lesson will help train your ear to the standard tuning intervals on
your guitar. This is a very useful technique when you have no tuning
aids or note references, when playing by yourself.
this method doesn't work if you're playing with other instruments that
are themselves perfectly
tuned. This is just for those moments when you need a
tuned guitar for solo playing.
I personally use this technique (now more than the 5th
fret method) to tune a guitar to itself. That means the
strings may not be perfectly
tuned to their individual pitches (E A D G B e), but they are tuned relativey,
to each other. For example, the low E might be tuned slightly lower
than a perfect E, but as long as all the other strings are tuned
slightly lower as well, in
relation to that low E string, the chords you play will
all sound in tune.
This lesson's all about picking two strings and knowing
whether they're in tune with
other, without any external aids.
Difficult? Nope, but
your ears do need "training".
So what's the
benefit of being able to
tune guitar by ear?
Well, for one you'll find that
if you learn to hear intervals between strings and
notes, this skill will carry over into other areas of learning guitar.
The more you really focus on the relationship
between two or more notes/strings, the less you have to rely on tab and
In fact, this is as good a
place to start as any when it comes to learning to play guitar by ear
Secondly, this tuning method,
in my opinion, beats the standard 5th
fret method, because instead of tuning an open string to a fretted
string (which causes natural inaccuracies), you're tuning an open
string to another open string. I use this method all the time now
because it becomes the fastest way to tune up once
you master it.
So, let's begin...
Know your open strings
Before you do anything, you
need to tune your guitar because we're going to refer
to an already tuned guitar so your ears can get to know what it should
sound like... tune up now on this
page! (opens in a new window for
Ok, tuned up?
Play the strings one by one
from the Low E
to the high E
Really get to know how each
string sounds one after the other. What a
lot of guitarists don't realise is that if you break it down and play,
for example, the low E and A strings one after the other, that's a
specific note interval you've played there.
to be specific.
It's these intervals you need
to internalise and hear in your head. Listen
to the E and A strings again below and try to absorb
that interval sound between the two strings...
intervals sound before we move on to the next stage.
the intervals to tune up
The reason why I got you to
learn the sound of each of
those string pairings is because you're going to use these intervals as
tuning aids. So, in effect, you're using your ears as guides here - do
the intervals sound harmonious? If not, they're out of tune.
Start with the low E and A
strings - does everything sound OK?...
Ah! Out of tune. The G string
is tuned too
low, so we need to tune up. We know it's
the G string that's out of tune because we already established the D
string was in tune with A (and A was in tune with E).
Not in tune! Ok, that needs
first lower than the G string, and then back up into tune. We tune up
because the tension holds better keeping the string in tune longer than
if you just tuned down and lost all the tension.
string is a strange one - because of the nature of the guitar, you need
to tune the B string slightly higher than what
would be its natural major 3rd pitch. Listen below for what happens if
tune it slightly higher and then go to play an E major chord...
Sounds kind of out of tune
with the rest of the chord doesn't it?
Although the B string sounds
perfectly in tune in
relation to the G string, the guitar just won't accept it on some
chords. Every guitar I've picked up has this very minor "problem". So
all you need
to do is tune that B string up slightly to compensate (you'll have to
listen very closely to hear me tuning up slightly)...
Now, you may find you have to fine
tune slightly to make sure any chords you play harmonise
If you're still finding tuning by ear difficult, you can use the method
below to fine tune.
The best way to fine tune by
far is to play the strings in groups of
two, just like we did above, but this time listen closely for a
"vibrating" or oscillating effect between the
string pairings (note:this doesn't work for the G-B string pairing as
the tuning intervals
That vibrating effect tells
you the interval is
and you should tune up or down until the interval is tuned
and the vibration stops.
You can use tuning
to help with this (the lesson has audio examples so you can hear it for
yourself). It's a very subtle thing you need to train your ear
to pick up.
you've used this method several times, your fine tuning and time
spent on tuning as a whole will shoot right down. Your ears will be
trained over time and you'll pick up the tiniest
inaccuracies in your guitar's tuning.
Remember, some chords will
sound OK if you're slightly out of
tune, but others will just sound damn horrible. Make "tuning your
guitar accurately" a habit from now!