There are a lot of ways to tune a guitar string. You can do it using the 5th fret method, tuning fork, piano and using digital tuners. If you don’t trust the tuners, you can do it manually. Of all these ways, it’s important to start with the thickest string.
For beginners, having a tuning fork is handy. You don’t need to have six tuning forks, one is fine, especially if you get the A-440. Though it’s advisable to start from the low E (thickest) string, if you have that kind of tuning fork, you should start at A (fifth) string.
Now, strike the tuning fork against a firm object, definitely not your guitar and hear it rings. You can have someone to hold the handle of the tuning fork, but not the tines (the forks) or you can place it between your teeth. Then, play the A string open.
Adjust the A string until the sound of the tuning fork and string is the same. For complete beginners, it may take time since you really need to have the ear to determine different pitches. But, it’ll become easier after a good amount of practice.
Follow the fifth-fret method for the remaining five strings.
Tuning to a Piano
If you have access to a piano instead of a tuning fork, you can also tune your guitar using the instrument. To do this, start with the low E and locate the E key in your piano. The piano has a lot of Es in different octaves. So, look for the E key that sounds closer to the tone of your low E.
If you have noticed, your piano has white and black keys. For the black keys, it’s a pattern of two and three blacks. The white key that’s immediate to the right of the 2nd black key in the set of two black keys is the E. It’s the same throughout the piano, so you can easily find all the Es.
Once you match the pitch of the low E to the E key on the piano, you are now ready to tune the remaining strings using the fifth-fret method.
The 5th Fret Method
As the name suggests, you tune your guitar primarily at the fifth fret.
- 6th String (Low E): If you don’t have a tuning fork nor a piano, you can download guitar tuning apps to your mobile phone to at least have an idea on the pitch of the 6th string.
- 5th String (A): Fret the 6th string at the 5th fret and you’ll get an A note. If the note is different from the open A, adjust the 5th string until they are in harmony.
- 4th String (D): Fret the 5th string at the 5th fret and you’ll get a D note. Again, if they are not in harmony, adjust the 4th string.
- 3rd String (G): Fret the 4th string at the 5th fret and you’ll get a G note. Tweak the tuning pegs to adjust.
- 2nd String (B): This is a little different. Now, you fret the 3rd string at the 4th fret and you’ll get a B.
- 1st String (High E): Go back to the 5th fret and fret the 2nd string to get a high E note.
As quick as that and you now have tuned guitar strings.
Tuning a guitar string is the first skill a guitarist should master. Before playing, the rule for guitar players is to set the tune properly. When tuning the strings, it’s important to start from the low E or the thickest string down to the high E.
You must also have a reference point, using a piano or a tuning fork. Although the strings are tuned relative to each other, you might be out of tune when you play in a band. So, in order to achieve the standard tuning, it’s important to set your low E string accurately.