There is one part of learning a new instrument that strikes fear into the heart of a complete beginner. Tuning! Why is it that instruments can’t just stay in tune?
Why do you sometimes pick up your brand new electric guitar only to find it all out of tune and sounding terrible? If you’d like an answer to this question, we might be able to help you.
So let’s picture this – you’ve just got your new guitar and you’re a total beginner. There are a lot of things to think about, so many new skills to learn – but thankfully a guitar is an easy instrument to pick up and play.
Only, there’s one thing in the way – turning. If you look at your untuned guitar with dread, there is no need to panic! You’ve come to the right place – we are here to help you!
Below is a total beginner’s guide to tuning an electric guitar. We’re going to take you through some of the theories, some of the easiest methods, and how you can eventually train yourself to tune by ear.
In many ways, you can look at learning to tune a guitar as another skill that is as important as what you can play with your fingers.
Tuning is important, and we’re going to highlight for you how you can learn everything you need to feel confident in this area of music.
We’ve also included an extensive Frequently Asked Questions section that will aim to answer any extra questions you might have on this issue. Let’s start!
Why Do I Need To Tune My Guitar?
Okay, so let’s start with the most basic of questions. You’re new to the concept of tuning, and you’re wondering why guitars need to be tuned in the first place. In basic music theory, there is the concept of key and tune, these two concepts go hand-in-hand.
A song or piece of music is written in a particular key, which means that it has been set in a certain musical scale (or range). This is where the term ‘key’ comes from.
The notes within a key correspond to each other, and there are many notes that don’t sound too good to human ears.
Tuning your guitar means it always hits these bad notes and makes them sound better. The idea behind this is that when you play a note on your guitar, it should be the same pitch as the note played by someone else playing the same string. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t.
Why Do Instruments Go Out Of Tune?
Now that we’ve got the basic concept of tuning out of the way, let’s move on to answering this question. Why, exactly, do instruments go out of tune? Well, if you’ve ever owned a musical instrument, then you’ll know that it doesn’t happen instantly.
The longer you leave an instrument for, the more likely it is to be out of tune. More than this, the more you play the same will occur.
This is because the strings themselves aren’t perfect; they stretch over time. When you pluck a string, it vibrates, and this vibration causes the string to stretch slightly.
Over time, this stretching becomes more pronounced, and the frequency of vibrations changes. As a result, the pitch of the string shifts.
This is why you need to regularly check your guitar’s intonation, and make sure that it stays in tune.
Tuning By Ear
So now we’ve covered the basics of why you need to tune your guitar, let’s talk about the best method to achieve this. Most people tend to use their ears to tune their guitar, and we’re not going to argue against that.
However, before you get started, it’s worth thinking about how well you hear. Have you ever tried singing into something like a microphone, only to find that you can’t understand anything?
Or maybe you’ve had friends who can sing perfectly, but you struggle to follow along?
If you haven’t experienced this, then you may wonder why you’d want to tune by ear. After all, you could simply listen to the note you want to tune and adjust until you hear it.
But there’s a problem here: you won’t be able to tell whether you’ve achieved the correct pitch.
If you’re trying to tune a guitar using your ears alone, you’ll probably end up making some mistakes. These mistakes are called mistunes.
Mistunes are caused by the fact that our hearing is not very accurate. So even though you think you’ve heard the right note, you may have accidentally heard another note instead.
To avoid mistakes, you need to use a tuner. A tuner is a device that allows you to measure the pitch of a string. Once you’ve found the correct pitch, you can use your ears to confirm that you’ve reached it.
How Does A Tuner Work?
There are two main types of tuners available today. One type uses a laser beam to determine the pitch of a string, while the other relies on acoustic waves to detect the tone. Let’s take a look at both of these methods.
Laser tuners work by shining light onto a string and measuring the reflection back from the string. Using this information, the laser tuner determines the pitch of the string.
The most common laser tuners are based on infrared technology. Infrared light has a wavelength between 700 nm and 1mm, which is much higher than visible light (400-700nm).
