Get Help If You Can
If you are new to guitar, if you have a new guitar, or a guitar with new strings, it is possible your guitar is way out of tune. For that reason, we recommend getting help from a teacher or music shop owner if at all possible. Electronic tuners, like the Talking Tuner we link to below, are really good for fine tuning your strings once they are close. But if your strings are way off, then the Talking Tuner will not be very helpful. If you’ve played some guitar already but don’t know how to tune by ear, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page to our note about ‘Advanced Tuning.'
The Recording Below
If no one is available to help you get your strings in tune, we’ve placed a recording below of the six strings on the guitar being played slowly from low to high two times each. It might take some time and experimentation, but listen to that recording and then play your own strings and compare how they sound. This is the best way to know if your strings are close. If they are close, then the Talking Tuner linked below will be helpful for you!
Six Strings of the Guitar Audio File
Finding And Using The Tuning Keys
One more challenge at the beginning is finding the tuning keys. At the end of the neck of the guitar are six flat twistable tuning keys, three on each side. The key nearest the body of the guitar corresponds to the outermost string on that side of the neck. The one in the middle corresponds to the first string in from the edge, and the one farthest away corresponds to the one two strings in from the edge. Twisting the key counterclockwise will make the pitch of the string go higher, and twisting the key clockwise will make the pitch of the string go lower. Again, time and experimentation may be required.
A Talking Tuner is available for iOS at the App store for $.99. You can find a link to purchase the Talking Tuner below.
Advanced Tuning ‘By Ear'
A lot of people tune their guitar ‘by ear.’ The simplest way to do this is to make sure your lowest sounding string - we call it String Number 6, or Low E - is in tune. This can be done by checking it with the Six String recording above, or with a tuner, someone else’s guitar, or a piano. Once String Number 6 is in tune, play it while holding it down at Fret 5. That sound should be the same as String Number 5 open. Once they match, play String 5 at Fret 5, and that should match open String 4. String 4 at Fret 5 should match open String 3. Then here is the only difference. String 3 at Fret 4 - not Fret 5 - should match String 2. And finally, String 2 at Fret 5 should match String 1 open. That’s tuning ‘by ear.’ We don’t recommend trying it until you’ve been playing guitar for a little while.