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Tuning Tips for Guitarists

Being able to tune your guitar properly is an essential skill for any guitarist. It is the difference between having people plug their ears at your shows and actually playing something people can enjoy. Even a great band can be reduced to a terrible, clanging mess if they haven’t made sure they are all in tune before they start playing.
Tuning can even change as you play depending on a variety of factors such as the gauge or quality of the strings you use. Even the quality of your tuning pegs or guitar. It is fundamental to any band that each member makes sure they are sounding correctly and in tune, before the start of any and every song as things happen during gigs that cannot always be anticipated.

Its a good thing then that tuning, once gotten the hang of, can be the easiest thing to do in the world, all that is required is a developed musical ear or thanks to chromatic tuners, a standard pair of eyes.

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THE SUPER BASICS

Tuning with a chromatic tuner should really go without saying, you pluck the open string, the tuner reads in the note and you adjust your tuning peg to tighten or slacken the string accordingly, simple. Unfortunately the more you play, the more you find yourself in situations where you may not have access to a tuner, these are the moments when your new found tuning prowess can shine.

THE BASICS – ENHARMONIC NOTES

First of all everyone should know the standard way to tune a guitar. Assuming that your E string (the lowest string of the guitar) is in tune or as close to in tune as you can get, pluck the low E on the 5th fret and compare the pitch, it should be relatively easy to hear the difference between the two notes if the A string (the second lowest string) is out of tune, if not it should sound exactly the same aside from a slight warble, which will be explained later.

Repeat the process on the next three strings and at this point your E A D and G strings should all be in tune.
The B string (second highest) can be tuned by playing the 4th fret of the G string and matching the pitch as before and finally the high E can be tuned in the same way as the first four strings (play the 5th fret of the B string and try to match the pitch to the open E).

This process is something every beginner should get to grips with and make sure they get right for many reasons.
Luckily once you have this tuning process down, there are ways for you to make your tuning more accurate and help you get it done a lot faster.

THE ADVANCED METHOD – HARMONICS

This method is slightly different from the above, it involves not playing the fret itself but instead playing the natural harmonic of the same pitch. The reason a slight warbling can be heard when your guitar has been ‘tuned’ is that although the notes are relatively the same pitch, one of them is slightly higher or lower than the other, resulting in a different sonic wavelength being produced. The clashing wavelengths cause an audible warble that can make your playing sound a little off to a trained ear.

To remedy this you can use harmonics to hear the warble much more cleanly than you would through just fretting the note as you would when you play.
Play a 5th fret harmonic on the E string and a 7th fret Harmonic on the A string, this will produce the same note but this time you should be able to hear the wavelength of the sound a lot more clearly.

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