6. Let’s Tune Up! (BC-102)

Before we get started, we’re going to make sure our guitar is in tune. As a quick recap, there are four main methods to tune your guitar:

  1. clip on tuner.
  2. A tuning pedal (electric guitar/electro acoustic only).
  3. Tuning by ear using reference tones
  4. Tuning by ear using notes on the guitar strings (i.e. 5th fret of low E to tune the A string, etc.)

We’re going to use method three, using the tuner built into the website for our reference tones.

Tuning Using Reference Tones

First, click the orange arrow button at the top right of your screen to open up the tools popout:

You’ll see the tuner at the top:

Each of the buttons corresponds to an open string on the guitar, (low) E A D G B E (high).

Get your guitar ready and place the pick next to the low E string:

fretboard option height=200 show fret=0 string=6 text=E color=white fill-color=#dd9933

Now press the first E button on the guitar tuner:

You will hear a low E note ring out. Play the low E note on your guitar and listen to the two notes.

Do they sound the same? It can be quite tricky at first to compare the notes, and it will take a bit of practice. If they sound the same, you don’t need to do anything. If they sound different, your guitar string will either be higher or lower than the tone you just heard from the tuner.

If your string needs adjusting, you will need to locate the tuning peg for that string. To find the tuning peg, trace the E string back, past the nut, to the headstock of the guitar. The tuning peg is the part where the string ends.

The set up of your headstock and tuning pegs might be different depending on the type of guitar you own. The diagram below shows the two main styles of headstock, the fender style (on the left) and the gibson style (on the right). In this case, we have traced the low E string (in red) back to its tuning peg:

Now we’ve found the tuning peg, we need to tune the string. Do do this we need to turn the tuning peg and tighten the string to make it higher in pitch, and loosen the string to make it lower in pitch.

Making sure you are sitting with your guitar in your lap with the strings pointing away from your face, turn the peg anti-clockwise (away from the nut) to tighten the string:


To loosen the string, turn the peg clockwise (towards the nut):


If you’re not sure whether your string is higher or lower than the tone from the tuner, lower the pitch of the string until you are sure the string is lower – it should sound very low and the string might even be quite loose. It’s always better to loosen the string rather than overtighten it, as you could end up snapping it.

Holding your guitar with the strings pointing away from your face, press the first E button on the tuner again, then hit the low E string on your guitar and start (slowly) tightening the tuning peg until you hear the pitch starting to get higher. Keep doing this until the note from your E string and the tuner start to sound similar. The closer they get, the more slowly you want to turn the tuning peg until the two notes sound the same. You may find that you overshoot the mark and that your E string is too high. If this is the case, slowly loosen the string by turning it clockwise, until you get to the correct pitch and the two notes sound the same.

Now that you’ve tuned your low E string, repeat the entire process for the rest of the strings (A D G B high E) on your guitar. Your guitar should now be in tune!

Tuning Tip 1: Tuning can be quite tricky to master, but it’s important to learn this skill from the start. Aside from the fact your guitar will sound rubbish (even if you are playing well), we want to make sure that your ear is starting to process the sounds correctly so that you will eventually be able to hear if something sounds right or not. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right from the start, just keep practicing tuning and you will eventually get the hang of it!
Tuning Tip 2: “I don’t like this – it’s going to snap into my eye!” It can be nerve wracking when tightening the strings, as it can feel like they are too tight and might snap. You will probably snap a good few strings while you are learning to tune your guitar, as beginners are often unsure when to stop tightening the strings. It’s highly unlikely that you will hurt yourself if a string snaps, however it’s best to err on the side of caution. When tuning, always sit with your guitar in your lap (as you would while playing it normally), with the strings pointing away from your face. That way, if you do snap a string, you won’t get hurt!
Tuning Tip 3Leading on from tip 2, you will probably snap a few strings along the way, so it’s always good to have spares handy! You can read more about spare strings later on in this lesson.
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