A guitar tuner is a device used by musicians to adjust the frequency of their instrument to match a given tuning standard. This article will explain how to use a guitar tuner the right way.
What is a guitar tuner and what does it do
A guitar tuner is a device that produces a sound with a certain frequency. The musician then uses their instrument to produce the same sound, and if they are out of tune, the tuner shows it to them by way of a needle or LED indicator.
How to use a guitar tuner
First, tune your guitar to a reference pitch. For most genres of music except classical and flamenco, orchestras use A440 Hz as a reference pitch.
Classical and flamenco musicians use A432 Hz instead. While you can tune with other reference pitches from time to time, is important that you do not switch back and forth between them.
Once you have your tuning set, plug in the tuner. Make sure that you are plugged into an input jack, not an output (the latter will cause feedback that will make it difficult to tune effectively).
Turn on the device by pushing its button or by adjusting any settings if there is a button for that.
Now, set your guitar in tune with the reference pitch by turning the pegs or adjusting the truss rod accordingly. Once you have done this, switch on your tuner and watch which way it moves to indicate if your instrument is sharp or flat. It should be easier to tell you are sharp. The needle will move up and slightly right (indicating that you’re too high).
When the needle moves down and to the left (indicating that you’re too low), then your guitar is flat. Note that if it does not move at all, then your strings are probably muted. If this happens, simply move to a different reference pitch and try again.
It is also very important that you do not move the tuner while it is working. It may give you false results and will thus require recalibration. This might be a good time to take a break and stretch your hands before continuing on.
Now, simply make any necessary tuning adjustments until the needle goes from its middle position to the left when you are sharp, and to the right when you are flat.
When your instrument is in tune, it will read “0” on the tuner! Congratulations – you have successfully tuned your guitar using an electronic tuner!
The different types of guitar tuners
There are two main types of guitar tuners – chromatic tuners and pitch-pipe tuners.
A chromatic tuner works using the chromatic scale, which means that it can tell what pitch you are playing no matter how many sharps or flats there are in the given key. Pitch-pipe style guitars do not have this capability, which makes them quite limited in their usefulness.
There are also “strobe” tuners out there which are able to show the musician how far out of tune they are based on precise fractions of a cent. However, these types of guitar tuners are more expensive.
Which guitar tuner is best for you
Chromatic tuners are definitely more complex than pitch-pipe guitar tuners in the sense that they require you to know your way around music theory in order to use them properly.
However, if you plan on learning lots of songs by ear or doing any improvisation at all, it is well worth the time and effort to learn how to use a chromatic tuner.
On the other hand, if you just want to learn how to strum some chords and sing along with friends or family, then perhaps it is best that you stick with a pitch-pipe tuner. This will also help you brush up on your music theory knowledge!
Either way, be sure to get a tuner for yourself soon. It is a very useful tool, and one that you will probably wonder how you ever played without!
Tips for using a guitar tuner correctly
Always use a reference pitch
Do not switch between different tuning references from one session to the next. Just like you shouldn’t mix up key signatures from song to song. It is best if you stick with using A440Hz as your reference pitch so that you get the most accurate tuning possible.
Remember which way the needle moves when tuning
When tuning your guitar, it is best to try to remember which way the needle moves when you are sharp or flat.
As noted above, if it goes up and right then you are too high (sharp). If it goes down and left then you are too low (flat). This will help you get a feel for how far apart each string is to the next, which will come in handy when you are trying to tune your guitar by ear.
Troubleshooting tips if your guitar isn’t sounding right
Strings are muted
If the needle on your tuner isn’t moving, then you may have one or more strings muted. To check this, simply press down on each string until it is next to the metal fret (don’t push them all the way down to make sure that they do not get pressed flat). If after pressing down each string the needle still does not move, then you may have a string muted.
Also, if your strings are too close to the frets this will cause them to be silent as well. If after pressing down each string the needle still does not move, then it is possible that the strings need to be raised slightly in order for them to resonate properly.
String is too low
If all of your strings are flat, but the needle on your tuner is pointing in the right direction, then you probably have one or more strings that are too low.
Simply turn the pegs to raise pitch until they match up with what your tuner says. Or, if you don’t have a tuner, what sounds like the correct note to you.
String is too high
If all of your strings are sharp (up), but the needle on your tuner is pointing in the right direction, then you probably have one or more strings that are too high.
Simply turn the pegs to lower pitch until they match up with what your tuner says. Or, if you don’t have a tuner, what sounds like the correct note to you.
What is a reference pitch?
A reference pitch is the “normal” pitch of a string, usually determined by its length. The standard tuning on a guitar would be EADGBE. The E refers to the low open-string, which is tuned to an E.
In this case, that string represents the normal tension and pitch for the other six strings since they all tune to notes that are at higher pitches than the E string.
How do I fix my intonation?
Intonation is basically just tuning your guitar so that it sounds in-tune and correct for each note, rather than sharp or flat. This can be done by adjusting the tension on the string slightly by turning the pegs in or out. This will raise or lower the pitch of each string, and will make it sound like you are playing in tune (usually).
How do I fix my action?
If your guitar is not sounding like it should, then this could be due to a number of different factors. First, check that your strings are properly tuned. This should be done by ear, rather than by looking at the tuner itself.
Also, make sure that the neck of your guitar is not bowed or warped. If it is, then you will need to get this fixed in order for it to play nicely again.
A guitar tuner is an essential tool for any guitarist. It’s important to know how to use it properly in order to get the most accurate tuning possible.
We’ve outlined how to use a guitar tuner, as well as some troubleshooting tips.
We’ve also answered some common FAQs about using a guitar tuner. If you’re having trouble getting your guitar in tune, hopefully, these tips will help!