This archived article was written by: Nathan Manley
The last guitar tips article was about restringing a guitar, Logically, the next phase should be tuning a guitar. There are hundreds of tunings for the guitar, but I’ll start with the standard tuning.
The majority of songs, or open chords, are in this tuning. There are a few ways to achieve standard tuning, and the easiest is to purchase a tuner. It doesn’t matter what type or brand because they all work the same. When you play any open string in close proximity to the tuner, the screen should display the note of that string. Depending on what note you need for each string and whether the pitch needs to go up or down, you can tighten the string to move the pitch up or loosen it to move the pitch down. You just need to make the appropriate adjustments until the desired note is displayed.
For standard tuning, a specific order of notes (all six-open strings) need to be tuned to, starting with the lowest or thickest string, also numbered sixth, then move your way down numerically. Each numbered string has a correlating letter which gives you the assigned note. It should look like this: 6-E, 5-A, 4-D, 3-G, 2-B, 1-E. As long as your tuner matches these notes with each correlating string, the guitar is tuned to the standard tuning.
You don’t need a tuner to tune the guitar. If you have access to a piano and are familiar with the keys, you can achieve the same tuning by matching the pianos keys with the guitar strings. Find the second lowest E on the piano and match the pitch you hear with your lowest string, which is the sixth string. Work your way up the piano to the closest A and tune the next string down (fifth string) to the same pitch you hear on the piano. And so on for each subsequent string down, fourth string will be tuned to the closest D, 3-G, 2-B and 1-E. From low E to high E, all the strings should span two-full octaves.
If you don’t know anything about the piano, you are probably confused. One of the cool things about the guitar, is you don’t have to worry about note names, you can tune the guitar to itself. Rather, you can tune all the strings to whatever note the lowest or sixth string is.
You need to know what a fret is and how they are numbered on the guitar. It might be confusing, but the fretboard is based on playing an open string. If you aren’t pressing down on the frets, you’re only plucking the string. Since zero frets are played, it’s known as number 0, or open string, 0=O(pen).
Once you make that connection, it will make sense that frets are numbered numerically. Pressing down on the first slot of the fretboard, is fret one, second slot is fret two and so on up the neck. There are also fret markers(which are usually little dots on the neck) located at frets three, five, seven, nine and 12, which help with changing positions quickly without having to count each individual fret.
If you go to the sixth string, and play the fifth fret (second-fret marker,) you can tune the next open string down by matching its pitch with the same pitch of the fretted string above it: 6th string-5th fret=5th str.-0 frets(or open string). When they both sound like the same note, you can use this same formula to tune the next string down. Basically, all you’re doing is tuning the strings in order. The only exception is when you tune the second string with the third string, you have to use the fourth fret on the third string*. Refer to the diagram.
Using the sixth string as a reference point will tune the other five strings, but remember the strings won’t be perfectly pitched to the