How To Tune Your Guitar

Beginner Guitar Quick-Start Series - Lesson 6/12

Next Lesson » View Series

Welcome to video six in the Beginner Guitar Quick-Start Series. In this lesson, I’m going to teach you how to tune the guitar. Knowing how to tune your guitar is very important because no matter how great of a guitar player you are, if your guitar is out of tune, it’s not going to sound very good. By the end of this lesson, you’ll know everything you need to tune your guitar. We will split this lesson up into 3 sections: Tuning Theory & Tips, Tuning Your Guitar With An Electronic Tuner, and Tuning Your Guitar By Ear.

Tuning Theory & Tips

The Musical Alphabet: You’ve already learned the names of the open strings on the guitar, which were E-A-D-G-B-E. The next thing you need to learn is the natural musical alphabet, which is simple but a must-know. The natural musical alphabet is the first seven letters of the alphabet, so A-B-C-D-E-F-G.

Flats: The symbol that looks like a lowercase ‘b’ is the flat symbol, and when it’s next to a natural note, it means the note is flat. When we talk about being flat while tuning the guitar, this means the note needs to come up a bit.

Sharps: The symbol that looks like a tic-tac-toe grid is the sharp symbol. When we talk about being sharp while tuning, this means the note is a little too high and it needs to come down.

When you use an electronic tuner, there are a couple of ways it will tell you if a note is sharp or flat. One way is using lights, which will be off to the left if your note is flat and needs to come up a little. If the lights are off to the right, your note is sharp and needs to come down. Instead of lights, an electronic tuner might use a needle, which works the same way the lights do.

Tuning Tip #1: Make sure you’re turning the right tuning key. For example, if you want to tune your D string, follow the D string along the fretboard to the headstock where you can see the correct tuning key to use. Otherwise, you might accidentally turn the A string tuning key, wonder why your D string isn’t changing, and end up breaking your A string. Always double-check that you are turning the right tuning key for the string you’re tuning.

Tuning Tip #2: If you think you’re tuning the string too high or too far, you probably are. I suggest you stop, crank the string back down, and start again. One thing to practice before you get started is to go to any string and play with the tuning key, find out how much turning makes the note go up or down, and get familiar with the string.

Tuning Your Guitar With An Electronic Tuner

Today, there are lots different tuners you can choose from. There are clip on tuners, pedal tuners, handheld tuners, and smartphone/tablet tuner apps. It doesn’t matter what kind you use, and you can get a good tuner for $15-20.

Calibrating Your Tuner: First off, if you have a calibration setting on your tuner, make sure it is set to A 440 Hz. This is the standard tuning frequency, and if you’re not tuned to this, you’ll sound a little off from everyone else.

Step #1: The first step is to get each string to the proper note name, so if you were tuning your low E string, get the note to an E first. After that, you’ll fine-tune the E note so that it is spot on.

Step #2: Once the tuner is displaying the correct note name for the string you’re on, you can fine-tune the note by slowly turning the tuning key until the tuning needle is in the middle.

Tuning Tip: One tip I have for you is to tune up to a note instead of down to it. If your note is sharp, come back down and tune up to it, which helps your strings stay in tune longer.

Step #3: Once you’ve finished tuning the strings, go through them again. Since acoustic guitars are made of wood, changing the tension on the strings can change the guitar.

Tuning Your Guitar By Ear

This can be intimidating, especially for those who don’t have a musical background, but I’ll give you some tips that will help you tune your guitar even when you don’t have a tuner with you. As long as one of your strings is in tune, you can tune the guitar to itself by applying the 5th Fret Tuning Method.

The 5th Fret Tuning Method

The Low E String: For this tuning method, the E string must already be in tune. You can use a piano, another guitar, or an online tuner to find the reference pitch to tune to.

The A String: Start off by going to the fifth fret of the low E string, which is an A note. Since your fifth string is an open A string, it should sound exactly like the note on the fifth fret of the E string.

The D String: Next we need to tune the D string, so we’ll go to the fifth fret of the A string which is a D note. Once again, the open D string should sound just like the D note on the A string.

The G String: To tune the G string, I follow the same method using the fifth fret of the D string.

The B String: Tuning the B string is a little different. We need to use the fourth fret instead of the fifth fret because that’s where the B note is, so match the open B string to the fourth fret of the G string.

The High E String: Tuning the high E string gets back on track though, so you use the fifth fret of the B string to tune this last string.

Double Check Your Tuning: Once you have the guitar tuned by ear, go through the strings again to tune just like you would if you were using an electronic tuner. This allows you to fine-tune and double-check that the strings are where they should be.


In the next lesson, we’re going to go over techniques for your strumming hand, which will help you quickly progress through future lessons.

Next Lesson - How To Strum The Guitar