Guitar Repairs – Brendan Hains – Guitar teacher Caroline Springs Guitar School.
I have noticed over the years that a great many guitarists and students really don’t know how to best keep their guitars in tune.
Whether you use an electronic tuner or tune by ear the following should help you to get your guitar in to tune and keep it there.
I recommend using an electronic tuner, I think it is a good idea to get a visual command of tuning along with the obvious aural aspect of it all. I have perfect pitch and still use a tuner. My favourite tuner is the Boss TU-12EX – I have had 3 of these over the last 30 years or so, I also have a Snark tuner attached to the headstock of all my guitars (not quite as accurate as the Boss, but pretty good for an inexpensive tuner).
One should always tune the 5th string first – The A string, A 440 has long been a reference point for musicians, it’s a good starting point aurally speaking. From there tune the first string, the high E string (that’s the thinnest string, closest to the floor, many mistakenly call the 6th string the highest. Always think in terms of pitch, not altitude!) Then tune the 6th string; the low E, then the second string; B, then the fourth string; D and finally the third;G.
I often see people tuning straight across from low E to high E or vice versa, this is not a good idea as it places uneven stress on the neck of the guitar, by the time you get to the high E the low strings are back out of tune. This is even more important if you have a floating bridge associated with Floyd Rose style guitars.
Always tune ‘Up’ to a note, not from above to a lower pitch, making the last movement of the tuning pegs a tightening up, helps prevent tuners slipping the strings going flat.
Tune your guitar every time you play and at every new location, tune a few times, changes in temperature always affect tuning. Stage lights and audience body heat can play havoc with your tuning.
Don’t use old strings and keep your guitar serviced, a poorly maintained guitar will usually have intonation issues. Using some graphite in the grooves of your guitar nut helps to keep strings in tune whilst bending.
Playing an out of tune guitar is not good for your musical ear and unless you can pull an out of tune guitar into tune like Jimi Hendrix, it is worth spending the small amount of time it takes to accurately tune your guitar.
Next time: ‘How to tuna fish’