The guitar is such a simple and comfortable instrument: just take it out of the box and start playing. Well, in fact it’s not THAT simple. A good practice before learning to play the guitar is to tune it first.
Tuning your new instrument before playing it will guarantee that you will create melodious music; for each string is a particular note to play and even if one gets out of tune, the rest will sound bad.
Note that some guitars may not need so frequent tuning (since they are well constructed), but if it is played at physical limits, then it just needs to be tuned as well. Read on for an essential guide on guitar tuning.
Guitars have a particular kind of difficulty in tuning because of having six strings, and each one has an individual pitch or a place in the music assigned to it. The string “numbers”, as the common name of them, from upper side to the bottom of the guitar are 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, while their musical counterpart are mi, la, re, sol, si, and mi or E, A, D, G, B, and E respectively.
In order to tune the guitar properly, you have to have an axis or a reference pitch. You will need a pitch pipe or, better yet, get a tuning fork in case you don’t have a reliable instrument around to take as an axis. Pitch pipes have a bad repute of changing pitches after a while. Tuning forks are more trustworthy and easier to use.
First, make the fork vibrate by hitting it on any hard object slowly, while holding the handle. Then, touch the handle to the soundboard of the guitar below or above the soundhole while slightly taking it to the bridge. This will locate the spot where the resonance is the loudest level. You are supposed to hear a high pitched A (la) and it should be the same as the sound produced by striking the first string while it is being pressed on the fifth fret.
Now that you have tuned the first string (E/mi), natural sound coming from that string is the same sound as the sound of the second string pressed on the fifth fret. The 3rd string on the 4th fret is the same as natural 2nd string (B/si). Moreover, the fourth string/ fifth fret equalsnatural third string (G/sol); fifth fret of the fifth string is equal to natural fourth string (D/re); and finally the fifth fret of the sixth string equals natural fifth string (A/la).
In order to check the accuracy of your tuning, gently touch the fifth string directly above the fifth fretwire, not pressing the string to the fingerboard. By striking the string in this way the sound coming from it should be similar to that high tone you hear from the tuning fork. Sounds of the string produced in this manner are called “harmonics.”
Harmonic 5 (Harmonic on the fifth fret) of the sixth string equals harmonic 7 of the fifth string (which is also similar to the open sound of the first string). Harmonic 5 of the fifth string equals harmonic 7 on the fourth string. Harmonic 4 of the third string is equal to the harmonic 5 of the second strung and harmonic 7 of the first string. Incidentally, harmonic 4 may require lots of practice for some, so I suggest that harmonic 7 of the sixth string be used to tune the open second string. These pairs of harmonics, when sounded together, should produce only one stable tone. If the sound produced clash or seem wavy, that means they are not in tune.
These two methods of tuning have to go together. You may use the harmonics method first then check with the other or vice versa. After you have crosschecked, if your tuning is not true it is better to repeat the whole process. If you still cannot make them in tune, your strings might be faulty. If the strings are new, this may even be worse—your ears need tuning!
To avoid all the hassles of manual tuning, high-priced electronic devices called strobo tuners are available. All you need is to turn the dial to the string’s name and the device will catch the string’s sound by a microphone and tell you if it is in tune by showing it on a meter.
After all these, if you think that learning to tune the guitar is more difficult than learning to play guitar, do not be afraid of that, and I advice you to buy a good learn guitar software, start to learn how to play guitar, in an easy and fast way.