How to Tune Your Guitar

Next, let’s make sure that the note you are fretting is the note that you hear. This is called tuning your guitar. It is an absolute requirement that you own a tuner. For ten to fifteen dollars, you can have a durable tuner that can tune with a line in for electric guitars or a microphone for acoustic guitars.

This is an example of a tuner that is turned on.


Standard Tuning

The most common tuning is called standard tuning. Start by either placing the amp end of your guitar cord into the input jack on the side of your tuner, or setting the tuner’s microphone (labeled MIC) in close proximity to the sound hole of your acoustic guitar. It is usually easiest to set it on your right knee.

Make sure it’s on, the battery is fresh, and hit any one string. Your tuner should have lights and lines moving about. That means it’s working.

Also make sure that if it has a Guitar/Bass button, that it is in guitar mode. You can see that it says GUITAR in the upper right hand of the tuner screen, next to the Guitar/Bass button.


String Names

Before you tune your guitar, you need to know a few things. First, you need the names of each string. The bottom, or thickest, string is your low E string with a capital “E”. It is also the sixth string. On your tuner, it will show as 6E as shown in the picture or a close variation depending on your particular tuner. The next string is the A string, also known as the fifth string, or 5A. The next string is the D string, 4D. The next is the G string, 3G. The second string to the ground is the 2B string. And lastly, the highest pitched string closest to the ground is your high e string, the first string. It is often denoted with a little “e” but on many tuners, it shows up as 1E. A quick recap, from thickest to skinniest is EADGBe. You will know this by heart by the tenth time you tune up.

Begin Tuning Your Guitar

So let’s start by tuning the low 6E string. Don’t fret any strings; just pluck the thickest string with your pick. Not so hard it rattles, but not too lightly either. Your tuner should make some action. It can do one of five things. It can:

  1. show that the string is in tune by displaying 6E and moving the pointer to the middle and/or showing a green light.
  2. indicate that the string is sharp by showing a 6E and having a red light and a pointer to the right which is the case in the picture of the tuner above.
  3. indicate that the string is flat by showing a 6E and having a red light and a pointer to the left.
  4. display a string other than 6E.
  5. fail to pick up a signal or sound at all.

The last two larger errors can be solved by listening to the string. If it is rattling around no matter how lightly you pick it, it is way too flat. Tighten the string until it no longer rattles and shows up as the correct string. If a higher pitched string is indicated, loosen the string until 6E shows up.

For a sharp or flat string, minor adjustments need to be made. A flat string needs to be tightened until green shows up. A sharp string, the opposite, loosened until green glows.

Now play the 5A string. Do the same thing. If 6E shows up again, the string is probably rattling too. Tighten the string until 5A shows up. Once again, tighten a flat string and loosen a sharp string.

Repeat this procedure with all of the strings. You should now be in tune and ready to strum away!