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Guitar Tuning For Beginners

By: Pat Newsome


Are you new to guitar playing, and still haven't figured out how to get that instrument into tune?  The basic method for tuning is easy to learn, but if you can get your hands on an electronic tuner, it will help.  Either way, it's important to realize that the guitar is designed to be tuned to standard notes.  Some casual players just tune it to itself, which works for playing alone, but won't work if you play with anyone else.  For best results, get it tuned right.

If you can get your hands on an electronic tuner, it will help you find exactly the right pitch for each string.  You'll still have to wind the keys on the headstock to arrive at the pitch.  A tuner generally shows you a meter that has a space right in the center.  You pluck the open string, and an arrow will point somewhere on the meter.  Your goal is to adjust the string's tension so that the arrow is exactly in the space at the center.  The arrow might wiggle a little.  Just try to get it close.

The tuner can tell which string you're tuning.  There are usually the names of the strings, E, A, D, G, B, E, listed on the face of the tuner, and the one being worked on will light up or be otherwise indicated. 

If you don't have access to a tuner, you can get your basic pitches from a piano or keyboard.  There are also sites online that will give you the pitch  you need.  The sixth string, which is the low E, should match the E key on the piano.  Here's how to find it.  The white keys of the piano are interrupted by the black keys.  You'll have two white keys together, then a set of two black keys separated by a white, then two white keys together and a set of three black keys separated by whites.  The key just to the right of the second black key in the sets of two is an E.  Find an E on the right hand side of the piano keyboard, and it will be low pitched.  You might be an octave off, but you can still hear the note well enough to tune your sixth string to it.

Now for the rest or the strings, tune the guitar to that sixth string.  To do this, press down on the sixth string at the fifth fret and pluck the string.  This is the pitch you need to tune the fifth string to.  Tune the fifth string and then press it down at the fifth fret and pluck.  This is the pitch for the fourth string.  This pattern holds true for all the strings except that the pitch for the fifth string is the third string at the fourth fret instead of at the fifth.

With a little practice, you'll be tuning your guitar like a pro.  Electronic tuners are really helpful, though, and can often be picked up for under $20, making them a valuable investment.

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