How to tune up the guitar by ear - guitar couch

How to tune up the guitar by ear – emergency approach

Did you ever find yourself in a situation where you didn’t have a guitar tuner and you wish you knew how to tune up the guitar by ear? I have and you will too, sooner or later.

So how can we tune up the guitar by ear? It may look like an almost impossible task! There is a method to it however. We are going to use one of our strings, as a reference tone and tune up all of the other ones to it. You can watch the video below where I explain two different methods to tune up the guitar by ear, but you can also read the article below.

Are you ready to tune up the guitar by ear? Awesome! Have a look at this diagram at first:

How to tune up the guitar by ear 2 Did you notice that the name of the open 6th string is E. Now have look at the 7th fret 5th string – the name of this note is also E. Not only it is E, it has the same pitch (frequency/sound). Great, I am going to tune up this note to my low 6th string. So basically my low E string will become a reference for my tuning. Once you do it and they both have the same sound, the 5th string will be perfectly tuned to the 6th string. It was surprisingly easy right? Not really, it might take a little bit of experience to get used to this system, but you can do it!

We can follow the same steps for the string 5 and 4. The name of the 5th string is A (and this note is already tuned to the 6th string) . Now you can find the same note with the same pitch on the 4th string 7th fret. We are going to tune this note to the open 5th string.

How to tune up the guitar by ear 3 Fabulous, now we have 3 strings in tune? Keep in mind it is all relative to the 6th string, and it is our custom tuning. It will all work together very well, but if you check this with a guitar tuner, you may be surprised with the results. The letters might be all wrong! But this is our “out in the field” rescue method.

The same will be for the 4th string. So as you guessed, we will tune up the open 4th string to the 7th fret on the 3rd string, and if you do it correctly, you will end up with 4 strings in tune. How to tune up the guitar by ear 4

Now things will be a little bit different for the 3rd and 2nd strings. The 2nd string is tuned differently to the other string. So pay attention to what will happen now. The name of the 3rd string is G, you can find note G on the 2nd string when you position one of your fingers on the 8th fret. Can you see that it is not on the 7th fret anymore? It is the 8th fret. You may wonder why it is different? The reason is that over a long period of time guitarists experimented with different types of the tuning and they noticed that if you tune the string B differently, it will be easier to finger and play the majority of the chords. So as a result, we have this awkward situation here. Have a look at this diagram:

How to tune up the guitar by ear 5 Can you see the position of the note on the 2nd string? So now we need to tune up the 8th fret on the 2nd string to the sound of the open G string. Great, almost done!

The last string E. It goes back to normal again here. We are going to tune up the 7th fret on the first string to the sound of the 2nd B string, and now we are all done!

Now for your reference here are all the notes grouped together, so you can see the relationship. Pay attention to the shift on the 2nd string!

How to tune up the guitar by ear 6 I hope you found this article and the video useful and now you know how to tune up your guitar by ear in an emergency!


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