Useful Tips

How to tune your guitar half a tone below


If you decide to learn how to set up a guitar yourself for a beginner at home, then most likely you recently bought this wonderful tool for yourself.

There is nothing complicated in doing this yourself! In this article we will analyze all the best ways to tune strings for the classical system, as well as for lowering or raising tones.

What key to tune the guitar

The structure of the guitar is very simple, we list the notes from the bottom string to the top:

  1. Mi (E) of the first octave,
  2. B (B) of the small octave,
  3. Small Octave Salt (G),
  4. D (D) Small Octave,
  5. La (A) Big Octave,
  6. Mi (E) is a big octave.

Now you know everything to easily understand the letter indication and when your system is in perfect order.

In what key to tune a guitar? tune to Mi of the first octave - this is a classic version of the guitar system.

Music lessons

Want to learn how to tune an electric guitar or acoustics, learn to play different songs, complex music, or just start doing something creative? Come to the first free lesson to our school of music Future Music!

We are located at the Taganskaya metro station in a 4-minute walk. We are waiting for you every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.!

What musical directions do we have more:

  • Violin,
  • Piano
  • Saxophone,
  • Ukulele
  • Flute,
  • Vocals.

We are constantly expanding the number and variety of music styles in our music school. Call and find out, maybe your tool is also on our list!

General recommendations

The following guidelines apply to all guitar tuning methods described in this article.

  1. When tuning, take sound confidently, not too loud and not too quiet. You can do this with both a pick and fingers.
  2. Do not break the sound of the string immediately, let it sound - both the tuner and the human ear will more accurately determine the pitch of the sound. In addition, it is convenient to tune the string with a chop just during the sound - you can immediately monitor the pitch or change the pitch by ear or by tuner.
  3. If the string sounds too high, first loosen it to make the sound slightly lower than you need, then pull it to the desired pitch - so it will be better to keep the system while playing. The following video shows how to do this. At first, it shows on the tuner that the first string is raised, then I weaken it a little more than necessary, then I fine-tune it:

Standard guitar tuning

Most often, the guitars are tuned to the so-called standard system. It is also called classic.

The standard tuning is generally accepted for both classical (Spanish) guitars with nylon strings, and for acoustic guitars with metal strings, and for electric guitars.

In a standard tuning, the following sounds correspond to the strings of a six-string guitar open (i.e. not pressed to the neck):

  • 1 string (the thinnest) - in the first octave (E4)
  • 2 string - si small octave (B3)
  • 3 string - salt of a small octave (G3)
  • 4 string - D small octave (D3)
  • 5 string - for the big octave (A2)
  • 6 string (the thickest) - mi big octave (E2)

It’s convenient to record the guitar structure, putting in a row the letter designations of the sounds of open strings. The standard system is written as follows (from the sixth string to the first): E2, A2, D3, G3, B3, E4. Octave numbers are often omitted: E, A, D, G, B, E. Sometimes they are written in the reverse order, from the first string to the sixth: E, B, G, D, A, E.

In a standard tuning, the note for the first octave (A4) corresponds to a frequency of 440 Hz - this is the modern generally accepted standard for tuning musical instruments.

Guitar tuning online

This section provides two ways to tune your guitar online. The first requires hearing, the second requires a microphone.

The first way is that you listen to the recorded sounds of finely tuned strings and tune your guitar strings to sound the same:

The second way is to use an online tuner that works directly in the browser. Such a tuner needs a microphone to work. In mobile devices, there is usually a microphone, but for other cases, a separate external microphone or a microphone for a connected webcam is suitable.

I tested several online tuners, and it turned out that not everyone works adequately. Here are two that have successfully passed testing on both a computer and a smartphone:

The process of tuning a guitar for an online tuner is no different from tuning for any other tuner and is described in the next section.

