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How To Tune a Guitar

how to tune a guitar

Tuning a guitar is an essential practice that does more than tune a string, it builds patience and a good ear. The worlds most common guitar tuning is standard tuning and perfect for most of those hit songs you know and love. After installing new strings, they may need a little time to settle - one way to speed things up is by stretching them right after installing. Grab each string and pull on it with a bit of a bounce, but don't break it! This will keep you from having to re-tune a lot and the strings will hold their tone longer. Over time, your guitar may sound dull from the build up of dead skin. Head to your local guitar store and grab a can of "Finger Ease" which can extend the life of your strings. Spray it all over the strings and then clean it off with a cloth (you'll notice a ton of dirt). This extends the life of your strings but also control "string squeaks" when you play guitar.

Now let's get the guitar in tune. Here is a basic walkthrough for Standard Tuning.

  • E (6th string) This is the thickest string with the deepest sound. It tends to stay in tune longest.
  • A (5th string) A is the second thickest string and also stays in tune pretty well compared to others.
  • D (4th string) Could the D string be the most played? This note has found it's place at the start of many hit songs.
  • G (3rd string) Hidden in the lineup, G often gets ignored so show it some love! Pluck the G-string;)
  • B (2nd string) The B string is notorious for falling out of tune. You may find yourself re-tuning it often.
  • E (1st string) Of course, this is the string with the highest sound. It's metallic tone is unmistakable.

Storing your Guitar

Be careful where you store your guitar - changes in temperature can warp the body and knock it out of tune. The local guitar store should have a humidifier/de-humidifier. Look for the round, sponge types that fit into the sound hole. If you live in a hot and humid climate, this dry sponge will soak up any moisture in the air and protect the guitar from getting too much. Alternatively, if you live in a very dry climate, try and wet the sponge before storing the guitar - this will protect the guitar from drying out.

Tune your ears

Tuning a guitar has become an unconscious act. Today, guitarists only need their vision to adjust each string. Simply knowing the difference between green and red is about all it takes these days. This has allowed many musicians (including myself) to become lazy and essentially 'turn off' critical listening. Although our ears constantly hear, they don't always listen. Here's a few ways to keep em sharp and improve your pitch:

Use our guitar tuner and listen to each note. Try to get your guitar strings to match ours. After you've gotten as close as possible, check your accuracy with a digital tuner. This will tell you how close each string is to 440, which is the standard frequency. Don't have a computer? Get a tuning fork and find a quiet room. This may sound like a step back in time, but it will force you to listen deeper. It will also heighten focus and remove distractions. Turn the phone off! Tuning or playing a guitar requires focus so don't sabotage yourself by allowing it to be broken so easily.

Written by Ben Long

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