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You can tune a guitar but can't tune a fish!

Updated on November 29, 2016

That dusty guitar in the closet.

A lot of people have always wanted to learn the guitar but don't know how to go about it, I see this all the time. Yes buying the guitar and getting it home is a big step towards learning the guitar. I know when I was little I would go to my cousins house and they would always have this small wooden guitar in the house. I always got a kick out of picking it up and acting like I was playing something on it. Strumming that guitar with a few strings missing trying to play a song. But we still had fun imagining we were playing it for real like most kids do. But over the past few years on I would see dusty guitars at friends and famlies homes. A guitar gathering dust and not getting any play. A lot of times all the guitars really needed was to be tuned up given you have all your strings on the guitar. Stringing up a guitar is something I would need to go over in a separate article. Your standard guitar will have 6 strings and that is what this article is covering. Guitars can range beyond the standard 6 strings.

Why is it important to tune your guitar?

You can try to learn the guitar all day long. But if your instrument isn't in tune your not going to be getting very far with it. This is your first step in learning the guitar. Even if your guitar came from a music shop. That guitar will not stay tuned forever. This is the first road block most of us face. Most people will give up learning after the guitar goes out of tune. Leaving the guitar in the closet till someone rescues it from a life time of gathering dust.

There are six strings on a regular guitar.

Standard Tuning

E - 6th string

A - 5th string

D - 4th string

G - 3rd string

B - 2nd string

E - 1st string

What causes guitars to go out of tune.

There are a few things that can cause your guitar to go out of tune. If you have an acoustic guitar the heat and humidity can affect your tuning. And hot to cold temperatures can also make that happen too. Sometimes just accidentally hitting the head of the guitar with the tuning keys will do it. If your using an electric guitar you will find you may have a floating bridge with a wammy bar. Using your wammy and just regular playing will have it go out of tune. Specially if your bending those strings pretty hard with the wammy. And sometimes if you have new strings they will need to be tuned a few times to get the strings stetched enough. All of these things play a factor on your strings staying in tune.

Snark guitar tuner
Snark guitar tuner

Ways to tune your guitar.

There a couple of ways to keeping your guitar tuned. It's always good to keep a guitar tuner with your instrument at all times. The type of guitar tuner I like to use is called a Snark. I like this tuner because it clips on to the top of your guitar and you don't really have to worry about carrying around a box tuner that usually ends up gettings lost. It should come with instructions on how to use your Snark tuner. Snark has never done me wrong so I continue to use it for my guitars.

The other way I have been getting a hold of a tuner is with my smart phone. There are a lot of apps out there now for tuning your guitar with your cell phone now. I really don't have a certain app for tuning my guitar with a cell phone. Just as long as it can tune by sound. And what I mean by this is that it actually can hear your guitar to tell you the actual tuning of your guitar. I have downloaded some apps that just make the sound of the key you need to be in and you tune to that sound. Nothing wrong with this method it's just easier when the app can tell you the exact tuning.

Nirvana -Come as you are

Tuning your guitar without a tuner.

It is possible to tune your guitar without a guitar tuner. It can take some practice using this technique. This is one way of getting your guitar into standard tuning. The way you do tuning without a tuner is you start with the 6th string. For me I always have the sound of Come as you are in my head when getting the 6th string tuning by ear. As the bass line goes from the intro of it. As long as you get the string as close as you can to that sound then you can get your guitar in tune. And it is okay for now to be off half a step. So get your 6th string in a decent tune. That's your main focus right now. So let me try and break this down on how to tune the rest of the guitar.

After you get the 6th string to be as close to being in tune.

  • Put your finger at the 5th fret of the 6th string and play the note (it's the A note). This is what the 5th string should sound like. So turn the key for the 5th string till it sounds like the 6th string A note.
  • Now that you have the 5th string tuned to the A note. You will now place your finger at the 5th fret on the 5th string and play this note (This note is the D note). You will now repeat what you did for the 5th string but with the 4th string. Tune the 4th string to the D note sound of the 5th string.
  • We will do the same for the next string. Placing your finger on the 5th fet on the 4th string and play the note, it should be to the key of G. This will be what you tune your 3rd string to. Play the sound like you did before and tune the key till it sounds like the 4th string.
  • The 3rd string is a little different. So far we tuned by placing our finger on the 5th fret of every string so far. But on the 3rd string we are going to place our finger on the 4th fret. The note being played is the B note that we are going to tune the 2nd string to.
  • The second string is just like the other strings in that we place our finger on the 5th fret and play the E note. And you will now tune your final string to the 5th string.

It will take a few times getting use to tuning your guitar this way but it works when you don't have a guitar tuner handy. I hope the instructions are clear enough for you to follow.


I hope this helps you in getting closer in learning the guitar and keeping it in tune. For all you beginner guitarist don't give up and keep on practicing. I hope this hub helps you to keep your guitar in tune and not being discouraged from learning your instrument because it was out of tune. A lot of times thats all a guitar needs is just a good tuning up! After that you are well on your way to mastering the guitar.


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