How to Tune a Guitar to Itself

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If you ever expect to enjoy playing guitar, you first need to learn how to tune it. If you don’t have a tuner on hand you can still do a decent job of tuning the guitar to itself with at few simple tricks.

Guitars are typically tuned to EADGBE. Now it is true that guitars can be tuned many other ways, but this is the most common way.

Below is a picture of the tuning pegs and the notes you would tune them to for an EADGBE tuning, otherwise known as Standard Tuning.


For the sake of explaination we will refer to the skinniest string as the 1 string and the fattest string as the 6 string, with 2,3,4, and 5 in between.

Now before we dive into the details it is important to know what a fret is. Frets are the thin metal strips running across the neck of the guitar. See below:


Now, you can start to tune the guitar to itself by holding down the 6 string just behind the 5th fret. Then pluck the 6 string and then the 5 string. The goal is to now adjust the 5 string’s tuning peg so that the string is playing the same note as the 6 string that you are holding down on the 5th fret. Once both the 5 and 6 string sound the same, you can move on to tuning the 4th string.

To tune the 4th string, use the same approach you used to tune the 5th string. Hold down the 5th string on the 5th fret, and pluck both the 4th and 5th string, adjusting the 4th string until it sounds the same as the 5th string.

You can continue this same pattern for the 3rd string as well. Hold the 4th string at the 5th fret and tune the 3rd string to it.

For the 2nd string you can take a similar approach but instead of holding the 3rd string at the 5th fret, you must hold it at the 4th fret. And again, match the 2nd string to the 3rd string.

Lastly, you can tune the 1st string by holding the 2nd string at the 5th fret and tuning the 1st string until it matches.

After completing all 6 string you may need to go back and touch a few strings up. You can do this by repeating the entire process, which should take much less time now because the guitar should already be close to being in tune.

And there you have it. The guitar is tuned to itself. If you don’t have an electric tuner this process will get you by. Also, below is a handy tool (which won’t work on mobile Apple devices) to hear how the notes should sound once tuned. It also allows you to experiment with alternative tunings. But that is a lesson for another day.

created by Guitar Tuner

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