Because of this, infrared light penetrates objects such as clothing, skin, and hair, allowing the tuner to accurately read the pitch of a string without being affected by any obstacles.
The downside to infrared lasers is that they require a direct line of sight. If you try to use one when standing behind a wall or under a table, then you’ll find that it isn’t possible to pick up the reflected signal.
Acoustic tuners work by emitting soundwaves through the air. These waves bounce off the string and return to the tuner.
Based on the difference in amplitude of the returning wave, the tuner can calculate the distance between the string and the tuner. From this data, the tuner calculates the pitch of the string, just like a laser tuner does.
While acoustic tuners don’t require a direct line of sight, they do need an unobstructed area for them to operate.
This means that if you’re playing in a crowded room, you’ll likely need to move somewhere quieter to get the best results.
What About Pitch Pipes?
Pitch pipes are devices used to help musicians with perfect pitch. They consist of a speaker that emits a pure sine wave tone.
The frequency of this tone corresponds to the desired pitch. By listening to this tone, musicians can learn the exact pitch they should play.
However, pitch pipes aren’t always suitable for beginners. For example, they usually require a lot of practice to become proficient with. Also, because they rely on audio feedback, they can cause problems if you’re playing too loudly.
Which Is Better?
Both laser and acoustic tuners offer advantages over each other. Laser tuners are more convenient because they allow you to play anywhere, regardless of where you are.
They also provide instant feedback, so you know exactly what you’re doing. Acoustic tuners are better suited to situations where you need to keep quiet since they require no direct line of sight.
However, acoustic tuners aren’t as accurate as laser tuners. The reason for this is simple: the human ear is far superior to a machine when it comes to determining pitch.
While a laser tuner will give you an exact reading, your ears will only tell you whether or not you’ve made a mistake.
What Should I Use?
If you want to be able to tune your guitar with your eyes closed, then you should invest in a laser tuner. It won’t matter how good your ears are, if you can’t see what you’re doing, you’ll never reach the perfect pitch.
However, if you want to be able to play quietly in a crowded room, then you should go for an acoustic tuner. You’ll still need to make sure that nothing is blocking the way, but otherwise, it’s ideal for playing in public.
Of course, if you have both options available, then you should probably buy both!
Best Tuners For Beginners
So now that we’ve explained the differences between tuners and introduced you to the most basic concepts, it’s time to help you pick the best beginner tuner!
Below are two of the best tuners we could find that will make it easy for you to learn!
First up is this rechargeable guitar tuner from WEGROWER, and it’s a great pick if you’re looking for something simplistic and affordable. With its bright green LED display, this tuner has everything you need right out of the box.
The tuner itself consists of two parts: a base unit and a battery pack. When you first plug the base into a power source, the LED lights up. Then, simply press the button on top of the base to turn the LED off. Once turned off, you can remove the base from the power source and use it as a stand-alone device.
Next up is this clip-on electric guitar tuner from KORG. This tuner features a large LCD screen that displays all of the information you need at a glance.
In addition to displaying the current note being played, this tuner also shows the note name, octave number, and key signature.
This tuner works by using a microphone to detect the sound of the instrument. As long as you don’t move around too much while playing, this tuner should work just fine. However, if you do happen to move around, you’ll need to put the tuner back together again.
What Are The Best Electric Guitars For Beginners?
If you’re new to guitars, you might be wondering what kind of guitar would be best suited for beginners. After all, there are so many different types of guitars out there, each with its unique qualities. So how do you choose which type of guitar is best for you?
Here’s a quick look at some of the main types of guitars that are available today, along with some tips on choosing the best one for you.
Electric Acoustic Guitars
An electric acoustic guitar is an electric guitar that has been modified to play acoustically. These guitars usually have a hollow body made of wood, but they can also come in other materials such as plastic.
They also usually feature a piezo pickup system, which allows them to convert the vibrations of the strings into electrical signals.