Tuning the guitar by tuner (with video)

To configure the tuner, do the following:

  1. Extract sound from an open string (such as the first).
  2. Focusing on the tuner, use the pick to tune the string until the tuner shows that it is tuned exactly. It is more convenient to tune the string when it sounds - then the tuner will show in real time the change in pitch.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for all strings.

The following video shows the tuning of all strings on a clothespin tuner:

Many tuners have several modes. To tune a guitar use guitar or chromatic mode.

In guitar mode, the tuner focuses only on those notes that correspond to the open strings of the guitar, and automatically determines which string you tune by the pitch of the sound.

This is convenient, but, firstly, sometimes the tuner is mistaken and you have to set the string manually (if this is possible), and secondly, with a very detuned string, the tuner will roll off in guitar mode: its indicator will be in one of the extreme positions. This will show that the sound is too high or low (depending on the position of the indicator), but there will be no information on how much exactly.

In this case, it is necessary to change the string tension in the right direction by ear until the pitch reaches the correct one. Then the tuner indicator will go out of its extreme position and according to its indications it will be possible to fine tune the string.

These problems can be avoided by using the chromatic mode, in which the tuner determines not only the notes of open strings, but generally any notes. With a very upset string, the tuner will not scale off in chromatic mode, but will show the note that this upset string emits. This note will differ from the “correct” one, that is, the one that corresponds to this string in a standard tuning. You will need to change the string tension so that this “wrong” note becomes “correct”. To do this, you must be able to navigate the notes and know what notes open strings are tuned to.

Varieties of tuners, their features and recommendations for selection are described in a separate article.

If you have an electro-acoustic guitar, perhaps the tuner is already built into it - check it out!

Guitar Tuning Applications (with video)

Instead of the tuner, made in the form of a separate device, you can use the application for a smartphone. I recommend using the free GuitarTuna app. Guitar tuning with it is shown in the video:

When tuning using any tuner application, place your smartphone with a microphone to the guitar. Keep in mind that the microphone perceives not only the sound of your guitar, but also the surrounding noise - try to minimize this noise during tuning.

How to learn to tune your guitar by ear

To successfully tune your guitar by ear, you need to be able to determine when sounds are different in pitch (and which one is higher and which is lower), and when they are the same, that is, they sound in unison.

For example, when tuning the piano, you extract the sound from the open string, then play the note corresponding to that string on the piano, hear two sounds and determine if they differ in height. If they differ, then by adjusting the string, you bring its sound closer to the sound of the piano, achieving unison.

You can learn to compare sounds in height using exercises that in general look like this:

  1. Listen to sounds with a known difference in pitch, paying attention to auditory sensations. This can be done independently, playing different notes on some musical instrument.
  2. Listen to sounds of different heights, not knowing in advance which one is higher, then determine this difference by ear and check the answer. For such exercises, you will need the help of a partner or a special program for a computer or smartphone.

From sounds of different heights, we turn to the same, i.e., to unison. If the sounds are close to unison, but slightly different, then with their simultaneous sound you will hear characteristic beats - periodic changes in volume. These beats are rarer, the closer the sounds are in unison, and with the exact unison there is no beating at all.

This phenomenon can be used for tuning in unison: first you need to bring the sounds closer to each other, then, gradually adjusting the string, remove the beats or at least achieve their low frequency - say, once every few seconds.

On this record two sounds simultaneously sound. First, there are half-tones between the sounds, then this difference gradually decreases, and the beats are becoming more distinct. They are especially well heard from the tenth to thirteenth second of recording. As sounds approach each other, the beat frequency decreases, and finally, they practically disappear - the notes sound in unison.

Similarly, beats can be tuned sounds in an octave, and this is also often used when tuning by ear.

Tuning a guitar for a piano or other instrument (by ear)

The figure below shows the notes on the piano corresponding to the open strings of a guitar in a standard tuning. The note “do” of the first octave (C4) is also indicated for ease of orientation: if the keyboard is full-sized (88 keys, including black ones), this note is close to its center.

