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.
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
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.