To say this is the most important facet of playing the guitar is an understatement. If your guitar is out of tune forget even trying to play – you will sound awful. Similarly, as happens on many occasions, even if you are playing a lead solo when the rhythm guitar is out of tune, even this will not do you any favours. Anyway, that’s the lecturing over and done with, so let’s get on with it.
You will need to tune your guitar every time it goes out of tune, which will be easier to spot as you become more experienced and will depend on many factors such as:
– How hard you strike the strings
– How new your strings are (new strings need “playing in”)
– How much bodily fluid (sweat) you excrete
– What gauge strings you use (lighter strings tend to go out of tune more frequently)
There are numerous ways to tune your guitar, but the most common is to use a tuner App. However you can also do this without any technology (well almost). Initially it may take up to 5 minutes to do, but you’ll have this process finely tuned (no pun intended) so it will take seconds.
But, before we do this, there is an element of theory and knowledge to understand concerning how the string notes are linked to each other. Andy relays the methodology he uses for his students which will also start you playing some notes and how to play them properly.
To begin with, let’s have a look at the strings on your guitar:
The thickest string is an E and is the lowest note. If you are right handed, this is the string closest to your face.
Moving away from your face, towards your legs, the strings become thinner and the notes higher. In this order, they are
It is important you know the names of the strings (for numerous reasons that will become apparent later). Here are a couple of acronyms to help you:
– Elephants And Donkeys Got Big Ears
– Even After Dinner Giant Boys Eat
The various apps that Andy demonstrates will either play you a note that you can tune to, or pick up the pitch frequency of a string and indicate whether the pitch is too high or too low. You can then use the tuning pegs to make the note higher or lower until it is in tune.
Alternatively, you can make sure the guitar is in tune but using the bottom E string. You will have to use a tuner or app to get your bottom E string in tune, but once this is achieved you can tune all the other strings to the bottom E. If you are a tad more experienced, you can tune to a record where you know the basic chords to ensure one or more of the strings are in tune. This is more complicated and will probably be something you can move on to in the near future.
Anyway, now on to a bit more theory… huge apologies!
Once the bottom E is in tune, you need to “press down” (fret) the 5th fret of the bottom E string, which is an A note. Using the tuning pegs, turn these to adjust the pitch of the A string so it matches the pich of the 5th fret of the bottom E string on the fifth fret.
Now perform the same exercise with the A and D strings, where the 5th fret notes are D on the A string and G on the D string.
However, on the G string, you will need to fret the 4th fret as this is the B note to ensure the B string is in tune. Finally, you press the 5th fret of the B string, which is an E note and, as before, adjust the tuning pegs so the top E string pitch matches the 5th fret of the A string.
Once you have performed this exercise you will (hopefully) be in tune. It is good practice to use this method as will help your fretting and ability to hear the notes… having said that, if you struggle, use a tool to help you which, at the outset, is much simpler.