Ultimate Guide to Basic guitar maintenance
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
How to tune your guitar
Names of the strings on the guitar
The guitar has six strings, and each string has a letter name. The names of the strings are listed from thickest to thinnest: E A D G B E
With a Tuner
Tuners vary in style and function, so its important to read the instructions. When tuning the guitar with a tuner, make sure the tuner is set to guitar mode. Often tuners will have multiple settings to tune different instruments, so make sure yours says “G” or “Guitar”. Start by tuning the thickest string first. Pluck the string and observe what the tuner says. If the tuner says D# or D then the note is under pitch and you need to tighten the string until is says E. If the tuner say F or F# then the note is above pitch and you want to loosen the string until it says E. When you see E on the tuner the indicators will tell you whether the note is under E or above E. If the indicators are to the right usually it means the note is above E. If the indicator is to the left usually it means the note is below E. Once the E string is tuned, repeat the process for the next 5 strings.
Without a tuner
If you don’t have a tuner, you can tune the guitar to itself. The only risk is if the guitar is way out of tune, it may be in tune with itself, but it won’t be in tune with any other instruments. If you are jamming with a friend then you should try to tune to each other by making sure both of your low E strings are tune to each other, then you can tune your guitar to itself. If you are just practicing alone then it shouldn’t be a problem.
First when tuning the guitar to itself, locate the thickest string. The thickest string is named E. Press the E string at the fifth fret and pluck the string. The sound of the E string should sound exactly like the string directly underneath which is the A string. If the two strings do not sound the same then adjust the A string to match the note you played on the E string. Repeat the same process for each string. Pressing the A string at the 5th fret will give you the correct sound for the D string. If the two notes are different then adjust only the D string. The one exception to this method is when you tune the B string. This time, when tuning the B string, you need to press the G string at the 4th fret in order to produce the correct pitch. After pressing the G at the 4th fret, then pluck the B string and compare the notes. If they don’t match, then adjust the B string. Once the B string is properly tuned then press it at the 5th fret to tune the thin E string. It is important to keep the guitar close to correct tuning, and not to let it get way out of tune.
Using harmonics is another method to tune your guitar, though it is more difficult than other methods. Harmonics are created when plucking each string while lightly touching the strings at the 5th, 7th and 12th frets. Don’t press the strings down to the 5th 7th and 12th frets, just hover your finger over the string and lightly touch the string directly over the fret wire. Harmonics are not produced like regular notes on the guitar. To produce the sound correctly you must place you finger directly over the fret wire to the right of the fret. Harmonics make the sound of a softer high pitch. This pitch is the over tone. The over tone, or the Harmonic played at the fifth fret of the E string sounds exactly like the harmonic played at the 7th fret of the A string. If they don’t sound the same, then adjust the A string until they match. Then repeat the process. The harmonic at the 5th fret of the A string sounds exactly like the harmonic at the 7th fret of the D string. If they don’t match, then adjust the D string until they do. The harmonic played at the 5th fret of the D string will sound exactly like the harmonic played at the 7th fret of the G string. If they don’t match, then adjust the G string until they do. The G string is the exception. The harmonic played on the fifth fret of the G string doesn’t sound like the harmonic played at the 7th of the B string. Instead, you can play the harmonic on the 7th fret of the thick E string, and then play the harmonic at the 12th fret of the B string. They should sound the same, and if they don’t match adjust the B string until they do. Then return and play the harmonic at the 5th fret of the B string. It should sound exactly like the harmonic played at the 7th fret of the thin E string. If they don’t match, then adjust the E string until they do.
How to keep your guitar in tune
If you are playing your guitar every day its likely you will have to tune it a few times a week. Guitars will get out tune when you move them from place to place, when the temperature fluctuates, and when you play them as well. If your guitar won’t stay in tune, it’s possible that you may need a new set of strings.
Your guitar will stay in tune longer if it is properly strung with enough wraps at the tuning peg. That means when you are stringing your guitar the string should wrap around the tuning peg at least three times so that it h