Tuning a Guitar

Inspiring Creative Project Ideas

the abc of tuning a guitar

Welcome to Tuning a Guitar, an Adventure Learning Initiative in mentoring and instructing apprentice artists. We hope you enjoy this ingenuity crusade in the simple life of guitar and music.

Keeping your guitar in tune is one of those seemingly insignificant tasks that make a big difference. As a guitar mentor I’m always surprised at how many of my students cannot tune a guitar. I feel learning this skill is crucial. Especially when you’re onstage and your G-String breaks (no, not the kind being tossed to you, the one on your guitar!) Tuning a guitar needn’t be dull either. Get creative and take an adventure into the different types of guitar tunings available.

There are fewer sounds in the world as sweet as a guitar that is in tune. Tuning your guitar is an essential part of every guitar players arsenal. It’s one of those guitar basics that you can't really live without.

Different Methods
for Tuning a Guitar

The trouble for most beginner guitar players is that their ear is not developed enough to detect slight variations of pitch in the notes being played. A slight tweak of the tuning knob will make a world of difference to the sound being produced. Do you fall into this category? If so, keep reading!

Guitar Tuners:

The most common instrument used to tune a guitar is a very aptly named, Guitar Tuner. Guitar tuners are mostly small devices with either a digital display, or analogue meter. Most have both a microphone for tuning an acoustic guitar, and an input jack for tuning an electic guitar. Of the many different types and kinds of tuners, these are most common:

Digital Tuners: Has a digital display that shows you what key you're in, what note you're playing and if you are in or out of tune.

  • Analogue Tuners: Similar to a digital tuner, but works on analogue technology and not digital.

  • Vibration Tuners: Tuners that detect the note based on the vibration of the string and not the sound. You attach these tuners to the head stock of your guitar. Try this: very gently bite the head stock of your guitar and play the different strings. Did you detect the changes in vibration in your teeth? These tuners are great for tuning an acoustic or acoustic electric guitar in a noisy environment

    Pedal Tuners: Most digital effects pedals have a tuner built into them.

    Whatever your needs you'll be able to find a tuner at your local music store and especially online!

    Other ways to tune a guitar:

    • Tuning to another musical instrument (such as a piano, or another guitar)

    • Tuning to pitch pipes, or a tuning fork (not the kind you eat with!)

    • Tuning the guitar to itself.

    Tuning a Guitar

    Open String Names

    Before moving on to how to tune a guitar by ear, it's important to know and memorize the open sting names. What's an open string? A string is open when it is played without fretting (pressing it down on the guitar fretboard) at any point.

    The following image shows the open string names in order from the 6th (thickest) string to the 1st (thinnest). This will be your first guide when tuning a guitar!

    tuning a guitar - the open string notes

    It would be great if those letters actually formed a word, but Eadgbe isn't much of word, let alone one that's easy to remember. So to help you remember these letters make up a sentence where the first letter of each word corresponds to the letters of the note names, for example:

    Every Ancient Dinosaur Gets Big Ears

    Make up your own rhyme if you'd like, the more ridiculous the better.

    Musically Yours,
    Andrew Pittendrigh in association with
    The Adventure Learning Muso Mentors

    If you feel you would like to mentor or instruct in a creative short course or program, simply complete the Creative Project Ideas Mentor Application form.

    Enter the Magic Theatre...

    Click forward to Guitar Chords

    Click back to Anatomy of a Guitar - Different types of Guitars

    Return to the Simple Life for more Creative Project Ideas

    Return from Tuning a Guitar to Adventure Learning Home