These days many musicians use electric tuners for tuning their guitars. Sometimes they get their roadies to do it. You can buy them at the modest rates from many music stores. For most hobby guitarists or beginners the best method is by ear. Aside from being the best way to tune the instrument, the very act of tuning this way is the best training for any novice musician’s ears.
Although there are many ways to tune a guitar by ear, the best and the easiest way is relative tuning where each guitar string is tuned to the string preceding it. Many intermediate and advanced players like to use harmonics turning as it is a more accurate method, but another more accurate technique to tune a guitar is by using equal temperament. All these methods assume that the first guitar string is already tuned to the desired pitch by adjusting it to a turning fork, pitch pipe or a correctly tuned piano. Let’s have a close look at each of these methods.
You should begin by fretting the A note on the low E string exactly at the 5’th fret, while this note is still ringing pick the open A string and slowly adjust the tuning until the pitch of the two notes match perfectly.
Once you’ve tuned the A string properly, you can repeat the process with the D string fretting the D note on the 5’th fret of the A string and then tuning the open D string to this pitch. Repeat this process once again with the G string. Thing will change when tuning the B string for the B note on the G string that is located at the 4’th fret note the 5’th. Finally, you can tune the E string exactly to the E note that is located at the 5’th fret on the guitar’s B string above.
Using this technique, the guitar can be tuned by using the natural harmonics at the 5’th and 7’th frets of each guitar string.
Assuming that low E sting has been already tuned, strike a natural harmonic above 5’th fret. While this note is still sounding you should strike a harmonic at 7’th fret on the A string and tune the note right up to the harmonic of E string. This procedure should be repeated for turning both D and G strings of guitar sounding harmonics on 5’th and 7’th frets respectively.
The tuning technique for B string will slightly change due to the nature of guitar fret board. In this procedure, sound a harmonic at the 7’th fret on the low E string and then tune the open B string to that pitch. For the E string, you should strike harmonic right at the 5’th fret on the B string and then on 7’th fret at E string until these 2 pitches perfectly match.
Equal temperament tuning of guitar
The principals and science behind this turning method is more complex. The main objective here is to tune the guitar in such a way that across the fret board you are equally in tune across all the 12 keys. When you tuned your guitar using the first two methods, you must’ve noticed that barre chords played at the low end of neck sound and open chords sounded good, but as you moved further up the guitar neck the same shape barre chord begin to sound less tuned on your instrument. This can be corrected by using equal temperamental tuning that is basically a method of compromising the tuning in some keys to ensure better tuning on all other keys.