How To Tune a 6-String Guitar

A Step-by-Step Process for Newbies Learning to Tune a Guitar

Red electric guitar

Guitar is perhaps the most popular instrument across the world. People of very small ages even take to guitar. However, no matter how old they are, if they find that their guitar is out of tune, at this stage they can only make out that something is wrong and the chords aren't sounding right. They have to get their guitar tuned from their teacher or someone who is an advanced guitarist. This dependence upon someone else every time your guitar goes out of tune is an unhelpful reminder that you're a newbie. It's way better to know the tuning process so you don't have to depend on anybody. So, here I'm giving the step-by-step process of tuning a 6-string guitar.

  1. Tune the strings to one another. First we'll consider that you don't have any resources other than your guitar and plectrum. The guitar will sound nice anyway, and you can play chords and melody this way, though the guitar strings will likely not be tuned to the correct, standard notes.
    • First sit and hold the guitar as if you're playing it. Remember, the strings are numbered 1 to 6 as per their diameter, hence in reverse order. That is, the string which is tuned to the highest notes is called the 1st string and the string which is tuned to the lowest note is called the 6th string. Now, pluck the 1st string and make sure that it makes the sound of a high note that is pleasant on the ears. If required, tune it up or down slightly using the appropriate peg. But be careful, don't tune it up too much, or else the string will break. Proceed with judgment.
    • Now, press the string no 2 on fret 5 and pluck the string. You must tune the string so that this note is exactly the same as when you pluck the 1st string. Now, for newbies it may be hard to tell if the notes are identical. Keep plucking the notes together and one after the other, and increase or decrease the tuning of the 2nd string until they sound exactly the same. Once both sounds are of the same frequency, plucking both the strings will create a resonance; there should be no wavering of the note when both are identical and plucked together.
    • In the same fashion, make sure the 3rd string’s fret 5 note is identical to the open 2nd string. Then follow the same pattern to tune your 4th string to your 3rd, your 5th to the 4th, and your 6th to your 5th string.

    Voila! Your guitar strings should be in tune with one another! You can play any tune or melody you know and play the chords and it'll sound completely harmonic. However, this way it’s not tuned to natural notes. It is a good process to follow when you don't have any resources with you. However, if you want your guitar tuned perfectly to the natural notes, then we have a couple of options.

  2. Tuning whistle. There is a whistle available in market called a 'tuning whistle'. A tuning whistle has six pipes, each of which represents one of the six open strings. If you, for example, blow the low E pipe you can hear the correct tone and accordingly tune the low E-string on your guitar exactly to the tone. It will take a bit of practice, but soon you will be able to judge whether the sound of your string matches that of the whistle.
  3. One-note reference. Likewise, there are tuners available which will make the sound of a natural E. You have to adjust the tuning of the 1st string so that, when plucked, its frequency is the same as that of the tuner. Now tune the rest of the strings the same way as specified in the 1st step.
  4. You can also get electronic tuners with a built-in microphone. When plucking a string, the built-in microphone picks up the sound and either a digital display or a needle – depending on the model – shows the pitch. You'll be able to tell whether the note is sharp or flat as well. By turning the pegs, you can then adjust the strings to the proper pitch.
  5. Online tuning tools. If you have a computer and internet connection handy while playing your guitar, then you can search on the internet for tuners. The best one I've seen is on WholeNote. They have tuners for 4 different types of guitars. The tuner will make exactly the same sound of what each naturally tuned string makes; all you have to do is adjust the strings on your guitar accordingly.

Tuning a guitar is a pretty simple thing to do. I hope this article was helpful.

The author is a music lover for music lovers and has started a community for music lovers named VirtuosoBox

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