10 Guitar Tuning Tips

Author: Ed Cupler

Tuning a guitar with new strings

We start off our Guitar Tuning Tips with new strings: Tuning new guitar strings can be difficult. When putting new strings on your guitar you must always make sure you stretch them as you’re tuning them to pitch. I always hold them down on the neck around the 24th fret with my left hand while pulling them away from the guitar body with my right hand. You don’t have to use too much muscle, a few firm tugs should do the trick.

Tuning guitar strings down in pitch

Tip number #2: Whenever tuning a string down in pitch, be sure to use the string stretching technique described above. Remember ALWAYS TUNE UP! It’s always better when tuning down, to get close to but lower than the intended pitch, then stretch the string and then tune up to the intended pitch.

Tuning a guitar with a floating tremolo bridge

Tip #3: If your guitar has a tremolo bridge, always remember that each string that you tune will go down in pitch as you’re tuning the next string. One solution to this is to over tune the strings. That is to say, you may need to tune your low E string to an F in order to have it be around an E note by the time you finish tuning the other strings. Over time you’ll get a feel for how much you need to over tune each string and it will become second nature.

Tuning & playing in a band

Tip #4: If you play in a band, it is a good idea to always tune to the same pitch. Standard tuning pitch is 440 but some bands like to tune lower to 430 or even 420 for the heavier sound or vocal reasons or both. My point is that if you’re practicing at 430 then you have a gig and your band tunes to 440, everything will suddenly sound different, your singer might not be able hit all the notes he or she did at practice, your solos might even sound wrong. This is because everything is now a half step higher in pitch. Make things easy on yourself, pick a tuning pitch and stick with it at practice and gigs.

Get a guitar tuner

Tip #5: You should consider purchasing a quality tuner. You don’t need to spend your life’s saving on the best guitar tuner available. An inexpensive tuner should be fine to start out. Remember, this thing will be traveling to gigs and jam sessions with you. Make it easy on yourself. The most accurate way to tune your guitar is by using a digital tuner. It will give you precise feedback on the tuning accuracy of each string and it will allow you to do so in a noise filled environment.

Tune before playing

Tip #6: Make it a habit to tune your guitar before each practice session or performance. Temperature changes, humidity, and regular playing can cause the strings to go out of tune.

Check intonation

Tip #7: Ensure that your guitar’s intonation is correctly set. Intonation affects how well the guitar stays in tune as you play higher up the neck. You may need to adjust the bridge saddle positions for proper intonation.

Check tuning while playing

Tip #8: While playing chords or melodies, pay attention to any notes or chords that sound off. This can indicate that your guitar needs tuning adjustments. if your guitar is in tune, there may be an intonation adjustment needed. If you’re not comfortable doing this, most guitar shops will adjust your intonation for a small fee.

String gauge and tuning

Tip #9: Different string gauges and tunings can affect the intonation and tension on the neck, so adjustments might be necessary when changing these variables. 

Tuning in a group setting or during a performance

And finally, Guitar Tuning Tip #10: When tuning in a band practice setting or during a performance, use a tuner with a mute function to avoid disrupting others.

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

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Fender FT-1 Professional Guitar Tuner Clip On

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

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Hand Held Tuners

Korg TM60BK Tuner Metronome

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

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TC Electronic POLYTUNE CLIP Clip-On Tuner

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

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Tuner Pedals

Donner Tuner Pedal, Dt-1 Chromatic Guitar Tuner Pedal

With Pitch Indicator for Electric Guitar and Bass True Bypass

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KLIQ TinyTune Tuner Pedal for Guitar and Bass

Mini - Chromatic - with Pitch Calibration and Flat Tuning

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