How to tune your guitar by ear

When you play guitar, it is important to stay in tune because you’re training your ear to hear different intervals. There are many more ways to tune a guitar other than using a tuner. Your ear is a valuable tool that can allow you to tune your guitar. In this lesson we are going to focus on 2 different ways you can tune your guitar by ear and then we are going to discuss how you can use this knowledge to get maximum benefit from your tuner.

The first way you can tune your guitar without a tuner is by using a piano. As you can see, this approach can be very limiting already. Pianos do not grow on trees, but it is worth talking about because most guitarists will need to tune to a piano sometime in their musical lifetime. So how do you tune to a piano? There are 2 ways. The easiest way to tune to a piano is by tuning each string to the piano note. Below is a diagram of the notes on piano and how they relate to each guitar string. This approach works, however a lot of pianos are not tuned often enough and because of this your strings will be unequally tuned. In other words, your guitar will not be in tune with itself. This brings us to the second way to tune by a piano. If you want your guitar to play in tune with itself the best way to do this is to tune the low E string to the piano. Once you do that you can tune the rest of your guitar using the approach below.

Tuning notes

Tuning notes on a piano.

If you can tune your Low E string to the correct pitch this approach will make sure your whole guitar is in tune. However, if your guitar is not tuned to the exact pitch, you can still make your guitar play in tune with itself, it will just be out of tune with a band. So this approach is still good if you are playing alone. How you do this is on the low E string you play the 5th fret and then you pluck the A string. These 2 notes are the same pitch. So using your ear you should adjust the A string to play at the same pitch (note) as the E string 5th fret.  Now that your A string is in tune you can play the 5th fret of the A string and play the open D string and tune the D string to match the A string 5th fret. This process continues. The only difference is tuning the B string. You will need to play the 4th fret G string and open B string.

Using both of these approaches with a piano or without will take some time getting use to. It will help train your each as well. One little tip to make sure your strings are in tune is listening for waves. If you hear a waving clashing noise while you play the 2 notes together then it is not in tune. Another benefit from learning to tune by ear is when you use an electronic tuner you can check to make sure it really is in tune. Depending on the tuner you use, some are better than others, but it is always a good idea to check to make sure it sounds right by ear.

There are many ways to tune. Using your ear to tune is a good idea because you can train your ear and make sure your guitar really is in tune.  You can use a piano to tune, a tuner, or if there is nothing available you can use the guitar by itself to tune. You might not be in tune with a band without a tuner or piano, but you can still play and sound good-by yourself.