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Eadwine Rose

How do you tune your guitar?

How do you tune your guitar(s)?  

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  1. 1. How do you tune your guitar(s)?

    • By ear
    • Tuning fork
    • Guitar tuner
    • Other

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I tune mostly by ear, I can hear a tone very, very close to E in my head, so I tune after that first, then I check in with the tuner to see how close I am, and tune up.

When preparing for concerts or so I always tune by ear after the other instruments. Everytime I've used a tuner for gigs or plays my guitar has sounded HORRIBLY out of tune after no time at all. No idea why.

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I use a Korg GA-20 I've had a few years. The needle always goes sharp for a split second, then settles down, so that's where I tune it. There were some posts about this a few months ago, but I can't find them now. I make sure the A string is well tuned, then use octave and unison harmonics to tweak the other strings.

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I use a tuner live, as tuning can be a nightmare in a busy club or pub.

I can get very close to tuning concert E or A by ear, but often use a reference note when I am about to record. I will use a tuner for that normally. After that I check the tuning by fretting the notes at the 5th fret, using harmonics from the 12th back to the 7th fret on the next string, , and playing a couple of stacked 5th interval shapes to see how they sit. When playing with a keyboard I will tune to that, or if playing in an open tuning I will make fine adjustments to the chord.

As I have gotten better I have found myself getting more and more annoyed with my guitars for not being in tune. Playing sax and trumpet has helped a lot on that regard.

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I believe it's most definitely important to learn how to tune by ear. There is much written on methods of tuning by ear, but just in general it's good to note that each guitar is going to behave differently in respect to how it's tuned with respect to the other strings (relative tuning!). You can strictly use a tuner, or you can strictly learn tuning by fretting the string at the 5th fret, but what matters is how the guitar soundswhen it's strummed.

The primary and secondary harmonic sounds will tell you. Play and E chord. Is the B string and high E strings creating that great one note sound, or are the 'beating' together where either the B note sounds sharp or flat?? You'll know what I'm talking about when you hear it. Are all the E's in tune (low and high open E's, plus the D string fretted at the second fret?) How about the open B string and the B note played by fretting the A string in the second fret? How about the open D string and the D note played by fretting the B string in the third fret?

Check these notes against each other and teach the ear how to hear whether or not these strings are indeed in tune with each other.

Often times I'll start with my tuner, and then fine tune the guitar by ear from there.

In live situations, I may not have much of a choice except to follow my guitar tuner. In that case, it's good to get to know your guitar tuner and what it says about your guitar. For example, do you tune the D string so that it's at the top edge of 'in tune' or the bottom?

These will be great exercises for those guitarists learning to train the ear! These will help you learn to hear other guitars and whether or not they are actually in tune.

This is just a brief overview. If you have any questions, please ask! Or seek out the great lessons available here, or other answers in this thread.

Have fun,


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I have an Intellitouch and a Quick-Tune that I usually use.

When I'm changing strings I use a tuning fork (A 440) to get it right the first time.

It's a trick I learned from my setup guy.


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Tuner as Im half deaf through years of riding a motorcycle for a livivg. Relative and harmonic if forced to tune by ear.

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