise and distractions.
  • The temperature and humidity should be consistent, as these factors can affect the tuning of the strings.
  • Avoid tuning near open windows or in areas with drafts.
  • Make sure to have the necessary equipment on hand, such as an electronic tuner or tuning fork, to help achieve accurate tuning.

Is it better to tune a guitar before or after playing it?

The answer is simple: tune it before.

Proper tuning is crucial for good guitar playing, and it’s better to start with a well-tuned instrument than to try to fix mistakes while playing.

Plus, tuning before playing can help you develop good habits and ensure a consistent sound throughout your practice session or performance.

So, make sure to take the time to tune your guitar properly before you start playing.

You can use this video to tune your classical guitar to Standard Tuning EADGBe – 440 hz: 

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