To tune a piano guitar, do the following for each string:

  1. Extract the sound from the open string, play the piano note corresponding to this string on the piano.
  2. When fine-tuned, these sounds are the same in height. If they differ, tune the string.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you tune the string.

So you can tune the guitar not only for the piano, but also for any other instrument that can produce sounds of the desired pitch.

Tuning the guitar by frets (by ear)

Tuning by frets is based on the fact that a finely tuned guitar has a string clamped to 5 frets and an open adjacent thinner string emits sounds of the same pitch (i.e., they sound in unison). The exception is the 3 string, which for the same effect needs to be clamped not on the fifth, but on the fourth fret.

This principle is depicted in the figure below. The notes in colored circles on the left side of the figure correspond to open strings, and on the right - the sounds of strings pressed on those frets where these sounds are indicated. Sounds of the same pitch are indicated by the same color and connected by a line of the same color.

While pressing the string to the neck, do not apply excessive force - this can further increase its sound, which will lead to inaccurate tuning.

A) 1-string tuning:

  1. Clamp 2 strings to 5 frets. Extract sound alternately from it and 1 open string. If the sounds vary in height, then, adjusting the 2 string, make sure that it, being clamped to the 5th fret, sounded in unison with the open first.
  2. Hold the 3rd string on the 4 (!) Fret, tune it in unison with the second open.
  3. Clamp 4 strings to 5 frets, tune it in unison with the open third.
  4. Hold the 5th string on the 5th fret, tune it in unison with the open fourth.
  5. Hold the 6th string on the 5th fret, tune it in unison with the open heel.

B) Tuning on the 6th string:

  1. Hold the 6th string on the 5th fret. Extract sound alternately from it and open 5 strings. If the sounds vary in height, tune the open 5th string so that it sounds in tune with the sixth, clamped to the 5th fret.
  2. Hold the 5th string on the 5th fret, tune the fourth one with it in unison.
  3. Clamp 4 strings to 5 frets, tune the third open with it in unison.
  4. Clamp 3 strings to 4 (!) Frets, tune the open second with it in unison.
  5. Clamp 2 strings to 5 frets, tune the first open with it in unison.

By combining both of the described methods, you can tune the guitar on any string. For example, to tune a 3-string, follow steps 3–5 from list A and steps 4–5 from list B.

Please note: when tuning to frets, one string is considered already tuned, that is, it is taken as a standard, while others are tuned relative to it.

This leads to the fact that with inaccurate tuning by frets, errors accumulate. For example, you have a little inaccurate tuning of the second string to the first - the second string is now tuned with an error. Then, with a small error, you tuned the third string along the second string, but the error of tuning the second string will be added to this error! As a result, it may turn out that the guitar, after tuning, still builds poorly.

Therefore, after tuning for frets in the manner described above, check also the sound of the octaves - this will help to identify and eliminate inaccuracies. In the following figure, the notes forming the octave are shown with the same colors on the neck.

Check each pair by listening to both notes that sound simultaneously - there should be no beats in the sound. If they exist, eliminate them as described in the section “How to Learn to Tune the Guitar by Ear”, but do not touch the reference string along which you tuned the rest.

The reference string before tuning to frets should, in theory, be tuned to some external standard, for example, to another instrument. If such a standard is not at hand, you can simply take some string as a reference and configure the rest on it. In this case, the frequencies of the guitar notes will probably differ from the generally accepted ones. This case is considered in the next section.

Setting other than A = 440 Hz

When playing solo, the guitar is perceived as being well tuned when the sounds being produced form precise musical intervals. This happens when the necessary mathematical relationships are maintained between the frequencies of the sounds.

However, the standard tuning accurately sets not only the relationships between the frequencies of the notes, but also these frequencies themselves: the note for the first octave (A4) in the standard tuning has a frequency of 440 Hz, and the rest of the notes are aligned with it. This ensures that different tools configured according to the standard will be built among themselves.

