Each time you pick up your acoustic guitar to play, make sure that it’s in tune. Guitar strings adjust quickly to changes in the environment, so although your guitar may have been in tune the last time you played it, the next time you pick it up, it most likely will not be. In fact, if you play it aggressively, you may find that you have to tune it more than once during a single session.
The first thing you need to tune an acoustic guitar is a standard reference pitch. You can tune your guitar to sound good on its own, but if you’re going to play with other instruments, you need a standard reference pitch. (Otherwise, your guitar may be in tune with itself but, once you start playing in conjunction with other instruments, you find that you’re out-of-tune.)
You get the reference pitch from another source. It could be another guitar, a piano, a pitch pipe, a tuning fork, an electronic tuner, or something else. If you don’t have a reference pitch, then just try to get it as accurately as possible.
6 Strings on Guitar
You have 6 strings on your guitar. The highest string, called the 6th string, is the thickest. Although highest in physical position, the 6th string is the lowest in pitch. It’s tuned to an E. Below that is the 5th string, which is tuned to A.
The 4th string is tuned to D, the 3rd to G, the 2nd to B. In the lowest position is the 1st string, the thinnest of the six, and it’s tuned to E also, but a higher E. The E of the 1st string has the highest pitch of the six strings.
Step 1: The E String
The first step is to tune the 6th string. Because it’s the thickest string, it’s the one that stays in tune more than all the others. If you have a piano nearby, tune the guitar to the first E below middle C.
Step 2: The A String
To tune the string below, the 5th string, take the index finger of your left hand and place it behind the 5th fret of the 6th string, the one you just tuned. Strum it. What you’ll hear is an A note.
Keep your finger on that fret while picking the 5th string. Alternately pick the 5th and 6th strings, while keeping your finger on the 5th fret of the 6th string. Adjust the 5th string using its tuning peg until the two notes you hear sound the same.
The tuning pegs are there to add tension to a string. The action of turning the peg, which either tightens or loosens the string, serves to change the note, either slightly higher or lower.
Step 3: The D String
For the 4th string, repeat the process. Take your left index finger and place it behind the 5th fret of the A string. What you hear is the D note. Tune your 4th string according to that note.
Step 4: The G String
To tune the 3rd string, place your index finger on the 5th fret of the 4th string, which you just tuned, and tune it according to the note you hear. That’s a G note.
Step 5: The B String
For the 2nd string, there’s a slight difference. To get the note you’re aiming for, place your index finger on the 4th fret of the G string and strum the string. This is the only string in which you get your note from the 4th fret of the preceding string.
Step 6: The Second E String
This is the last string you need to tune, the lowest on the guitar but the one with the highest note. Place your index finger on the 5th fret of the B string, strum the string, and tune your last string according to that note, which is another E note.
So that’s how you tune your acoustic guitar. New guitarists often have difficulty in the beginning, but don’t be discouraged because practice makes perfect. With enough practice, you’ll be able to develop an ear for pitches. What used to take you five minutes will be whittled down to a matter of seconds.