<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

The advantage of this method is that the pure intervals give the guitar a very pleasing, resonant, in-tune sound on chords that have plenty of open strings, like E minor and G major. Tuning strings to other strings is also pretty easy once you've practiced a little.

The disadvantage is that, since you are not using equal temperament, some chords are going to sound more in tune than others. Experienced guitarists simply tweak the tuning by ear as they change keys (for example, one might adjust the third string to give a better E major chord when playing in A major or E major). You may also find that your guitar sounds slightly out of tune when playing with a piano.

Tuning by interval

Each string is tuned to the string below it. The lower string is held at the correct fret, and the (open) higher string is tuned to it.

    Tuning by interval

  • Tune the 6th string (the low E string), using a tuning fork, keyboard, piano, pitchpipe, or whatever is handy.
  • To find an A, hold the 6th string down at the 5th fret. Tune the open A string (the 5th string) to this A.
  • Tune the open D string (the 4th string) to the D at the 5th fret of the 5th string.
  • Tune the open G string (the 3rd string) to the G at the 5th fret of the 4th string.
  • Tune the open B string (the 2nd string) to the B at the 4th fret of the 3rd string. This is the only one that is not 5th fret.
  • Tune the open E string (the 1st string) to the E at the 5th fret of the 2nd string.
  • Check your tuning by playing a chord of only E's and B's, listening carefully to see if all the octaves are in tune. Make small adjustments, if needed.

Chord to check tuning

Check your tuning by playing a chord of E's and B's. Listen carefully to see that all the octaves are in tune with each other, and that the fourth/fifth intervals between the E's and B's also sound good. Retune if necessary.

Many experienced guitarists become so comfortable with hearing the pure fourths and third that they can tune simply by listening to the interval between the strings, rather than using the fifth-fret/open string unisons .


Some advanced guitarists prefer to tune using string harmonics , which cut out some of the string overtones , leaving a clear, easy-to-hear pitch . This is a little tricky to learn, but it gives a very accurate, resonant, pure-interval-based tuning.

Because it is very easy to hear the pitch of the high, clear string harmonics, this tuning method gives a very accurate, pleasing tuning that takes advantage of pure intervals (fourths) to give the instrument a more resonant, vibrant sound (because pure intervals support and resonate with each other better).

For those interested in tuning theory: As far as I can tell, this tuning, based on a series of pure fourths, is not an official tuning system like Pythagorean tuning , which is based on a series of pure fifths. Like the Pythagorean system, though, if all the intervals were in fact pure, the result would not add up to pure octaves between the two E strings. I believe that most of the (slight) "fudging" necessary takes place around the B string, which is tuned with the third rather than the fourth.

Harmonics are played by touching the string very lightly at the fret, rather than holding it down just below the fret. You must be comfortable with playing harmonics to use this tuning method; it is not recommended for beginners.

Tuning using harmonics

    Tuning using harmonics

  • Tune the low E string using a tuning fork, keyboard, etc.
  • Tune the A string by matching the harmonic at the fifth fret of the 6th string to the harmonic at the 7th fret of the 5th string.
  • Tune the D string to the A string and the G string to the D string using the same procedure (matching the 7th fret harmonic of the higher string to the 5th fret harmonic of the lower string).
  • Tune the B string by matching the open B string to the harmonic at the 7th fret of the 6th string. Some guitarists match the harmonic at the 5th fret of the B string to the one at the 9th fret of the G string, but this is more difficult and also gives a less satisfactory tuning.
  • Tune the top E string to the B string using the 5th fret/7th fret harmonics.
  • Check the tuning using an E's and B's only chord (see above , and adjust as necessary.

All of the above discussion assumes that you want a standard guitar tuning, but there are many other possible ways to tune a guitar. For example, Slack key tuning, popularized by Hawaiian guitarists, involves tuning some of the strings lower (or "slack", because they are looser when lower) than standard tuning. The resulting tuning often (but not always) gives a major chord when all of the open strings are played. For example, one popular slack key tuning involves lowering both E strings to D and lowering the A string to G. The result (DGDGBD) is a G major chord. Slack key tunings will usually sound best using pure fifths and thirds, rather than equal temperament . The major chord will be easy for most experienced guitarists to hear accurately, so many players will be able to do this tuning by ear.

Another popular tuning, found in styles as different as classical and rock guitar, is D tuning . This involves tuning the lowest string to D instead of E, which gives an unusually resonant sound when playing in the key of D. Tune the guitar as usual, then retune the lowest string using the open 4th string D. (Tune the 6th string to an octave below the 4th string.) Check your tuning using a chord of D's and A's.

Chord to check d tuning

Questions & Answers

what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
I'm interested in nanotube
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
Privacy Information Security Software Version 1.1a
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
QuizOver.com Reply

Get the best Algebra and trigonometry course in your pocket!

Source:  OpenStax, Beginning guitar. OpenStax CNX. Aug 18, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10421/1.2
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Beginning guitar' conversation and receive update notifications?