What will happen if we tune the guitar so that the necessary intervals between the sounds are respected, but the frequencies of these sounds differ from the generally accepted ones?

Imagine the situation: there is no tuner or other instrument at hand, so we don’t notice that the pitch of the first string is slightly lower than the standard one, and we adjust the rest of the strings using the tuning mode. As a result, the sound of 1 string, clamped to 5 frets (for the first octave), has a frequency of not 440 Hz, but, say, 430 Hz, but all other strings are finely tuned relative to the first, so the necessary ratios are maintained between the frequencies of all notes.

When playing solo, such a guitar will be perceived as well-tuned. There will be no problems even when singing with this guitar, because the vocalist, one might say, tunes his voice in real time by ear, focusing on the accompaniment.

However, when playing in an ensemble with an instrument that is configured according to the standard, you will hear that the instruments do not build among themselves. To solve this problem, you need to configure them the same way.

Sometimes you have to intentionally resort to non-standard settings. For example, there are such folk instruments that, due to the design, cannot be tuned, and the frequencies of their notes are noticeably different from the standard ones. To play in an ensemble, you will have to configure all the others using such an instrument.

In such cases, tune the guitar by ear using another (non-standard) instrument or use a tuner that allows you to change the reference frequency so that it differs from 440 Hz.

Tuning a tuning fork (by ear)

Fork - this is a device that makes a sound of a certain height (see photo). By the sound of a tuning fork, you can tune musical instruments. Most often it is a sound with a frequency of 440 Hz - a note for the first octave (A4). Due to the general availability of electronic tuners, tuning forks are used less and less.

To tune the guitar with a 440 Hz tuning fork (A4), hold 1 string to 5 frets - there should be A4 note. Extract the sound, compare it with the sound of a tuning fork. Tune 1 string so that sounds become the same pitch. After that, tune all the others in 1 string, as described in point A of the section “Tune guitar frets”.

If your tuning fork does not produce the first octave, but a different note, you need to find the string and fret corresponding to that note on the guitar, play it, compare with the tuning fork sound, if necessary, tune the string, then tune the rest using this combination of items A and B section "Tune guitar frets."

Tuning a 12-string guitar

The strings of a 12-string guitar are combined in six groups of two strings. Each group replaces one string of an ordinary 6-string guitar, and when playing, the sound is more saturated, because instead of one string, two sound at once.

In the first and second groups, both strings are the same in thickness, and they are also tuned the same way (in unison).

In groups three through six, the strings have different thicknesses. They are tuned into an octave: a thick string to the lower, and a thin string to the upper note of the octave.

When tuning one string of a group, for convenience, you can mute the second, for example, with the free finger of your right hand.

The standard string of a 12-string guitar is written in letters like this (from thick strings to thin):

[E3, E2], [A3, A2], [D4, D3], [G4, G3], [B3, B3], [E4, E4]

Square brackets denote string groups.

При настройке по тюнеру имейте в виду, что в гитарном режиме он может не справиться с автоматическим определением струны, потому что среди открытых струн обычной 6-струнной гитары отсутствуют ноты G4, D4, A3 и E3. Для решения этой проблемы используйте либо режим для 12-струнной гитары, если он есть, либо хроматический режим.

Настройка бас-гитары

Струны 4-струнной бас-гитары настраиваются на те же ноты, что и третья, четвёртая, пятая и шестая струны обычной 6-струнной гитары, только на октаву ниже. Получаются звуки E1, A1, D2, G2 (от толстой струны к тонкой).

In a 5-string bass, the fifth string, as a rule, extends the range of the instrument downward and tunes to the sub note of the subcontrokt (B0). The first four strings are tuned in the same way as a 4-string bass guitar. The notes are B0, E1, A1, D2, G2 (from thick to thin strings).

Tuners often have a special mode for tuning the bass. In its absence, you can always use the chromatic mode.