When shopping for an electric acoustic guitar, you want to make sure that it has a good tone quality. You also want to ensure that it has a solid construction. A well-built guitar will feel sturdy when strummed, and it won’t have any loose pieces.
An electroacoustic guitar is similar to an electric acoustic guitar, except that it has no electronics inside. Instead, it has a preamp built right into its body.
Electro-Acoustic guitars tend to be less expensive than electric acoustic guitars, but they aren’t nearly as powerful.
You can use these guitars for both live performances and recording purposes. Some people use them exclusively for recording since they don’t have any electronic components that could cause interference during the process.
Others use them solely for live performance since they lack the power needed to compete with full-sized instruments.
A classical guitar is essentially a smaller version of a steel-string guitar. It typically has six strings, and it plays in a lower range than most other types of guitars. Because of this, it tends to sound better than other types of guitars.
Since it’s smaller, it’s easier to transport around, making it ideal for traveling musicians. It’s also easy to learn since it only requires basic finger placement techniques. This makes it great for beginners.
An acoustic guitar is a very versatile instrument. It can be played by itself, or it can be paired up with an amplifier. There are several different styles of acoustic guitars, including nylon string, steel string, and electric guitars.
Nylon string acoustic guitars are generally lighter than steel-string guitars, and they have a brighter tone. Steel-string acoustic guitars are heavier and darker sounding than nylon string ones. And finally, electric guitars are designed specifically for amplified playing.
The choice between these three types depends largely on your musical preferences. For example, if you like a bright, light tone, then a nylon string acoustic guitar may be more suitable for you.
However, if you prefer a deeper, richer tone, then a steel-string acoustic guitar may be better for you
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Know What My Guitar Should Be Tuned To?
There are many ways to determine what your guitar should be tuned to. The easiest way is to simply look at the neck label. If it says “standard”, then it should be set to standard pitch (EADGBE).
If it says “drop D”, then it should be dropped down one-half step (DADGBC). If it says “half-step flat”, then it should be raised one-half step (CADGBE).
If none of those options apply to you, then you can always try adjusting the strings until they’re all in tune.
Then, once you get them all in tune, you can write down which notes were sharped/flattened and which were not. That will give you a good idea of where the problem lies.
I’m Getting Confused When Trying To Figure Out How To Tune My Guitar. What Should I Do?
It’s okay to get confused sometimes. Don’t worry too much about it. Just keep practicing, and eventually, you’ll get it. If you have any friends who are musicians, they are more than likely going to be happy with helping you out by telling you if your guitar is in tune!
What Is Drop D?
Drop D is a term you may come across frequently when learning to play songs, or searching for different TAB online. Drop D means that instead of having EADGBE, you would have DADGBE. This makes the guitar sound lower in pitch, and therefore easier to play.
Why Does My Guitar Say “Standard” On The Neck Label?
This is just a general term used for guitars that don’t have any other markings on them. They usually mean that the guitar is in its default setting, and therefore doesn’t require any adjustments.
If you want to make sure that your guitar is properly adjusted, you can always ask someone else to adjust it for you.
What Are Tuning Pegs?
Tuning pegs are little metal pieces that fit into holes in the body of your guitar. There are two main types: plastic and bone.
Plastic pegs are typically made from polycarbonate, while bone pegs are usually made from animal bones. Both types work equally well.
You can use either type of peg depending on preference. We previously referred to tuning pegs as ‘machine heads’ and these two terms are synonymous.
What Is A Fret?
A fret is a piece of wood that sits underneath each string. It serves as a guide for your fingers so that you can easily press the string against the frets without accidentally hitting the bridge.
Some people also refer to the fretboard itself as a fretboard.
So there we have it! We’ve taken you through the most basic concepts of tuning, how you can learn to tune yourself, as well as some of the best products that can help you in your journey as a guitarist.
We hope that this article has allowed you to feel a lot more comfortable about the process, but if you still need some extra advice, check out our FAQ section below.
We wish you the best of luck in learning to love your new instrument! Soon enough you’ll be tuning by ear!