Guitar Tuning: Tip 4

So far, I’ve suggested that in tuning the guitar, you simply try and get close, let both strings ring as you tune, and to reach around the front of your guitar as you tune.

I wanted to add to these this time by confirming both the overall method of tuning to your own guitar, and and to say this very simply:

Tip 4: Make sure you are turning the correct tuning peg!

I can’t tell you how easy it is to accidentally turn the wrong one as a beginner. Trace the string. Remember you are not turning the one that your finger is pushing down.

If you keep turning the wrong one, you will be purchasing a new string. I don’t know how it happens, but somehow, people usually end up tightening instead of loosening…so tight that it pops. And it’s quite the shock if you think you are tuning a different string (and nothing is happening). All of a sudden – WHAP!

All this to say – keep an eye on which tuning peg you are turning. Make sure you are turning the correct one.

Need to see? Here’s a video:

Tuning an acoustic guitar: Overview

The overall process of tuning a guitar isn’t too bad. Here’s my suggested method.

  1. Base your tuning on the A string. In other words, if it’s not super loose, just use the A where it is. In the words, you won’t tune the A string – you’ll only use it to tune the others.
  2. Tune the D string based on the A string. Hold down the A string on the 5th fret and pluck both strings at the same time. You are listening for both strings to sound alike.
  3. If they do not sound alike, reach around the front of the guitar with your right hand while still holding the A string down (5th fret) with your left. Remember: just get close!
  4. Turn the last tuning peg on the top as needed (the D string peg). Turning the peg away (counter clockwise) should be up, and toward you (clockwise) is down. Small amounts of turning usually does the trick.
  5. Tune all the other strings in like manner except one: the B string. All other strings utilize the 5th fret except this one. To tune the B, press down the G string on the 4th fret and go through the same process.
  6. After you have tuned the high E (the one on the bottom), go back to tune the low E (on top). You will use the A string for this one as well, only this time, press your finger on the A string 5th fret and pluck both the A and low E string. Generally, you will go through steps 2-4 above, but turn the first tuning peg on top instead of the farthest.
  7. Play a chord or two to check yourself. Pluck one string at a time while holding down the chord. Most likely, your ear will be able to tell you if something is off. If so, go back to check by using steps 2-4.

Now I’ll simplify the above (summarize):

  1. Tune the D string with the A (5th fret), plucking both – then turning the peg (I tell my students: “Pluck and Turn”).
  2. Tune the G string with the D (5th fret), then the B string using the G (4th fret), and the E string using the B (5th fret).
  3. Tune the low E with the A (5th fret).

I hope this is helpful.

If you have a piano or keyboard, here’s a PDF of general instructions for both methods (the above, and also tuning using a piano).

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