How Are Guitars Tuned? (Everything You Need To Know)


Guitars are typically tuned in ascending perfect fourths and a single major third. EADGBE is the conventional tuning for guitars, which includes three intervals of a fourth (low E to A, A to D, and D to G), followed by a major third (G to B), after which one more fourth (B to the high E) is added.

In this article, I’ll go through the process of tuning a guitar and explain everything else you need to know about the process.

So without further ado, let’s just get straight into it, shall we?

Why is a guitar tuned the way it is?

The answer is that standard tuning strikes a balance between playing scales and chords.

A tidy, consistent arrangement of all-fourth’s or all-fifths’ helps to play scales and melodies.

It makes visualizing and performing them simple.

If the guitar was EADGCF instead of using a fake all-fourths system, it would be correct to move all the strings up two frets (frets are small metal bars on the fingerboard that stop your fingers from moving too far).

To get to this position, you would have to use a capo to hold everything down at fret three.

This system would not allow for chord shapes like C or G because it isn’t an open chord.

A guitar that is tuned in perfect fourths, C-F-B♭-E♭ gives you all of these options without having to use a capo or change the fingering on any chords.

That’s why standard tuning works so well for guitars! What are intervals? Intervals have nothing to do with scales or chords but are simply the space between two notes.

There are many different types of intervals in music that can be formed by doubling a frequency up to twelve times until you reach an octave (which is when the note’s pitch reaches its highest point before coming back down).

How do you manually tune a guitar?

If you want to tune a guitar by ear, you can use simple harmonic motion (SHM).

This means that the string’s frequency will be in direct proportion with whatever note it is tuned up or down from.

So if we’re tuning our E-string up from E (which is 329 Hz) to F (which is 349 Hz), the difference between these two frequencies is 20 Hz.

In other words, you would want to tune your string up by a perfect fifth (which consists of seven semitones), which will be a total of four frets higher than E♭ and five frets lower than F.

So if we’re using our open A-string as a reference point, we would want to tune our E-string up until it is five frets lower than the A♭ (which is tuned at 440 Hz).

This means that you would place your finger on the seventh fret of your guitar’s low E-string and pluck both strings.

You then simply move down the fretboard four frets and tune your string until it is perfectly in sync.

To do this, you can either use a note that is either an octave or a perfect fifth above the reference point (A♭) which would be A-flat (which has one less sharp than G).

Are guitars tuned to a key?

While the guitar isn’t tuned to a key necessarily, it can be used to play in any key.

The only limitation is that you have twelve notes at your disposal, so each key will give you a different set of chords and scales (although some keys share the same chords and scales).

Standard tuning works well because it provides a nice balance between chords and scales.

It’s also the lowest common denominator of all alternative tunings, so if you learn how to play in standard, you can easily apply those skills to other instruments as well!

So that covers everything about guitar tuning but there is just one more thing I need to mention.

That would be alternate tunings, which as the name suggests are an alternative way of tuning your guitar.

You can use them if you want a change from standard but don’t feel confident enough in re-tuning your entire guitar and dealing with chord shapes that might not work for what you’re playing or writing.

So to make this as simple as possible, here are the two rules of alternate tunings:

  1. If you can play it in standard tuning, you can play it in one of these alternative ones
  2. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

There is no right or wrong way to tune your guitar.

What’s important is that you make the decision that works for you.

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