How to Use a Guitar Tuner: Tips For Guitarists

How to Use a Guitar Tuner

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So, you bought a guitar. But, it doesn’t sound quite right. What’s wrong?! Well, you most likely need to tune your guitar. You definitely need a guitar tuner.

Guitars will start playing out of tune over time, so having a guitar tuner is really important to keep your guitar sounding great. Guitars need to be tuned fairly regularly if you want it to keep it sounding good.

Below we’ll tell you a few things you need to know about tuning your guitar and using a guitar tuner.

Choosing a Guitar Tuner

Guitar tuners come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They also vary in cost. Luckily, even if you’re on a budget, you can easily find a quality guitar tuner. You may think it’s a simple process at first. But, as many people learn, it’s not so easy.

Here are a few of our recommendations if you’re looking for a great guitar tuner:

Clip-On Tuner: Snark SN5X Clip-On Tuner
Pedal Tuner: KLIQ TinyTune Tuner Pedal
Standalone Chromatic Tuner: Korg TM60BK Tuner Metronome
Phone Tuner: GuitarTuna

Guitar tuners now are largely electronic and come with a display screen that lets you know how close you are to the desired pitch. The screen can even be a set of LED lights in the shape of a scale. There are even smartphone apps that you can download to help you tune your guitar as well.

While the type of guitar tuner you use depends on personal preference, most of them work pretty much the same way.

Tuning Your Guitar

Once you turn on your guitar tuner and start playing a string on your guitar, you should be able to see a meter which shows you how close you are to the correct note, the note that the string should be tuned to.

The standard tuning of a guitar is EADGBE. Here’s how a standard guitar should be tuned:

E (6th String) [The top string, also the lowest pitched]
A (5th String)
D (4th String)
G (3rd String)
B (2nd String)
E (1st String) [The bottom string, the highest pitched]

Many tuners will be preset to help you reach this tuning and will automatically recognize which string you’re playing as you start tuning it. You can then turn the tuning pegs to where you want the string’s note to be on the chromatic scale. Then, you will have to repeat this process for each string until they are tuned. Once you’re finished with this it’s time for the next step.

Keep in mind that if you’re trying to use an alternate tuning, on the other hand, it will be a bit trickier. You may have to set your tuner to “Chromatic” mode so that you’ll be able to tune any string to any note. However, much of the process will be the same.

Staying In Tune

Once you have the correct pitch, begin playing. Also, bend your strings and do some strumming. After playing with the strings a bit, check the tune using your guitar tuner. Sometimes, you’ll find the pitch has changed. By the time you finish tuning every string of your guitar, you may notice that a previously tuned string is already starting to sound slightly out of tune.

Your guitar may be pitched correctly when you initially tune it, but it can start changing once you begin playing. This happens due to the tension caused by the strings on the neck of your guitar or faulty and cheap tuning pegs.

As you play the guitar, you may need to check it regularly. It is important to tune your guitar more than just once and keep tuning it as needed. Cheap guitars are especially prone to going out of tune quickly. You may find that it’s necessary to retune and recheck your guitar strings several times before the pitch sticks.

When You Don’t Have a Tuner

So what do you do if at a later time you’re playing and notice you’re out of tune but you don’t have your tuner? There are some ways to check your guitar’s tuning without a tuner but it isn’t always pitch perfect unless you have an expert ear.

One of the more common methods is to check if your guitar is in tune is to use natural harmonics. You can do this by placing your finger and lightly touch the string on the 5th or 7th frets. The 5th fret of a lower string corresponds to the 7th fret. This string will allow you to hear the natural harmonics.

Another method is to simply use the 4th or 5th fret of the previous string to check your tuning by ear. The 5th fret of the low E string, for example, should be the same as the 5th string open. Here’s how that plays out:

E (6th String): This is your baseline, tune the rest of the strings to this one.
A (5th String): Same as 5th fret on the 6th string
D (4th String): Same as 5th fret on the 5th string
G (3rd String): Same as 5th fret on the 4th string
B (2nd String): Same as 4th fret on the 3rd string
E (1st String): Same as 5th fret on the 2nd string

Final Thoughts

Even if you have the best guitar tuner around, it won’t do you know any good if you don’t understand how to use it. Having the know-how to tune your guitar well will go a long way in improving your sound. Using the methods discussed above will help you achieve that pitch-perfect sound that every guitarist needs to have to sound great, no matter what guitar you have.

Looking for the perfect guitar tuner? Click here to see a full rundown of the best guitar tuners of every type.