Tuning The Guitar (Your first step in sounding better)

Author: Ed Cupler

Tuning The Guitar (Getting Started)

Tuning the guitar

Tuning the guitar is one of the first thing you’ll need to learn when you get your first guitar. Guitars, even once tuned, will still eventually go out of tune. You can try to rely on a friend that knows how, but they won’t be there all of the time. Tuning the guitar can be very frustrating for new players, as you can’t really move on to learning what you want, without it sounding well, out of tune. Standard pitch tuning for a six string guitar is Lower E, A, D, G, B and High E. Lower E being the thickest string and High E is the thinnest string.  Each letter represents the name of the note that the open string produces without pressing down at any fret. Standard pitch is (A440), which corresponds to an audio frequency of 440 Hz. Although you can tune your guitar to another pitch (and many bands do) to avoid confusion, we’ll stick with 440 for now.

Standard guitar tuning & the order of the strings

This simple list below shows the order of the guitar strings and their notes.

  • Low E string: 6th string – This is the thickest string – At (A440) it produces an E note when played open.
  • A string: 5th string – This is the next string below the E – At (A440) it produces an A note when played open.
  • D string: 4th string – This is the next string below the A – At (A440) it produces a D note when played open.
  • G string: 3rd string – This is the next string below the D – At (A440) it produces a G note when played open.
  • B string: 2nd string – This is the next string below the G – At (A440) it produces a B note when played open.
  • High E string: 1st string – This is the thinnest string and At (A440) it produces a E note when played open. This E note is 2 octaves above the Low E String.

You do have options

  • Guitar tuning by ear: If you have a good musical ear, you can compare the pitch of each string to a reference pitch (from a piano, tuner, or tuning app) and adjust the tension of each string until it matches the reference.
  • Relative tuningA tune by ear method – if you have one string that is already in tune, you can use it as a reference to tune the other strings. For example, you can tune the A string to a reference pitch, and then tune the other strings relative to the A string by using frets as reference points.
  • Relative tuning using harmonicsA tune by ear method – again, if you have one string that is tuned, you can reference it to tune the other strings. Example, you can tune the A string to a reference pitch, and then tune the other strings relative to the A string by using harmonics as reference points.

Although you should learn to tune your guitar by ear, you do have options for tuning:

  • Using a tunerThe easiest tuning method for beginners – electronic guitar tuners are accurate and an easy way for tuning the guitar. Simply plug your guitar into a tuner and play each string individually, while adjusting the tension using the Tuning Machine Heads until the tuner displays the correct note for each string.
  • Online tuners or tuning appsBasically, the same as a guitar tuner, only online or on your phone – Many websites and mobile apps offer free online tuners that can help you tune your guitar accurately.

We’re sticking with Standard Tuning in these lessons:  Keep in mind that there are also alternate tunings for the guitar, where the strings are adjusted to produce different pitches. Some popular alternate tunings include Drop D, Open D, Open G, and D-A-D-G-A-D, among others. These alternate tunings can create unique sounds and are often used in specific musical styles and genres.

How To Tune a Guitar Without a Tuner

If you’re ready to get started learning how to tune the guitar by ear, without using a tuner, just follow the links below.


Guitar Tuners

If you’re looking to get a guitar tuner because yes eventually you’ll need to have one, below is a short list of some of the best guitar tuners available. Guitar tuners are inexpensive and a must have if you’re playing live or rehearsing.

Clip-On Tuners

Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin

Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin


Fender FT-1 Professional Guitar Tuner Clip On

Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin


Hand Held Tuners

Korg TM60BK Tuner Metronome

Features a larger display that can show the tuner and metronome simultaneously.


TC Electronic POLYTUNE CLIP Clip-On Tuner

Polyphonic, Strobe and Chromatic Modes and 108 LED Matrix Display for Ultimate Tuning Performance


Tuner Pedals

Donner Tuner Pedal, Dt-1 Chromatic Guitar Tuner Pedal

With Pitch Indicator for Electric Guitar and Bass True Bypass


KLIQ TinyTune Tuner Pedal for Guitar and Bass

Mini - Chromatic - with Pitch Calibration and Flat Tuning


Online guitar tuners and APP's for your phone.

If you’re looking for some online guitar tuners or an APP for your phone, below are a few to get you started. There are many out there to choose from. This is just a small sample.

Please note: The online tuners and tuning apps below are just to get you started. I am in no way affiliated with any of the following Apps or websites.

Online Tuners:

  • Fender Online Guitar Tuner: Fender is a well-known guitar brand, and their online tuner is simple and reliable. You can access it through their website here @  https://www.fender.com/online-guitar-tuner
  • Pro Guitar Tuner: This online tuner supports various instruments, including guitar and bass. It offers a precise and easy-to-use interface:  https://www.proguitar.com/guitar-tuner
  • GuitarTuna: GuitarTuna is also available as a mobile app, but they offer an online tuner as well. It’s a popular choice for both beginners and experienced players: https://guitartuna.com/

Tuning Apps:

Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner for Guitar, Bass & Violin

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