How to Tune a Guitar: A Complete Guide to Set Your Perfect Tunes!

May 04, 2021 07:00 PM

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by Jose Lopez Franco from Unsplash
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Tripboba.com - Tuning your bass is one of the first skills you as a guitarist need to know. Because you have to tune the bass each time you play it. You can't expect your bass to always be in sync between practice sessions. As a general rule, keeping the bass in tune is easier than a regular guitar, but you will still want to check your tuning each time you play.

How to Tune a Bass Guitar

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by Laura Nyhuis from Unsplash

If it doesn't sound right when you play, or if it sounds "off" when playing along with the recording, we recommend checking your tuning. Check the following points of how to tune a guitar and be ready to set your bass!

Tuning 5-String Bass Guitar

The 5-string bass is becoming more common. They can be tuned by adding the extra low strings B, E, A, D, G or by adding the high strings E, A, D, G, C. In contrast to guitars where most of the strings are 4ths and one string is tuned to the a 3rd, bass tuning is generally done in all 4.

Tuning 6-String Bass Guitar

This is where you want to expand your range. Try the 6-string bass as this can add extra low strings and extra high strings: B, E, A, D, G, C.

Drop D Tuning for the Bass Guitars

There are simple ways to develop the sound of your guitar without adding extra strings. Drop tuning became popular in the 90s for heavier music. Drop tuning is when you drop the pitch of your lowest string, usually one step below the standard.

Tuning Standard Bass Guitar

If you play a standard bass guitar, you’ll notice that your bass only has 4 strings. The standard tuning for a 4-string bass is E, A, D, G (equal to the lowest four-string guitar but one octave lower). The bass strings are tuned in fourth.

How to Tune a Guitar with a Tuner

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by marhear from Flickr

If you’re following the market today, you’ll know that there are various types of guitar tuners available. In fact, with the technology, you can even get a guitar tuner app, if it is your style. Almost all tuners should have essentially the same function. Some are connected to guitar, some have built-in microphones.

Before we’re sharing how to tune a guitar using a tuner, there are types of tuners you should know.

  • Clip on headstock
  • Desktop with mic
  • Built in tuner
  • Pedal type

Step 1. Tune your tuner and turn it on. And then start by plucking the top strings, and only the top strings. Use your finger or pick. Whatever you like is fine, but choosing can result in a slightly more accurate reading on the tuner.

Step 2. When you strum the strings, carefully watch the tuner. This should display the notes being played, and the scales that are moving. When the scale indicator is in the center, the strings are tuned to the displayed tone.

The basic method is to adjust each string to the correct note by plucking it repeatedly while watching the tuner. The strings are tuned using machine heads, or tuning knobs. You probably already know what it is.

Step 3. Pluck the top string again and again, and then accordingly adjust the machine head until the sting is set to E. You’ll always want to tune up, never tune down. If the string is sharp, tune it far below the desired note, then tune up the note. This will make sure that the strings are always stretched tightly.

Step 4. Now, move on to the next string down, or the A string. Pick repeatedly while adjusting the correct machine head and watching the tuner. You’ll realize that this just got easier! Almost the same all the time.

Step 5. Continue on the rest of the string, top to bottom, in standard tuning. After you have all the strings tuned, go back and tune them a second time. You will often find that something is out of sync during the process. This often occurs due to incorrectly turning the machine head at some point.

Step 6. Checking everything a second time will make sure that your guitar has the perfect tone. It's also a good practice to tune your guitar often, even if it sounds okay. The strings can expand and shrink depending on the conditions, and will become out of sync at some point.

As the strings age, it becomes more and more difficult to keep them in tune. This fact, along with light rust on the top and bottom of the strings, is a sure indicator that you need some new strings.

How to Tune a 12 String Guitar

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by Herbie from Flickr

Though it can be overwhelming, tuning a 12-string guitar will become familiar once you have tried and mastered it. If you play regularly, tuning a 12-string guitar is an important thing to do. To tune a 12-string guitar, you have to keep in mind that each string is made in pairs.

The first 6 strings can be tuned to your standard 6 strings i.e. the notes E, A, D, G, B, E. Then, you will tune the 4 lower string pairs one octave higher to the notes E, A, D, and G. The last high pair of strings correspond to the standard notes, which are the notes B and E.

Read the following guide to know how to tune a guitar that is a 12-string guitar.

Step 1. The first thing not to forget about tuning a 12-string guitar is that the strings are paired and will be tuned synchronously. You won't tune each string individually like you would with a 6-string guitar.

Step 2. Look at your lower string pair. It will be thicker and they are the ones you tune with the standard 6-string tuning. This means they will be the notes E, A, D, G, B and E.

Step 3. There are 4 pairs of lower strings that are paired with the E, A, D and G strings. Each of the note will be tuned up to an octave higher. This means, when you tune the lowest E string, it will be an octave higher than the thick E. Playing the strings at the same time must show that the strings are in tune because they will play in tune. The sound you will hear will be an octave different.

