How to Tune a Six String Guitar

Tuning a six-string guitar is a skill that all guitarists must master. Though it is a skill that requires some work to get right, it's made easier, especially at first, by referring to an outside source for the low E note. Tuning the guitar to a piano, pitch pipe or recording device helps the musician develop an ear for the notes. Once the musician has a solid grip on the basics, an electric tuner can be used.

Hold the guitar in a comfortable position. Play an E note either on the piano, a pitch pipe or a recording device while plucking the low E string on the guitar. The note needed is the E above middle C on a piano. Keep playing the notes in unison, adjusting the guitar string until the sounds match up.

Move onto the A string. Push down on the low E string in the fifth fret and pluck the low E. Then, pluck the A string. The two sounds should be identical because the low E turns into an A when it's held down at the fifth fret. Keep plucking, adjusting the A string until it's in tune with the fretted E.

Head to the D string. Hold down the A string in the fifth fret and pluck it; the fretted A string plays a D. Then, pluck the D string and adjust it until it's in tune with the fretted A.

Tune the G string in the same fashion. Hold down the D string in the fifth fret and pluck it. Then, tune the G string to the fretted D.

Hold down the G string in the fourth fret and tune the B string to the fretted G string.

Pin down the B string in the fifth fret and pluck it. Tune the high E to the fretted B string.

Recheck the low E against the reference tone, and then pluck each note to ensure that they are on target. The guitar is now in tune and ready for practice.

Tips

  • This process requires the guitarist to be familiar with the location of each note on the instrument. The order of the notes on a six-string guitar, from bottom to top, is: E, A, D, G, B, E

Warnings

  • Always tune the guitar upward rather than downward to keep the guitar tuned longer. If a note is just mildly higher than it is supposed to be, loosen the string quite a bit and then tighten it slowly to tune the string.