Standard guitar tuning for beginners revolves around the notes EADGB and E, while frequencies can be measured in Hz. You can easily learn how to do it with or without a tuner, as well as how to take care of your instrument, so it helps you sound on top form.
Have you taken up the guitar, but aren’t how to maintain it or how to get it sounding great? If so, this article is for you. Keeping your guitar in tune is vital and it’s not difficult. Read this comprehensive tuning guide and you’ll be all set and ready to go in no time.
Guitar tuning for beginners
A guitar is one of the best instruments to take up, and here’s why:
- It doesn’t need any breath, just your hands, so you can sing and play at the same time.
- You can play melody and backing making it an ideal instrument for accompanying yourself.
- Unlike a piano, it’s ultra-portable. You can take it to gigs and auditions.
- It’s versatile (especially if you invest in both an acoustic and electric model) and works well for almost every genre including country, pop, rock, indie and folk.
- Beginner’s models can be purchased relatively cheaply.
- Acoustic guitars are easy to maintain, as you can fix strings and tune it yourself, with just a little know-how.
Before we get started, you’ll need to know a little bit about music, and ideally, be able to play and recognise the various notes on a guitar. If you’re not yet familiar with this, spend some time learning the basics.
Standard guitar tuning – Hz
Part of tuning a guitar is ensuring the string frequencies are spot on. This is what creates the sound. Sound waves are made up of different frequencies, measured in Hertz (Hz). The standard tuning of a guitar consists of E2, A2, D3, G3, B3 & E4 from the lowest string to the top. The A above middle C, A4 (440 HZ) is a standard reference pitch for tuning instruments. This is, therefore, your starting point. As the A string on a guitar is two octaves below standard pitch it makes its frequency110 Hz.
These are the frequencies to aim for across the strings:
E2 – 82.41 Hz
A2 – 110 Hz
D3 – 146.8 Hz
G3 – 196 Hz
B3 – 246.9 Hz
E4 – 329.6 Hz
Most people will use a tuner to check this, but if you have a really good musical ear, you might be able to hear it.
How to tune your guitar
You can rely on tech, or do things the old fashioned way. Here are your options.
#1 Tune with a reference note
If you have access to another instrument (ideally a piano) or can sing with perfect pitch, you can use a ‘reference note’. This means that you play or sing the note and tune the guitar so it sounds the same. Once you have this first note down, you work through the rest. This works for every string apart from the fourth (G3) and fifth (B3) strings, where you play the 4th fret on the G string to get a B.
#2 Use a tuning fork
This is an old school method using pieces of metal that will resonate at a specific frequency when struck. They’re pretty noisy though, so best for when you’re tuning in private.
#3 Use a guitar tuner
The most common way to tune a guitar is to use a guitar tuner. There are many different kinds but they all do the same thing: they tell help you tune your guitar by telling you the note you are playing and how close it is to standard pitch.
How to tune a guitar with a tuner
This is by far the easiest, quickest and most reliable way to tune your guitar. Here are the different types of guitar tuners available to you.
#1 A clip-on guitar tuner
These are popular as they’re small and portable and simply clip on.
#2 Guitar tuner pedal
These are bigger and can fit alongside your other pedals in your setup, but are less unsightly than a clip-on option. They usually need an external power supply or batteries and sit on the floor (so you better have good eyesight).
#3 Tune with a guitar tuner app
Free and convenient, you can download guitar tuners on your phone or tablet and use the internal microphone to tune your guitar. Be aware that you are relying on the quality of your phone microphone, which may not be able to pick up your guitar in louder environments and are usually less accurate than other tuners.
#4 Tune with a polyphonic tuner
These tuners allow you to tune all of your strings at once instead of one at a time. All you have to do is strum your guitar and it will tell you the tuning of each individual string. While accurate, expect them to be more expensive than others on the market.
Once tuned, you can keep your strings in shape by gently stretching them away from the fretboard and re-tuning each time they go out of tune. Place your middle finger on the 12th fret, hook your index finger under the string and lift up to the first crease on your middle finger. Keep tuning the string until it stops going out of tune.
Standard guitar tuning key
Tuning keys – or pegs – are located on the head of your guitar and are turned to adjust the tuning. If they’re damaged your guitar won’t tune. Ensure that they are tightened on tightly to the head of your guitar and that the strings are wrapped around them at least once.
Bass guitar standard tuning
The standard bass guitar tuning on 4 string bass is E1, A1, D2, G2. The bass guitar is tuned in 4ths just like the guitar, most bass guitars have 4 strings but you will find some extended range variations with 5 strings or even 6.
Guitar tuning apps
Many tuning apps are free and some are really accurate. Here are the top picks according to Android Authority.
- BOSS Tuner
- Chromatic Guitar Tuner
- Cifra Club Tuner
- Fender Guitar Tuner
- Pano Tuner
- Pitched Tuner
- Pro Guitar Tuner
- Smart Chords and Tools
- What can affect guitar tuning?
Don’t worry if you’re struggling. There are many factors that can have an impact on tuning, including the guitar’s quality (strings and pegs), the type of tuner you’re using and humidity. The best tuners for acoustic and classical guitars are usually clip-on tuners. But as a beginner, a free app will do very well.
Getting started with standard guitar tuning
Find yourself a quiet spot to start your guitar tuning. It’s easier away from background noise and improves accuracy. Go slowly – if you tighten a string too much and too fast, it will break.
Buy yourself some high-quality strings to prevent this, they need tuning less frequently. Use some graphite to lubricate the guitar ‘nut’ (the grooves near the headstock). This helps with tuning stability.
And now you know how to tune your guitar, you’re all set.
- Standard guitar tuning – does it take a long time?
Sometimes it takes beginners up to five minutes at a time. You should tune 5-10 minutes before you perform but be mindful of other performers because it’s it can be considered rude to tune when others are playing.
- How often should your guitar be tuned?
You should tune your guitar every time you play and check it whilst you are practising, especially before a show. Reasons that your guitar’s tuning could go out of tune include; Temperature change (coming in from the cold to the warm too fast), knocking it against something, or old strings.
- Which way do you turn a guitar peg?
You turn your pegs left and right. Sometimes they are all on one side of the guitar head. This will typically be on the side closest to you, meaning the pegs wind left (anti-clockwise) to tighten and sharpen the string. You would then turn it right (clockwise) to flatten it.
Which tuner is your favourite and do you have any tips you have for keeping your guitar in great condition? Let us know in the comments below.