Thursday, 10 February 2011

Tuning You're Guitar By Ear!

The Cmaj chord in guitar, with bass in G
Guitar tuning is fast becoming a lost art, what with the ready availability of electronic guitar tuners and their relative cheapness (you can get them for just a few dollars). More and more guitar students feel it is not necessary to learn, and indeed many instructors have stopped teaching, this tedious but nevertheless important aspect of guitar playing.

A good guitar tuner can be a big help on a noisy stage, allowing you to tune up silently, without inflicting your dreaded rendition of that well known and much reviled Chinese anthem "Tu-Ning", on your unsuspecting victims (audience, other band members, or whatever) you really need to develop the ability of tuning the beast "by ear".

Just imagine! You get to your show with a truck full of, amplifiers, mountains of pedals, to make you sound like the latest rock icon, and your trusty security blanket (guitar tuner) stops working.... Or the aging grand piano, supplied by the venue, is tuned way off concert pitch (the industry standard where A is deemed to be the frequency 440Hz, creating the term A-440) you could not do the gig unless you can get and keep your guitar in tune.

Also consider this... you have spent weeks or maybe months bragging, to anyone who will listen, about what a great guitar player you are.... And then, out of the blue, someone thrusts an "out of tune" acoustic at you at the works party and now everyone you know is looking at you expectantly. You need to get it in tune quickly so you don't look like a fool in front of all your friends.... Or the boss.
So do yourself a big service and take the time and effort to learn how to tune your guitar manually.

Ok! So how?

Well, you'll need a reference, another instrument, tuning fork, pitch pipes etc from which to get to a starting point. (If nothing else available you will just have to choose a string and tune the other strings from that, (however, in this situation, you will not be able to play along with other musicians).

Try to avoid using recordings as your reference as many have had their pitch altered during the mastering process and will not be very accurate.
Firstly you will need to know what notes the strings will be tuned to in standard tuning. There is a multitude of different guitar tunings people use but in this instance we will assume you are going to use standard tuning as it is far and away the most used, about 98% of the time.

The notes of the open strings are E, A, D, G, B, E, this is going from bottom to top (bottom being the lowest in pitch which is the top string physically i.e. closest to your head).

So your reference should sound an E and you tune the low E (the thickest string) to that. When the two notes sound the same the string is in tune and you have finished with the reference instrument. We will now tune the rest of the guitar to the low E string.

Next place your fingertip behind the 5th fret (in the space between the 4th and 5th frets counting from the guitars headstock towards its body) on the E string we just tuned and pluck both that string and the next one (The A String).

Tune the A string to the E until they sound the same.

Repeat this process with the D string, (tuning it to the A at the 5th fret)

And the G String (Tuning to the D at the 5th fret).

Now comes the odd one out. The B string is tuned to the G string but not at the 5th fret, move back to the 4th fret for this (the space between the 3rd and 4th frets). Tune the B until it sounds the same as the

fretted G.

Last go back to the 5th fret for the High E.

Now, if you have followed along successfully you will have a guitar which, for the time being, is in tune and you are ready for your next lesson. Please always remember! The most important thing about learning the guitar is:

Always have fun and be the best guitarist you can be.

Learn the 3 chord trick
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