No matter how good you are at guitar, you won’t sound any good if your guitar isn’t in tune. For an experienced guitarist, getting in tune is what they do when you sit down to play; it’s just a habit that’s done every time. If you’re a new guitarist, get used to tuning every single time.

If you’re not sure how to tune your guitar, read on! Tuning a guitar is quite simple and only takes a minute or two.

How The Guitar Strings Are Tuned

In standard tuning, the guitar is tuned EADGBE from low to high (thickest string to thinnest string). This means that all the strings are separated by an interval of a perfect 4th, except for the interval between the G and B string, which is a major third. While that may not make sense to you yet, it’s worth mentioning.

If you want to know more about why the strings are like that, I have an article on why the guitar is tuned the way it is.

Do I Need A Tuner To Tune The Guitar?

Yes and no.

For a beginner, I would suggest getting a guitar tuner. Either a dedicated tuner or a free app on your phone will do the job.

Over time, you can learn how to tune by ear, but at this point in your guitar journey, just use an electronic tuner. It’s faster, easier, and will get you playing more quickly.

How To Read A Guitar Tuner

Screen capture of a guitar tuner.Different tuners will have a different display, but they all work on the same principle.

  • Unless your guitar is very out of tune, most will try to predict what string you’re trying to tune.
  • If the string is in tune, the needle will be in the middle.
  • If the string is too low, the needle will be to the left.
  • If the string is too high, the needle will be to the right.

The below directions go through how to get that string in the middle!

Tuning The Guitar

To tune your guitar, you will turn the tuners/machine heads to make each string tighter or looser so that it’s ringing at the right pitch. This takes time and patience. Follow the directions below to get your guitar in tune easily and quickly.

Diagram showing where different parts of a guitar are located.

  1. Start on the lowest string (the low E string, the thickest one).
  2. Pluck the string and twist the machine head to get the string closer to being in tune.
  3. Pluck the string again and adjust the machine head again.
  4. Once your string is in tune, move to the next one.
  5. If your guitar was very out of tune, it may be worthwhile going through and tuning the guitar again. The overall tension on the neck will change as you tune up.

Tips To Keep Your Guitar In Tune

As you can see by the last section, getting a guitar in tune is pretty simple, but if you want your guitar to do better at staying in tune, here are some tips.

  • Don’t keep your guitar in its case: keeping the guitar in its case may keep it at a higher or lower temperature than the room you’re playing it. So as the guitar warms up or cools down, it will go out of tune.
  • Keep your guitar out of very hot or very cool places: for the same reason as the above, you want your guitar to be at the same temperature as the room. Wood can expand and contract, you want to avoid this.
  • Tune up every time you play: this is just a good habit. It also ensure that your guitar is relatively close to being in tune when you pick it up and that the wood won’t expand or contract too much when you tune it up.
  • Change your strings regularly: old strings won’t stay in tune for long! Make sure to change your strings at least every couple of months.
  • Break in new strings: unfortunately new strings can be temperamental. Break them in a bit before playing with others.

And that’s it! Tuning the guitar is pretty easy, isn’t it? Just make sure you tune up every time you play.

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