How to Tune my Guitar?

How to tune a guitar in standard tuning

There are several different guitar tuning profiles, but the most popular one by far is ‘standard tuning’.

In standard tuning, the notes of the guitar, from thickest to thinnest are: E, A, D, G, B, E



How to remember the notes of the guitar strings

Here’s two useful mnemonics to help you remember the order “E, A, D, G, B, E”.

· Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears

· Eddie Ate Dynamite Good Bye Eddie

Pick whichever one you like best, or make up your own. (The sillier the better.)



Now we know the notes we're aiming for we can tune the guitar

You’ve already learned the first half of how to tune a guitar, well done!

Now we need to look at how to tune a guitar to E, A, D, G, B, E.



How to tune a guitar to E, A, D, G, B, E

Look at your guitar’s headstock (the thin end of the guitar).

You will see small ‘keys’ that you can turn. We call these ‘machine heads’.

Each string is attached to a machine head of its own. When we turn a machine head we change the pitch that the string is tuned to.




How do we know what note the string is tuned to when we’re turning the machine heads?

Easy. We use a tuner to tell us! 🙂

If you’re wondering how to tune a guitar with what you have at hand there’s 4 methods (we’ll cover each one in turn):

  1. How to tune a guitar using an electronic guitar tuner.

  2. How to tune a guitar using a smartphone app.

  3. How to tune a guitar using other instruments.

  4. How to tune a guitar using its own strings (and your ears!)


How to tune a guitar using an electronic guitar tuner.

When people ask me how to tune a guitar I always say the same thing: All things considered, electronic guitar tuners are the best option.

They are fast and accurate. (When you have a decent electronic guitar tuner you simply won’t need to worry about how to tune a guitar again.)


The interface of ALL tuners is broadly the same.

You pluck a note and the tuner shows you the note you played.

The tuner shows you this in three ways:

· It will tell you the string it thinks you’re trying to tune.

· It will show you with an oscillating ‘needle’ how far away from the note you are.

· It will show you with a light whether the note is too low or too high.

You need to get the needle in the middle.


On the picture above the ‘needle’ is perfectly in the middle. (Can you see the thin, black vertical line?)

Because the needle is perfectly in the middle, the green light above it is lit. This note is perfectly in tune!

We can see it’s tuning the A string (the 5th string) because in the top left corner it says “5A”.

· If the needle was over to the left, the green light would not be lit. The red light to the left of it would be lit and this would tell us the note was too ‘flat’ (too low).

· If the needle was over to the right, again the green light would not be lit. The red light to the right would be lit and this would tell us the note was too ‘sharp’ (too high).



Got that? Ok, let's tune up!

1 – Turn the tuner on.

2 – If necessary, tell the tuner the string you want to tune. (Most tuners default to ‘auto-detect’ the strings, but some tuners need to be manually told what string you want to tune.)

Important! If your tuner is manual, then make sure your tuner is ‘listening’ for the correct string that you want to tune. If the tuner is set to ‘listen’ to a different string to the one you are tuning you may overtune the string and it will snap!

3 – Pluck a string.

4 – Look at the tuner. Is the needle in the middle? If not turn the machine head one way or the other.

5 – Pluck again. Which way did the needle go? If it went towards the middle, keep going! If it went away from the middle, turn the machine head in the opposite direction.

6 – Repeat the cycle of A) pluck string B) look at tuner and C) turn machine head until the needle is in the middle.


While tuning, pluck the string a LOT.

Most beginners are quite timid and pluck once and then wait for ages while the tuner ‘listens’ for a note that’s stopped ringing.

Don’t do this. You should pluck, pluck, pluck away!

The more your guitar is ringing out a note the easier it is for the tuner to hear, so pluck lots. (About once a second is ideal.)



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