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).

Guitar Tuning: Tip 3

The previous guitar tuning tip was about letting both strings ring as you tune. The next tip is related.

Remember that these tuning tips have been using the method of tuning the guitar to itself. In the example I’ve been using (tuning the D), it will be easy to accidentally let go of the A string. Do your best to keep the A string pushed down on the 5th fret.

Now, be sure you are holding the guitar properly (whether sitting or standing). After you pluck both strings, letting them ring:

Tip 3: Reach around the front of the guitar with your right hand.

Since your left hand is holding the A string down, your right is free after you pluck the strings. You will turn the farthest tuning peg on the top of the guitar head, connected to the D string.

Here’s a video explanation:


One of the other ways of tuning a guitar is by using harmonics. Here’s a simple explanation if you like. It’s a little more advanced. One advantage to this method is that no reaching is required.

Guitar Tuning: Tip 2

While the first tip was a simple one, the next few are meant to help you understand how to tune.

Before I state the tip, I’d like to list out a few ways a guitar may be tuned:

  1. Use a real tuner
  2. Use a fake tuner – like an iPhone App
  3. Use a piano or keyboard
  4. Use another guitar
  5. Use your own guitar

These are not exhaustive, since you can use really any instrument that can create a sustained note, but are generally the most common. I did not list them in any particular order, though in my experience most people use the last two most often.

I will utilize these methods in my tips.

This next tip involves using your own guitar. When tuning, you must obviously turn the tuning pegs, but with #5 above, you are comparing one string with another. The only way to do that is to hold down one string (usually 5th fret), and pluck another to see if it matches.

The trouble is timing. If you hold down one and listen, but let it go before plucking the next, it will not be as accurate.


Tip 2: Pluck the first string and let it ring while you pluck the next.

This will allow your ear to truly compare the notes produced (I won’t bore you with the cool physics involved).

For instance, when tuning the D, press your finger down on the A string, 5th fret. Pluck the A string, then the D and let them both ring. Don’t take your finger off the A string. This way, you can more clearly hear if the D string is different than the A.

Here’s a video using the D and G string:

The next tip will be related to this one.

Guitar Tuning: Tip 1

Okay, tuning the guitar is one of the trickiest things for someone to do, especially if they’re a beginner. It’s easy to get frustrated because you’ve tried to sit down to play your guitar, but spent all your energy trying to tune the crazy thing.


Now, acoustic guitars can range significantly from the very well made to the very badly made. It is usually the latter that are the most frustrating to try and tune.

However, if you are a beginner, the goal for you right now is to get close – not perfect. Please take the perfect tune pressure off of yourself.

There are several ways to tune a guitar, but I’ll cover those later. This tip is appropriate for any of the methods.

Tip 1: Tune each string as close as you can, then stop.

Even if the guitar still sounds way off to you, it’s really okay. You don’t want to break a string (that’s a bummer). You do want to spend some of your time actually practicing (unless, of course, you have no school, no job, no family, no dogs, no mail to check, no bills to pay, or any of that).

You get the point.

Do your best to get close. That’s the goal in the next few tuning tips.