Step 4. The B and E are the taller strings. They are tuned in exactly the same way as the other strings. By playing the B string at the same time, you will find that they sound identical to each other. The tuning for the 12-string guitar has its own notation and is written as eE, aA, dD, gG, BB, EE. In this notation, all uppercase letters are set to the standard 6-string setting. All lowercase letters indicate a tone set to an octave higher than the others. This way each string on the guitar will be tuned as follows:

  • e – higher octave tuning
  • E – standard 6 string tuning
  • a – octave higher tuning
  • A – standard 6 string tuning
  • d – higher octave tuning
  • D – standard six string tuning
  • g – octave higher tuning
  • G – standard tuning
  • B – standard tuning
  • B – standard tuning
  • E – standard tuning
  • E – standard tuning

Step 5. Once you've tuned the strings a few times, the whole process will make more sense and you'll find that it just got easier.

Tuning Half a Step Down

If you've done some research on 12 string guitar tunes, then you've probably noticed many of them have been tuned for guitar tuned half a step down. The reason is that standard tuning can put a lot of strain on the guitar neck. 12-string is a lot of tension for the guitar to take up, so you can reduce some of the stress by tuning it this way.

Reducing the tuning by half is also a good way to get used to playing it. This helps relieve finger pain.

To tune your 12-string guitar half a step down, start by tuning your guitar using the standards. Then, take each string and tune the semitone which is your half step. For instance, in this process the E string will become flat E, the A string will become flat A, and so on.

All of the 12 strings are tuned as if they were in 6 pairs and the 4 lower pairs would still be an octave apart. The difference here is that each string will make a semitone sound that is lower than the standard tuning.

Tuning to Drop D

The Drop D tuning is also a popular way of how to tune a guitar, which in this case is a 12-string guitar – many songs use this tuning type. Again, you'll want to tune your guitar to the standard tunings we outlined earlier. Then, take your bottom pair of E strings down one full step so they are now a D. All the rest of the strings will stay the same. Only the lowest pair of strings will be changed, remaining an octave apart but set to D.

Tuning for Open Tuning

The 12-string guitar can be tuned to any open tuning you want. As long as you remember to play each string on the pair and the lower 4 pairs are an octave apart, you can use any open tuning you wish.

Using the Tuner

There are several methods of tuning a 12-string guitar you can use. It all depends on the tuner you have and the technique you prefer.

Chromatic Tuners

The best way to tune your guitar is to use a color tuner. Many modern tuners have to include a color mode. This type of tuner can be used for all notes on your instrument. This is why it's great for 12-string guitars because your 4 strings are tuned up to an octave higher than standard.

Using the tuner, you can select individual strings. Your tuner will pick up on the sound and tell you exactly what the note is. All you need to know from then on is what you want to tune down or up.

It is recommended that you always start by tuning the 6-string tuning to the standard guitar tuning. Once they are correct, you can move on to tuning the string pairs. This helps you to make sure that each paired string is in the correct note.

Tuning Apps

There are several apps out there that have been specially designed to help you tune your 12-string guitar. Even if your application only has standard tunings, you can use them as color tuners for your original 6 strings.

How to Tune a Bass Guitar

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by Laura Nyhuis from Unsplash

Tuning your bass is one of the first skills you as a guitarist need to know. Because you have to tune the bass each time you play it. You can't expect your bass to always be in sync between practice sessions. As a general rule, keeping the bass in tune is easier than a regular guitar, but you will still want to check your tuning each time you play.

If it doesn't sound right when you play, or if it sounds "off" when playing along with the recording, we recommend checking your tuning. Check the following points of how to tune a guitar and be ready to set your bass!

Tuning 5-String Bass Guitar

The 5-string bass is becoming more common. They can be tuned by adding the extra low strings B, E, A, D, G or by adding the high strings E, A, D, G, C. In contrast to guitars where most of the strings are 4ths and one string is tuned to the a 3rd, bass tuning is generally done in all 4.

Tuning 6-String Bass Guitar

This is where you want to expand your range. Try the 6-string bass as this can add extra low strings and extra high strings: B, E, A, D, G, C.

Drop D Tuning for the Bass Guitars

There are simple ways to develop the sound of your guitar without adding extra strings. Drop tuning became popular in the 90s for heavier music. Drop tuning is when you drop the pitch of your lowest string, usually one step below the standard.

Tuning Standard Bass Guitar

If you play a standard bass guitar, you’ll notice that your bass only has 4 strings. The standard tuning for a 4-string bass is E, A, D, G (equal to the lowest four-string guitar but one octave lower). The bass strings are tuned in fourth.

