Ever picked up a guitar, tried to play something and thought Yuck, that sounds disgusting!?
Well, the chances are that you’re out of tune.
Tuning your guitar means adjusting each string to the right pitch so that when you play a chord, a melody or with a band, everything is perfectly aligned together.
And woahhh, how am I supposed to do that?
That’s funny you should ask… Because in this post I’ll go over the various ways to tune a guitar for beginners, with some extra tips at the end too.
Use an online tuner or app
If you’re a beginner practising at home, then this is the way.
Why is this the way? Because it’s cheap, easy and mobile.
You can download an app or click on a link and BAM, you’ve got yourself a tuner.
Then once you have it loaded up, just play a string and the app will tell you whether you are lower or higher than the right pitch.
You can then raise or lower the pitch by turning the tuning pegs until it gives you a friendly green tick. Easy, right?
Just remember to turn clockwise to lower the pitch, and anticlockwise to raise it.
So yeah, you’re in safe hands.
The advantage of an app is that you can use it offline, anywhere.
If you pick a guitar off the wall in the guitar store and it’s hideously out of tune, BAM you can whip out your tuner and make it playable.
And if that ain’t magic, I don’t know what is.
The only disadvantage is that in band situations, it’s impossible for tuning apps to hear your guitar.
Unless you somehow manage to shut the rest of the band up.
Trust me, that will never work… pff, drummers…
Use a tuning device
Before the days of guitar apps, almost everyone had a tuning device.
They’re reliable, affordable, and don’t require any phone storage to use. Yippee!
But the best thing is that you can clip them onto your headstock.
This means you no longer have to precariously balance it on your knees like you’re playing Jenga, or find some dark, maggot-infested corner to put it so no one stands on it when tuning stood up.
And those are two pain-in-the-buttocks problems with a phone tuner.
But as great as a Snark Clip-on Tuner like this is, it’ll also suffer from the same problem as apps and websites.
Band situation = no no no no no…
But that’s why some genius – no, not me this time – invented the tuning pedal.
Use a tuning pedal
Behold… The answer to all your problems…
Now, your guitar is directly attached by a cable to your tuner.
This makes it super accurate and – best of all – when your drummer just won’t shut up, you can still tune!
You probably never thought that day would come.
Tuning pedals are great because when they are turned on, they mute all sound from your amp.
This means you can tune silently and avoid cracking any mirrors or annoying any audience/band members with loud, irritating tuning noise between songs (and let’s be honest, no one wants to hear that).
As well as this, they’re built like an armoured Jeep so they’re perfect for gigging.
(Other car brands are available)
The only problem is that they’re the more expensive option, you’ll need to plug them in to use them, and they aren’t quite as carriable as an app or clip-on tuner.
But there just isn’t really any alternative for band situations.
Tune your guitar by ear
Most beginners completely avoid this way to tune a guitar like the plague, but it’s definitely one you should try at home.
If you’re always using a tuner then you’re never training your musical ear, which could come back to bite in the long run.
Besides, how frickin’ badass is it to be able to pick up a guitar and tune it completely by yourself?
And there are a couple of great tricks that beginners can use to tune a guitar on their own.
One of those is the harmonics trick:
- Rest your index finger lightly on the low E string, directly above the 5th fret itself. If you play this string now, it should ring out like this:
We call this a harmonic note.
2. Leaving that finger there, rest your ring finger lightly on the A string, directly above the 7th fret this time.
When you play this note, it should be the exact same pitch as the harmonic you just played.
3. Play those two harmonics at the same time and raise or lower the pitch of the A string until the pitches of the 2 harmonics are exactly the same.
4. Repeat this exact same process 1 string higher, this time using the A string 5th fret harmonic as the note that you are tuning the 7th fret D string harmonic to match.
5. Keep repeating this, one string at a time, until you reach the B string, which is the weird string.
For this string, we play the normal note on the 4th fret of the G string and play the B string completely open.
6. Return to the 5th fret B string harmonic and 7th fret E string harmonic to tune the high E string.
Wow! You’ve just tuned your guitar completely by yourself.
All together, it should sound like this:
The only problem with this method is that if your low E string is out of tune before you use it to tune the other strings, then the rest of your guitar be tuned to fit that out-of-tune-ness.
It’ll sound good at home, but when you start playing with others, you’re gonna sound as good as car alarm.
However, you could always try tuning the low E string with a tuner first, and then tune the rest with your ear and pretend like you’ve got perfect pitch or something.
Works for me.
In reality though, you’re more likely to use a pedal tuner when playing with other people anyway so sounding out of tune isn’t too bad a problem.
Tuning tips and tricks
Here’s couple of great tuning tricks to make your life easier, gathered by yours truly.
Whether you’re at home or with a band, these bad boys will come in handy…
- Tune to Drop D tuning, FAST.
Got a song you want to play that’s in drop D tuning?
Don’t want to have to fumble around for your tuner?
All you gotta do is pluck your D string and low E string at the same time.
Then tune your E string downwards until you hear it match the pitch of the D string.
Within two seconds, you’re in DADGBE tuning.
2. Tune back up to E standard, FAST.
Alright, so you’ve dilly dallied in drop D tuning for a bit.
But now you want to go back up to E standard and you only have 0.49 seconds to do it, so what can you do?
Well, you pluck the high E string and lowest string on your guitar – now a D – and tune up the lowest string until the pitch matches that of your high E string.
You’re back in EADGBE tuning.
Wrapping It Up
At the end of the day, all of these methods of tuning are great.
For you beginners out there looking to tune your guitar quickly, downloading an app will do the job.
Bear in mind however, that as soon as you’re in the vicinity of a drummer, you’re gonna want a tuning pedal if you wanna keep your sanity…
Now go tune up and play!
P.S. If this has proved helpful then you can check out my post on how to play guitar for beginners by clicking here.