5 Tips For Tuning Your Guitar By Ear

5 Tips For Tuning Your Guitar By Ear

images-3In today’s lesson, we are going to learn 5 tips for tuning your guitar.  This is one of the most important things to know when learning to play. Although this is good for ear training, it is a bit of a lost art.

Today you have all kinds of gadgets that help in this area.  Electronic tuners, amps with tuners built-in, guitars with a switch that automatically turns the guitar into a specific tuning.

Listen for string vibration

All this modern technology is fine, but it is still good to know how to tune the guitar to itself.  The thing that is most important to listen for is the vibration of the strings.  Know that when you turn the tuning key it is either going to make the string vibrate faster or slower.  In this case, we want to eliminate the vibration so that the two strings sound the same.  So let us get started.

5 step process for tuning your guitar

1.)  First, pick the 6th string (If you’re not too sure which one, it’s the biggest one) listen for its vibration.  Once it sounds close to the pitch of E (which will take some time to get your ear trained, but that’s ok for now) put your finger on the 5th fret and pick the 6th and open 5th string (A) together. If they vibrate, turn the tuning key of the A string until it stops vibrating.  As mentioned above, it will either vibrate faster or slower depending on which way you turn it.

2.)  Once this is done repeat the process with the 5th and 4th string at the 5th fret.  Finger on the 5th fret of 5th string and play 4th string open.  Eliminate vibration and go to the 5th fret of the 4th string and play the 3rd string open and check the vibration.

Continue the tuning your guitar process

3.)  When you get to the 3rd string, move down to the 4th fret and follow the same process.  Finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string, 2nd string open and check the vibration.  On the 2nd string, move back to the 5th fret and pick the 2nd string with the 1st string open.  Check for vibration.

4.)  Following this simple procedure should allow you to be in tune with yourself.  Being in tune with someone else or in tune with a recording or the radio might require an electronic tuner.  If using a tuner, make sure the tuner reads what the names of the strings are.  If your not sure what the names of the strings are, be sure to read my article on tuners.

5.)  Having good ears is what music is all about and can take years to develop this skill, but if you practice and have fun to work at it you will see this happen.  Once you get tuning down it will all start to make sense.  What I’ve covered here is just basically getting the instrument in tune.  What’s neat about the guitar is that it can be played in many different tuning for different types of sounds and playing ability.

A modern way of tuning

Learning to tune your guitar by ear is very helpful to your guitar playing.  But it will take some time to get the ear trained to hear the proper vibrations.  Until then you can use a more modern method like an electronic clip-on tuner.

Snark clip-on tuner

The Snark clip-on tuner is a great choice for tuning your guitar until you can get your ears trained to do it by ear.  It just clips on to the headstock of your guitar, you turn it on and away you go.  Real simple and easy.  All you need to know is what your string names are (from low to high: E A D G B E) and you are ready to tune your instrument.

This tuner works on both acoustic and electric guitars.  It also can be used for other stringed instruments like the Bass guitar and Mandolin.  The Snark clip-on tuner display is big for easy visibility and can be seen even in the dimmest lighted stage.

So until you get your ear trained, and it won’t take long if you follow the 5 steps to tuning your guitar by ear, I recommend you try out the Snark clip-on tuner.  It comes in a variety of models and colors.  Perfect to fit your personality and style of playing.


If you here some rock music that sounds kind of strange or really deep in tone, it’s a good chance they are using what’s called alternate tuning.  But I’ll explain that later in another post.  For now, get your guitar, get it in tune and start having fun.  If you have any questions contact me and I will help you out.

Until our next lesson, take care.

Dwayne Jenkins

Dwayne Jenkins
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