How to Tune a Resonator Guitar

By Christopher Godwin
Tuning resonator guitars by ear is a necessary skill for many musicians.

Tuning a resonator guitar is a fairly simple process once you know the basics. Generally, resonator guitars are tuned to open G, as it considered by many players and teachers to be the best tuning for the traditional country and blues styles generally associated with resonator or resophonic guitars. While it is possible to tune your guitar with a chromatic tuner, one may not always be available to you, so knowing how to tune your resonator guitar by ear with a tuning reference can be a valuable skill for many working musicians and hobbyists.

Tune your 6th string, the thickest one at the top of the fretboard, to a perfect G note. To do this, you will need some sort of reference like a tuning fork, piano or electronic tuner. If you do not have a properly tuned first string, it will be impossible to tune the rest of the strings to the correct pitch.

Place your first finger on the 5th fret of the 6th string. Pluck the string, followed by an open 5th string. Raise or lower the pitch of the 5th string until it is the same as the fretted 6th string. The string will then be a perfect B when played open. For best results, don’t let the string ring for too long while tuning. Stop the notes from ringing and pluck the strings again. You want to tune the initial note.

Put your first finger on the 5th fret of the 5th string. Pluck the string, followed by an open 4th string. Raise or reduce the pitch of the 4th string until it is the same as the fretted 5th string. The note will be a perfect D when played open.

Place your first finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string. Play the string, followed by an open 3rd string. Raise or reduce the pitch to match the fretted 4th string. The open 3rd string should be a perfect G when played open.

Put your first finger on the 4th fret of the 3rd string. Pluck the string, followed by an open 2nd string. Raise or lower the pitch as necessary to match the fretted 3rd string. The open 2nd string should be a perfect B string when played open.

Place your first finger on the 5th fret of the 2nd string. Pluck the string, followed by an open 1st string. Raise or lower the pitch as necessary to match the fretted 2nd string. The open first string should be a perfect G when played open.

Check to make sure your strings are all still properly tuned by quickly repeating the same tuning process. Make any changes necessary as you go.

Tip

Try to pluck the strings in the same place each time while you are tuning. This will help get the most accurate tuning, as you will avoid any intonation problems the guitar might have. Many players choose to pluck the string at the 12th fret while tuning.

Tune the same way you play. If you play with your fingers, tune using your fingers, and if you regularly use a pick, tune with a guitar pick.

About the Author

Christopher Godwin is a freelance writer from Los Angeles. He spent his formative years as a chef and bartender crafting signature dishes and cocktails as the head of an upscale catering firm. He has since ventured into sharing original creations and expertise with the public. Godwin has published poetry, fiction and nonfiction in publications like "Spork Magazine," "Cold Mountain Review" and "From Abalone To Zest."