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Guitar Tuning for Beginners

Tuning up the guitar is simple!

It's called tuning up because doing it this way locks more tension in the strings, lengthening the amount of time they stay tuned.

It's best to tune your guitar every time you pick it up. No amount of charisma or harmonic genius will save you from a poorly tuned guitar!

There are many ways to tune up the guitar, but as this is a beginner lesson, we'll first be looking at the physical aspects of peg tuning.

Guitar peg tuning basics

Take a look at the head stock of your guitar. It'll either look something like this, with 3 tuning pegs per side:

guitar head stock with 3 tuning pegs on each sideOr like this, with all 6 tuning pegs in a line:

6 tuning pegs in a line

Now take a look at the diagrams below.

Tune Down

Tune Up

Peg on the Right right peg tune up

tuning down the right peg

Peg on the Left left peg tune down tuning up the left peg

Some key tuning tips here before we move on:

Below we can see how each tuning peg corresponds to the string being tuned. The letters represent the notes we'll be tuning the strings to. In this example, we're using what is called standard tuning (E A D G B and a high e)...


So that's: fattest string > E A D G B e < skinniest string.

In the lessons on my site, I use diagrams with each string labelled according to standard tuning, from low E to high e...

blank fretboard diagram - 5 frets

However, you'll sometimes hear people refer to string numbers. 1st string = skinniest, 6th string = fattest.

Different ways of tuning up the guitar

There are two main types of guitar tuning:

1. Tuning the guitar strings to the absolute pitch of their specific notes (e.g. E A D G B e)

2. Tuning the guitar to itself. That's where the notes of the strings aren't exactly on (e.g. there is no piano or tuning aid to help), but the strings are tuned relatively to each other.

For example, number 1 could involve using audio reference, like this online tuner.

An example of number 2 would be to use the 5th fret method. This method is perfect for beginners who want to train their tuning ear.

There's also a lesson on how to tune guitar using harmonics - A more advanced method of tuning, but very accurate and good for fine tuning.

Confident with tuning up? If so, we are now ready to move onto actually playing the guitar, learning chords and basic techniques.

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