Standard Guitar Tuning Methods

There are many different methods you can use to tune a guitar. The most popular and widely used is the standard method. That is, the strings are tuned from thickest to thinnest E A D G B E. This tuning evolved mainly because it is the best and easiest for fingering the most amount of scales and chords.

Not only are there different tunings, but there are also different techniques to tuning up. I suggest that you experiment and learn different ways to tune. Here are 5 easy methods:

Using an Online Guitar Tuner

Check out this online guitar tuner. This guitar tuner can also do alternated guitar tunings; such as Drop D, Open C, Open G, Open D, Open G, Half Step Down, Full Step Down, Open E or Admiral.

Tuning With an Electronic Tuner

There are many electronic tuners on the market today. An electronic tuner monitors the frequency of each of the six strings. The guitar tuning is adjusted until the correct reading on the tuner is given. These are especially good if you are the visual type of learner.

Electronic Guitar Tuner

An electric guitar or acoustic guitar with a pick-up can also be plugged into the tuner. Sound can be picked up by a tiny built in microphone; this allows acoustics without pick-ups to be tuned. There is a visual frequency display that will show you with a needle how close you are to the proper frequency of any given note. Because of the visual display these tuners are especially helpful in noisy environments, i.e., tuning your guitar in a loud concert hall.

Some electronic tuners also come with adjustable or alternate tunings. Electronic Tuners definitely make guitar tuning easier as they are small and therefore portable. But keep in mind it is helpful to you as a musician to learn to tune by ear as it helps develope your ear, making you a more skillful musician.

Guitar Tuning With A Keyboard or Piano

The first step in any guitar tuning is to find a source for reference tones. Since pianos stay in tune for years they are always a good source to use. Using a Piano or Keyboard the strings on the guitar can be tuned to six keys on the keyboard. The diagram below shows the relationship between the open notes of standard tuning on guitar and a piano.

Tuning A Guitar From A Piano

Tuning In Octaves

Another common approach to tuning the guitar makes use of octave intervals. To begin with, the open 1st string should be tuned to the note E (you can use an electronic tuner, a piano, a pitchfork, or just wing it by ear to get the correct pitch).

When it is in tune, the open 2nd string (B) can be tuned an octave below the B played on the 7th fret of the 1st string.

With the 2nd string in tune, the open 3rd string (G) can be tuned to the G an octave above on the 8th fret of the 2nd string. The open 4th string (D) can then be tuned to the D an octave above on the 7th fret of the 3rd string.

Similarly, the 5th and 6th strings may also be tuned using the 7th fret octaves.

All the strings except the 3rd should have an interval of an octave between the open string and the 7th fret of the string below. From the 3rd string though, the octave is heard by playing the 8th fret of the 2nd string.
Guitar Tuning Octaves

Tuning with Harmonics

On certain frets, when a string is played while a finger gently touches it directly over the fret, a harmonic is produced. Keep in mind you are not fretting the note directly against the fretboard you are simply touching the string. Placing a finger over one of these points changes the usual pitch of a vibrating open string.

Instead, a related higher-frequency note will be heard. This harmonic is referred to as an upper partial. The technique shown below uses a series of harmonics to tune the guitar. Over the 5th fret, the harmonic occurs two octaves above the pitch of the open string. Over the 7th fret, the harmonic is an octave and a fifth above open-string pitch.

  1. Tune the 6th string (E) to a tone reference such as an electronic tuner or other instrument
  2. Play the 5th harmonic on the 6th string, let this note ring and play the 7th fret harmonic on the 5th string, adjust the tuning head until they sound the same.
  3. Play the 5th harmonic on the 5th string, let this note ring and play the 7th fret harmonic on the 4th string, adjust the tuning head until they sound the same.
  4. Play the 5th harmonic on the 4th string, let this note ring and play the 7th fret harmonic on the 3rd string, adjust the tuning head until they sound the same.
  5. Play the 7th harmonic on the 6th string, let this note ring and play the open 2nd string, adjust the tuning head until they sound the same.
  6. Play the 5th harmonic on the 6th string, let this note ring and play the open 1st string, adjust the tuning head until they sound the same.

Tuning With Harmonics

That concludes this tutorial on 5 easy guitar tuning methods. Now that your all tuned up you can sit back and strum all night long.