How to Tune a Guitar with a Tuner

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by marhear from Flickr

If you’re following the market today, you’ll know that there are various types of guitar tuners available. In fact, with the technology, you can even get a guitar tuner app, if it is your style. Almost all tuners should have essentially the same function. Some are connected to guitar, some have built-in microphones.

Before we’re sharing how to tune a guitar using a tuner, there are types of tuners you should know.

  • Clip on headstock
  • Desktop with mic
  • Built in tuner
  • Pedal type

Step 1. Tune your tuner and turn it on. And then start by plucking the top strings, and only the top strings. Use your finger or pick. Whatever you like is fine, but choosing can result in a slightly more accurate reading on the tuner.

Step 2. When you strum the strings, carefully watch the tuner. This should display the notes being played, and the scales that are moving. When the scale indicator is in the center, the strings are tuned to the displayed tone.

The basic method is to adjust each string to the correct note by plucking it repeatedly while watching the tuner. The strings are tuned using machine heads, or tuning knobs. You probably already know what it is.

Step 3. Pluck the top string again and again, and then accordingly adjust the machine head until the sting is set to E. You’ll always want to tune up, never tune down. If the string is sharp, tune it far below the desired note, then tune up the note. This will make sure that the strings are always stretched tightly.

Step 4. Now, move on to the next string down, or the A string. Pick repeatedly while adjusting the correct machine head and watching the tuner. You’ll realize that this just got easier! Almost the same all the time.

Step 5. Continue on the rest of the string, top to bottom, in standard tuning. After you have all the strings tuned, go back and tune them a second time. You will often find that something is out of sync during the process. This often occurs due to incorrectly turning the machine head at some point.

Step 6. Checking everything a second time will make sure that your guitar has the perfect tone. It's also a good practice to tune your guitar often, even if it sounds okay. The strings can expand and shrink depending on the conditions, and will become out of sync at some point.

As the strings age, it becomes more and more difficult to keep them in tune. This fact, along with light rust on the top and bottom of the strings, is a sure indicator that you need some new strings.

How to Tune a Guitar by Ear

How to Tune a Guitar - Photo by Seyi Ariyo from Unsplash

If you decide to tune your guitar by ear instead of a tuner, you can definitely do so. The reason for this method of how to tune a guitar by ear is the fact it lays foundation of pitch ear training.

If you can understand the tonal relationship between notes and become sensitive to tuning details simply by tuning your guitar consistently every day, you will build a solid foundation for pitch skills.

Here's how to tune a guitar with step-by-step instructions:

Step 1. Check your pegs by turning the peg clockwise to make the string tighter with its pitch higher or looser with its pitch lower. Once you get used to this setup on your guitar, it will become instinctive and you won't have to think about it again.

Step 2. Understand how your guitar strings work. When you look at all six strings of your guitar, you will see that they change from the thickest to the thinnest. The thickest at the top is your low E string, also called the sixth string. After that, the next thickest string is A, or the fifth string, and so on, up to the first string (high E).

The pitching order of the strings in standard tuning, from the 6th string to the 1st string, and therefore from the lowest to the highest string, is EADGBE. Try to always tune in "backward" order, starting on the 6th string, or low E, and continuing through the 1st string, or high E.

Step 3. After the E string has tuned, you can put your reference note aside. From here, you can tune the other strings based on your sixth string. This is the fifth string: A.

Step 4. In this step, we’re sharing the fourth string: D.

The note on the 5th fret of the A string you just tuned will match the open note of the D string you will next be tuning. Play the two strings simultaneously, placing your finger on the fifth fret of the fifth string and playing the open note of the fourth string. Listen to see if the two notes are the same, barely different, or have a clear pitch. Adjust your adjustment pegs until you hear them tuned perfectly.

Step 5. The third string: G.

Timbre problems may arise when you try to tune your third string (which is the G note) onto the fourth string. This is because on acoustic and electric guitars there is usually a change in the type of strings: from nylon to steel or from single strings to wound strings. This affects the timbre of the tone and makes it difficult to directly compare notes.

You should understand the process when you tune the third string, which should be a G note. At the 5th fret of your fourth string, it's a G, so you can use that to tune the open note of your third string. Again, listen and check if they sound similar. If not, turn the tuning pin for a higher or lower pitch until it matches.

Step 6. Put your finger on the fourth fret of the third string, which makes a B, the same as the open note of your second string. Or at least, after you tune the second string. Adjust the B string, so that both notes sound the same.

Step 7. This is the first string: High E.

Since your low E string has been tuned, you can tune your high E by referring to this one. However, note that they are actually two octaves apart, so you may find this gap making it difficult to compare the two notes.

If you're new to tuning, you might want to avoid it, and instead, continue with the method that’s been used by placing your finger on the fifth fret of the second string (B), and you'll be playing an E that matches your opening the first string. Again, turn it counterclockwise for higher notes and clockwise for lower notes.

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