“Thank you for enjoying the tuning so much…I hope you like the music more” – Concert for Bangla Desh.
Those were the words of Ravi Shankar when he received a massive standing ovation from the crowd after listening to what they thought was a song, but really was Mr. Shankar tuning his sitar.
Although guitars only have 6 strings, instead of the Sitar’s 20 strings, guitar tuning can turn into a not so easy task very quickly due to the following facts…
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FACTS ABOUT GUITAR TUNING
1 – Guitars are NEVER completely in tune.
The fluctuations in the wood, strings, and components of the guitar due to temperature, humidity, pressure, inaccurate frets etc… make the guitar an instrument that is never 100% in tune.
2 – The human mind is awesome.
3 – There’s hope for guitar tuning.
4 – We are the world.
The vast majority of musicians in the world tune their instruments to the same frequency, which is 440 Hz for the note A. That means that no matter where you are, the notes on the scale sound exactly the same.
5 – We are one, but we’re not the same.
Not everybody tunes their strings to the same notes. This is translated into different kinds of tunings. Some of the most common ones are Drop D, E flat tuning, DADGAD, Open G, open D etc…
HOW TO TUNE YOUR GUITAR
Here’s a good way to tune your guitar:
We are going to need a stringed guitar and a tuner.
You can use Rock Prodigy’s tuner for free. Download it here
Now, create a free account and tap on Tuner.
Let’s tune to Standard tuning: Make sure that it says Standard Tuning. If not, use the next and previous buttons to find it. The yellow bar on the left will indicate that the tuner is hearing your guitar. We are going to make sure that each open string is the proper pitch.
1 – Hold your guitar so your fretting hand can move freely. Use your forearm to hold it against your body and don’t let it tilt downwards.
2 – Find the tuning key for the first string. On acoustic guitars it is the closest to the frets on the bottom of the headstock. It is usually the one farthest from the frets on guitars with the tuning keys in one line.
3 – Pick the first string only. Play with a moderate effort, not too hard and not too soft, with long sustained notes. Make sure that the other strings are not ringing. You can mute them by resting the edge of your picking hand on top of them.
4 – If the needle in the tuner is right on the center and you can see “OK”, then you are done. If the needle is left of center, you need to tighten the string. Tighten the tuning key carefully, in little increments until you see the OK appear. If the needle is right of center, you need to loosen up the string. If at any time it reads a different solid note go back to step 5.
5 – Move to the second string and repeat the previous steps. Now, you will tune to a “B”.
6 – Tune the rest of the strings following the example of the first two.
7 – Once you are done, start over again from the first to the sixth string. Sometimes, especially in electric guitars with “Vibrato” bridges, tightening or loosening up some strings might affect the tension of the others.
In this video we explain how to tune:
“Tuning a guitar can be challenging, even for those who have been playing for a while. Let’s review standard tuning, tuning a guitar to itself, and tuning with others.
Whether the guitar strings are flat or sharp, once you have the fundamentals down you can always be able to get your guitar in tune.” -Mike
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Here is a list of the most common alternate tunings for guitar with song examples. You can access all of these tuning by clicking Tuner, and then navigate with “Previous-Next”.
Drop D: From the lowest to the highest string: D A D G B E. The only difference with Standard Tuning is that the sixth string has been “dropped” from an E to a D.
You can hear this tuning in songs like: The Beast and the Harlot (Avenged Sevenfold), Poison (Alice Cooper), Put you in a song (Keith Urban), Walk (Pantera),
Eb (E flat) Tuning: All of the strings are tuned one fret (step) lower than standard tuning.
From the lowest to the highest: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb.
Songs: More than Words (Extreme), Cowboys from Hell (Pantera), Chicken Fried (Zach Brown Band), Strutter (Kiss).
Dsus4 or DADGAD: The open strings match the notes of a Dsus4 chord, this is D G A.
From the lowest to the highest: D A D G A D.
You can hear it in songs like Kashmir, Black Mountain Side (Led Zeppelin).
Open G: The open strings match the notes of a G chord, this is G B and D.
From the lowest to the highest: D G D G B D.
You can hear it in songs like Running on Faith (Eric Clapton), Honky Tonk Woman, Brown Sugar (Rolling Stones), Bad to the Bone (George Thorogood).
Full Step Down/ D Standard: Every note is tuned a whole step (2 frets) lower than standard tuning.
From the lowest to the highest: D G C F A D.
You can hear it in songs like Yesterday (The Beatles), Sad But True (Metallica), Lithium (Nirvana).
Feel free to experiment with different tunings but please, stay tuned.