How To Tune Your Guitar By Ear

How To Tune Your Guitar By Ear

Keeping the right tune on your guitar is essential both if you are just beginning to play the instrument or if you’re already an experienced musician. A slight deviation from the right sound of only one string will usually make the whole chord sound wrong and people, who are listening, will most probably notice that something is off.

Sometimes its best to have your instrument tuned by someone who is experienced. You could potentially damage your instrument, or be practicing out of tune! Check out some qualified guitar teachers who can help:

tune guitar by ear

Electronic Tuners are Great in the Beginning

There are many great electronic tuners, which can help you produce the correct sounds. You can usually choose from tuners that are configured for a specific instrument, such as “violin tuner”, which would only have four notes (G D A E) displayed.

Tuners, that show every half step / semitone are called chromatic tuners and will give you the closest note name to pitch you are playing. In some cases these tuners will be able to keep a chromatic list or change settings to various instruments.

Besides physical tuners, there are apps for smartphones and tablets that will also provide tuning. Some acoustic guitars even have built-in tuners.

Learn a Valuable Skill and Tune by Ear

Even though there are many tuners that can do the job for you, learning to tune by ear can be a great skill. One of the most important reasons to learn tuning by ear is that it trains one’s pitch skills. After tuning your guitar yourself for a month, you will be able to strum the strings and tell whether the guitar is in tune or not, as well as being able to recognise which string produces the wrong tone. Tuning by ear helps understand notes just by listening.

How Do You Tune Your Guitar?

Step 1. Familiarise with your pegs.

If this is one of the first times tuning your guitar yourself, you should first try and understand which peg turns which string, as well as which way you should turn to make the string tighter (higher pitch) or looser (lower pitch). You only really need to analyse this a few times and later you won’t need to think about it anymore.

Step 2. Familiarise with the strings.

If you would look down at your guitar, you will see, that the strings go from thickest to thinnest. The upper string (the thickest one) is called the sixth string or the low E string. Second thickest string is called the fifth string or the A string, and so on until the first string, the high E string.

The pitch order of the strings in standard tuning goes from lowest to highest, thus the standard pitch would look like this: EADGBE. There are a few ways to memorise this sequence, one of them is to use acronyms, such as:

Easter Bunnies Get Dizzy At Easter


Every Boy Gets Dinner At Eight

It is even better if you make your own acronym - the more unusual and weirder the better!

Step 3. Tune.

Tuning a string by ear you will use other strings (that are already the correct pitch) as reference, thus it is important to follow the sequence EADGBE - if you’re tuning from top to bottom, or sequence EBGDAE if you’re tuning from bottom to top. In this example we will use the sequence EADGBE.

Here is a video, which will help you reference all the strings to the correct pitch:

Tuning low E

Given the reason you need your first string to be tuned individually, you should open the video provided above and try to tune your lower E string with the first string played in the video. Let it ring and they should sound perfectly the same. Do not worry if they produce a slight clash at the beginning - it will get better! Now that your low E string is tuned you can use it to tune your other strings!

Tuning A

When the low E is in tune you can start tuning your A string. You should play your low E string on the 5th fret and it should produce the same sound as the open A string. So, place your finger on 5th fret on the low E and play both the E string and A (open) one by one. If A sounds higher - lower the pitch by turning its peg, if it sounds lower - rotate peg the other way. You should repeat until the strings sound the same.

Tuning D

Using the same principle as tuning A string. Now open D string should sound the same as A string on 5th fret. Put your finger on A string on 5th fret and play it one by one with open D string until they produce the same sound.

Tuning G

You should be getting a hang of the tuning process by now. To tune the G you should place your finger on the 5th fret of the fourth string and try to find the right tune. Observation is that some timbre problems may arise when tuning G in reference to D, due to change in string type (notice, how the three thickest strings look/feel different than the three thinnest).

Tuning B

This is slightly different - this time you place your finger on 4th fret of the G and play B open. Adjust until the two notes sound alike.

Tuning High E

Place your finger on the 5th fret of B string and play High E openly. Adjust until they sound alike.

Another way to tune High E is to reference it to the Low E. However, these are two octaves apart, which might be a good exercise to do when you’re more familiar with tuning by ear.

Finish the Tuning Process

After you are done it is a good idea to check each of those note pairs in turn and check them against the source note again. After you are done with the process of tuning by ear it would be a good idea to check with a tuner (at least the first few times) and double check whether your tuning was correct.

Good luck and don’t give up tuning by ear, because it will be a valuable skill if you stick to it.

Who Are We?

The office team of MusicTutors are all professional musicians and educators. We also believe that we have the best job in the world. We get to spend our day talking to students across the country about how much they love music and we have helped hundreds of people connect with the perfect, professional tutor for them. We'd love to help you too! Please get in touch with us and tell us your story. 07946125613 Or send us a mail to [email protected]. We can't wait to hear from you!

  • Find out more about us!
  • MusicTutors FAQs