To tune your guitar, you need a pitch reference. A tuning fork or pitch pipe
can be used as a reference. If you buy a tuning fork (the more accurate pitch),
be sure it is an E fork—not A, which is the more common type. The E note will give
you the pitch for your first string.
Tuning to the Piano
Another good way to tune is by using a piano. If your piano is in tune, you can
simply play each note and quickly tune the corresponding string.
Tuning to the piano
With your first string in tune, it is possible to tune the rest of the guitar
string by string. Here’s how:
- Put a left-hand finger just behind the fifth fret of the second string and
sound the string with any right-hand finger. It should sound the same as the
first string open (i.e., with no frets used). If it doesn’t, tighten or loosen
it until it does.
- With the top two strings now in tune, put a finger behind the fourth fret
of the third string. When you play it should sound the same as the second string.
If it doesn’t, tighten or loosen as above.
- With the top three strings in tune, place a finger behind the fifth fret
of the fourth string. Adjust it to sound like the third string.
- With the top four strings in tune, place a finger behind the fifth fret
of the fifth string, and align it to the fourth string.
- Finally, place a finger behind the fifth fret of the bottom string and tune
it to the fifth string. That’s all there is to it.
Tuning seems tricky at first but it comes with practice. In general don’t be
too delicate in turning the tuning keys—a very small increment won’t make any difference.
Sometimes it is easier to off-tune by an easily audible amount and then come back.
Tuning can also be made almost foolproof with electronic tuning machines, in
which either a meter or colored lights tell you when you’re in tune. The cost of
these is naturally higher than that of tuning forks or pitch pipes, but they are
accurate and easy. The best kind allow you to play a note and then watch a needle
that shows whether you’re sharp or flat.