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Guitar Tuning Notes: The Rockstar's Guide


So you’ve got your guitar, new strings, picks and accessories, and now you’re ready to tune your guitar. Below we’ll discuss a few tips to make tuning your guitar a fun and effective ritual to start your sessions off right.

Interested in learning Rock Guitar? Get lessons and personalized feedback from Paul Gilbert (lead guitarist for Mr. Big and Racer X) here

Use an Electronic Tuner

There’s an art to tuning a guitar, but the easiest way to start is to use an electronic tuner. This takes the guesswork out of the picture and allows you to get in tune quickly.

Simply clip the tuner onto the headstock of your guitar and sound the string that you want to tune, tightening or loosening the string until the light in the middle of the tuner (usually green) indicates that the string has reached the proper pitch.

Always Tune Up to Pitch


To ensure accurate tuning, always start with the chosen string below the desired pitch, gradually bringing it up to pitch with an electronic tuner or by ear. Not only is the pitch easier to hear this way (if you’re tuning by ear), but the string will be less prone to slippage.


Don’t Pick Too Hard


If you have an electronic tuner, you may have noticed that when you pick a string with too much force, it actually causes the note to go sharp (higher in pitch), only settling back to it’s true pitch once the force of the pick has dispersed. For this reason, you’ll always get a more accurate reading on your electronic tuner if you pick the string gently instead.

Test the G Chord

Every guitarist needs a way to test the accuracy of their tuning, and the best way to do this is to use an open G Major chord.

The G Major chord is particularly useful because it utilizes three fretted notes and three open string notes, using all six strings in total. Therefore, if one of your strings is still out of tune it will be easy to hear, indicating that you need to check them again.

Use a Pedal Tuner


Another tuning method at the guitarists’ disposal is the use of a pedal tuner. Essentially, pedal tuners function just like clip-on electronic tuners, only the pitch is indicated on the face of the pedal and the guitar must be plugged into the pedal via a ¼ inch cable in order to properly tune the guitar.


Pedal tuners are particularly useful if you plan on playing live gigs in which you need to be able to tune discreetly and accurately without disturbing your audience. Like electronic tuners, these can be purchased online and at most music stores for reasonable prices.


Tuning at Frets 4 & 5


The final tuning method is a form of “relative tuning” at frets 4 and 5. Relative tuning simply means that once your guitar is in tune, it will only be in tune in relation to the pitch that you started on. Because this method is a form of ear tuning, it is inherently imperfect and therefore is not always the best option for beginners and/or live gigs (unless you have perfect pitch or very good natural relative pitch!)


Here’s how it works:


  • Choose your starting pitch for the low E string (approximating the pitch by ear)

  • Fret the low E string at the 5th fret, and tune the open A string to match the pitch of the fretted note.

  • Repeat this process by fretting the A, D and B strings at the 5th fret, always tuning the next highest open string to match the pitch of the fretted note.

  • The one exception is when tuning the B string: Fret the G string at the 4th fret, and match the open B string to the pitch of that fretted note.


Voila! Use these tips to quickly learn how to tune a guitar -- so you can spend more time doing what you love to do — making that baby sing!


Interested in learning Rock Guitar? Get lessons and personalized feedback from Paul Gilbert (lead guitarist for Mr. Big and Racer Xhere


Read more about guitar at ArtistWorks:


How to Noticeably Improve Your Playing in 30 Days


11 Ways to Leave Your Musical Level


How to Make Your Musical Resolutions Stick: Tips From Keith Wyatt


Paul Gilbert Goes LIVE on Facebook


How to Play Guitar for Beginners





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