The first thing you should do when you get your guitar is to tune it up.
Tuning your guitar gives you a guarantee of playing with pleasure and ease and allows you to create a piece of high-quality music.
We know how important tuning is to any musician, and that’s why we’ve created this detailed guide that walks you through all the steps on how to tune your acoustic guitar. We’ve included all the tuning methods – both manual and electronic, so you can try them out yourself and decide which is right for you.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced musician, this guide will help you perfect your guitar’s tuning.
How tuning a guitar works
Usually, tuning is done by adjusting your guitar’s headstock tuning machines. The right amount of tension must be applied to the strings to produce a note of the correct pitch.
The basics of tuning an acoustic guitar
The order of the strings
Every single string must be tuned to produce the correct tone. The guitar may become unplayable if the strings are not properly tuned to each other.
Strings must perform the following notes:
- 6th (thickest) string: E
- 5th string: A
- 4th string: D
- 3rd string: G
- 2nd string: B
- 1st string: E
The tuning pegs
Tuning pegs, also called machine heads or tuners, should be wound in the direction the strings are wrapped up on their posts.
They are usually turned inside out to prevent the strings from touching each other on the head.
Different ways to tune a guitar
There are many different ways to tune your acoustic guitar for both experienced guitarists and beginners. We have described the most frequently used ones so you can choose the method that suits your requirements and style.
Using an electronic tuner
The easiest and most accurate way to tune your guitar is by using a tuner.
An electric tuner is a device that picks up the frequency at which the string vibrates and translates this information into the corresponding note. Then it shows the information on a visual display.
That way, you can raise or lower the pitch by adjusting the string’s tension.
There are different types of tuners that you can choose from. The most common are:
Tuning a guitar with a Handheld Tuner
These tuners feature a microphone and ¼ instrument input jack. If you choose this type, keep the tuner as close to the sound hole as possible to get a good signal.
We advise you to use it in a quiet environment.
Tuning a guitar with a Clip-on Tuner
Clip-on tuners attach to the head of the guitar. They read the frequency of the vibrations while you play, making them suitable for use in noisier environments.
Tuning a guitar with a Soundhole Tuner
These types of tuners are designed especially for acoustic instruments. They are placed on the inner edge of the sound hole and have a bright display that is easy to see.
Tuning a guitar with a Pedal Tuner
These tuners are shaped like a pedal, and the guitar is plugged into them using an instrument cable. An electrical signal is transmitted through the cable, which the pedal recognizes as pitch and shows on display.
Tuning a guitar with a Smartphone App
You can quickly and easily download many free guitar tuning apps to your smartphone or tablet. However, they use the device’s microphone, which is designed for speech, not instruments.
This means the microphone may not hear the guitar’s sound clearly enough to give accurate values.
Please don’t use these apps for tuning a bass guitar because they won’t be able to detect the correct tone.
Tuning a guitar without a tuner
If you don’t have a tuner, there are other ways to tune your guitar.
Tuning a guitar by ear
For tuning by ear, you will need a reference note. This means using a note from another instrument and then using your hearing to tune the string to the same pitch.
Tune your guitar with a piano or keyboard
Tuning a guitar using a piano is an excellent choice for beginners because the piano has a clear and strong pitch.
When tuning with a piano, start from the low E string (E2) or the high E string (E3).
Then find the notes, E, A, D, G, B, and E on the piano and strike each piano key while matching the pitch with your guitar strings.
Tuning a guitar using harmonics
Harmonics are overtones that are multiples of the fundamental tone.
They have a pattern to follow when tuning:
- Play the harmonic on the 6th string at the 5th fret.
- Play the on the 5th string at the 7th fret.
- Compare. You will hear a pulsing sound when the two frequencies are far apart. That is what we call a beat.
- When you start adjusting the A string the pulses will become shorter, and eventually, they will merge. That means that the strings are now in tune.
- Then repeat for all strings until you reach the B string.
- Play the 7th fret harmonic on the 6th string and match this to the open B string.
- Adjust the 2nd string until it matches the pitch of the 7th fret harmonic on the 6th string.
- Repeat everything and tune the high E string (6th) referencing the 5th fret harmonic on the 5th string to the 7th fret harmonic on the 6th string.
We know it can seem complicated to beginners, but once you do it once or twice, you’ll be doing it with ease without even thinking about it.
3 important tips for keeping your guitar in tune
Pay attention to moisture
Moisture can seriously damage your guitar. If it is too low, the wood will shrink and can relax the strings, making them sound lower.
If the humidity is too high, it will expand the guitar’s body and, thus the strings, which will sound higher.
Be careful how you lean your guitar
Our personal advice is to use a guitar stand rather than leaning it against the wall. This will protect your instrument from falling, which could seriously damage it.
Change your guitar strings regularly
Old and worn strings may not sound as good as new ones. As for when you should replace them, it depends on how often you play and how you maintain the strings.
How much tension does it take to reach a higher note?
The higher the tension, the higher the note.
How hard to hit the strings when tuning?
It would be best to hit them with the power you usually use to play.
If you put more tension on the string, it stretches more than usual, raising the pitch.
Guitar tuning is an essential process that guarantees high guitar performance. It doesn’t take that much time, and it’s even faster and easier with the right tools.
We recommend that you experiment with the different ways to find the best one for you.
Gary has been in love with music since he was a child. His passion is guitars and everything related to them. He is the founder of
Riff-Mag and can’t wait to share his knowledge with you.