Step one before playing: make sure your instrument is in tune. It doesn’t matter how well you play, if the instrument isn’t in tune, it won’t sound right.
Getting the tuning of your guitar just right is one of the essential skills all guitar players, from beginner to pro, should know. So let’s jump in and get your guitar in tune.
How to tune a guitar
A good first step to tuning is to learn the names of the strings. Here they are, in order:
What this means is that the thickest string (that’s the E string) is the one closest to you, when holding the guitar on your lap. As we work our way down the strings, we have the rest and end with the thinnest string (that’s also an E string).
Need help remembering the names of the strings? We’ve got you covered.
Eddie Ate Dynamite. Good Bye Eddie. (Check out our song inspired by this acronym) Learn this simple rhyme and you’ll easily remember the names of the strings. And also that you shouldn’t eat dynamite.
Standard guitar tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E)
With this rhyme in mind, you now know the standard guitar tuning. This is what you’ll be using in a wide variety of songs across all music genres.
There are other tunings as well, better known as alternative tunings. Some of these include the drop D, drop C and one step down tunings. However, these are a topic for another day.
Now that we know the names of the strings, we’re ready to get your guitar in tune. You can always do this by ear, but the easiest and most accurate way is with a tuner.
For example, it’s really easy to tune your instrument with the tuner in Yousician, or with GuitarTuna. You can check out the video below for step-by-step instructions to make sure your instrument sounds its best!
Tune your guitar
So, let’s start getting your instrument in tune. Begin by strumming all six open strings and listen to how it sounds. If you’re a beginner, it might be difficult to hear whether your guitar is in tune or not. Practice your ear and you’ll recognize whenever the tuning is off and needs some adjusting.
Let’s assume that your guitar is not quite in tune and requires some work. To tune your guitar, you’ll need to get familiar with the instrument itself, most importantly the tuning pegs. These little pegs are located on your guitar’s headstock and (most likely) there are six of them, one for each string.
Pro tip: In case you have an electric guitar, you can go to the settings of the GuitarTuna app and change the app’s guitar headstock to show an electric guitar instead of an acoustic guitar. There’s also a left-handed mode for all of you guitar-playing lefties.
The way your guitar’s tuning pegs are laid out depends on your instrument, but in most acoustic guitars there are three pegs on both sides—three pointing up and three towards the ground, when the guitar is on your lap. Follow the strings to see the peg that is connected to each string.
Play one of the strings and then turn the tuning peg while the string is ringing. Depending on the direction you turn the peg, you’ll hear the pitch of the string change either higher or lower. By turning the peg towards you, the string loosens and its pitch gets lower. Turning the peg the other way (away from you), the string gets tighter and makes the pitch go higher.
Go ahead, give it a try and see how it sounds.
Using a guitar tuner
Now you’re familiar with your instrument and we’re ready to take out our tuner. Getting your guitar in tune is incredibly easy with the GuitarTuna app. It does most of the hard work for you.
Open the app and you’ll see the headstock of a guitar with all of the strings and their names. Start by tuning the low E string. It’s the thickest string and closest to you. The app recognizes which string you’re playing and tells you whether the pitch is too high or too low.
Now, here’s a tip: Always tune up to a note. It’s better to tune up to a higher pitch, rather than down to a lower one. So, make sure you can get the correct tune by turning the tuning peg away from you.
Keep playing the E note and turning the tuning peg. Follow the GuitarTuna app’s indicator as it tells you how close the string is to the correct tune. Make smaller and smaller adjustments as you get closer to the correct pitch, and once you have the string in tune, the app will make a sound, telling you that you’ve successfully tuned the string.
Congratulations! Now repeat the same process for the other five strings. After you’re done with the thinnest string (the other E string), it’s a good idea to go back once more and check that all strings have stayed in tune.
Wrapping up: Tuning a guitar
Well done! Your guitar should now be in tune. As you keep playing, the strings can gradually go out of tune again, so check every now and then if your guitar is still in tune. As you get better at training your ear, you’ll start to notice whenever the tuning doesn’t sound quite right.
Some key takeaways:
- Each string has its own tuning peg. Follow the string up to its corresponding peg.
- Turning a peg away from you tightens the string – turning it towards you loosens the string.
- Tighten the pegs slowly and make sure you don’t tighten them too much, or you’ll risk snapping a string.
- Always tune up to a note.
- Use a good guitar tuner to make tuning easier and more accurate.
Check out GuitarTuna, the best free guitar tuner app for easy tuning. Once you get better and better, you can use the app for alternative tunings as well.