There are few sounds worse than nails on a chalkboard, feedback from a speaker and playing a guitar that’s out of tune. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to Instagram videos where people are playing their guitar WAY out of tune and it makes me cringe every time! In this lesson, we’re not only going to cover how to tune a guitar, but we’re going to cover why we tune a guitar and when to tune it.
Standard Tuning on Guitar
When you are tuning your guitar, the odds are you’re going to want to tune it to standard tuning. Standard tuning on guitar means that the notes will be in a universal tuning that the majority of guitar players use. The notes for guitar tuning are as follows:
6th String (thickest): E
5th String: A
4th String: D
3rd String: G
2nd String: B
1st String: E
For a more comprehensive look into standard tuning on guitar and a fun way to memorize the notes for guitar tuning, I would recommend my lesson on the guitar anatomy.
How to Tune a Guitar Youtube Video
There are a few different devices you can use when tuning. Tuners that are based off of sound frequencies and tuners that are based off of vibration frequencies. In this next section, I will not only talk about using both of them to tune a guitar, I will show you my video of how to tune a guitar on youtube.
Snark Guitar Tuner
In the following video, I will show you how to tune a guitar using a tuner called a Snark (Note: I am NOT sponsored by Snark). This is an awesome tuner because it is based off of vibration so even if you’re in a noisy place, it will allow you to tune your guitar properly.
I had never heard of a tuner based on vibration until I was getting ready to play a bar gig and I tried to tune my guitar using an app. The room was so noisy that the app couldn’t pick out the guitar frequency and so I couldn’t tune! Luckily the musician who just finished saw me struggling and came over with his Snark Tuner and let me use it. It did the trick and I’ve always used it since.
Here is the video of me showing how to tune a guitar with the Snark Tuner:
Free Guitar Tuning App
The other option you can use is a free guitar tuning app. If you are not in a noisy place, a free guitar tuning app will be just fine and you’ll go through the exact same steps in the video but will use your device instead of a physical tuner. Make sure to place your phone/device in front of the sound hole to get the best results. I usually rest it on my knee. Here is a free guitar tuning app I have personally used and would recommend (Note, I am NOT sponsored by GuitarTuna):
GuitarTuna is a fun, free guitar tuning app to use that makes tuning the guitar a little less boring. It’s accurate and has several other awesome features to use as well.
Why Tuning a Guitar is Important
Tuning a guitar is very important not only when we play along with recordings or other people, but even when we are just playing the guitar by ourselves. Because the guitar has 6 strings (and in some cases even more), it’s important that all of them are as close to perfectly in tune as possible. This is due to the fact that we play multiple strings at the same time quite often. This includes every time we play a chord, a triad a double stop, etc.
If even just one of our strings is slightly out of tune, it will make the quality of whatever we are playing sound quite terrible. It’s really important to make sure that all of our strings are in tune and I recommend tuning each string twice when you are tuning your guitar just to make sure they are as close to perfect as possible.
All of this has to do with our Guitar Intonation which I cover more in-depth in my lesson about the 3 Most Important Parts of the Guitar Anatomy.
One last reason why it’s so important to tune your guitar is because you don’t want your ears to get used to the sound of your guitar being out of tune. This will skew your reference on what is in tune vs what is not in tune. We want to train our brain to recognize sounds that ARE in tune as good sounds and not the other way around. Again, I urge you to tune your guitar two times each time you tune it.
Let’s move on to when you should tune your guitar.
When Should You Tune Your Guitar?
The answer to this question is easy: EVERY TIME YOU PICK IT UP. It’s that simple! Each time you pick up your guitar to play it, you should tune it. Like I mentioned above, it’s very important to train our brain to recognize sounds that are in tune and there’s no better way to do that than to always make sure we are in tune!
You might be thinking, “Tony, I just tuned it yesterday and it hasn’t moved since then!” Well, did you know that temperature and humidity can affect the tuning of your guitar? In winter time the strings will go sharp and in summer time the strings will go flat even when your guitar is sitting there doing nothing!
So again, I urge you to tune your guitar (twie) each time you pick it up to play. Also, if you’re doing a lot of string bending and your strings are a little old, you might want to check your tuning again in the middle of your session.
And check this out! When professional guitar players are recording in the studio, many times they will stop and tune their guitar every couple of minutes to make sure it’s as consistent as it can be throughout the entire song! It may sound crazy but if you want to get a consistent intonation and sound, you need to tune your guitar!
I know it sounds like I’m lecturing you, and yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing! I can’t stress to you how important it is not only for your ears but for everyone else’s ears who hears you play. Let’s bring beautiful music to the world and let’s do it by tuning our guitar before we play… every time
Ready to Take Your Playing to the Next Level?
If you’re looking for more information about learning the notes of the fretboard or even about how to play chords cleaner, make smoother chord transitions and even jump into the world of soloing, I have a Free 5-Day Course that covers all of this and more! All you need is an email address to get started and I promise I won’t spam you! Click here to start the Free 5-Day Course!