When I first started learning to play the guitar the teacher would tune the guitar for me. I thought that was great and never thought anything of it. Later on, I learned that money could tune the guitar for me, such as buying a guitar tuner. Again, I thought that was great and never thought there was anything wrong with that. During college at Western Michigan University, about my sophomore year, I took a couple of semesters of guitar lessons. It was there I started to learn the sins of using a guitar tuner, pitch fork or even the piano to tune the guitar. We were expected to tune the guitar by ear.
“What!” we all gasped. “Nobody does that!”
The guitar teacher, Dave Canon, just chuckled and let us go on living in bliss. He did, though, one way or another expect us to have our guitar in tuned, on our own. Even if we had to have a music major god tune our guitar for us before class. But somehow he could always tell how we have cheated.
For those who don’t know, let me show you the process of basically tuning the guitar. Even with an electronic guitar tuner, you must still know the six strings of the guitar. Now I am talking about an electric guitar or an acoustic guitar and a six string guitar not a seven string or a twelve string guitar or even a bass guitar which only has four strings and a lower range than the guitar. The fattest string on the guitar is the sixth string and is usually tuned to low e not middle e or high e. The string below that is the fifth string and is the string on low a. The fourth string is the d string and is tuned to the middle d note. The third string is the g string tuned to middle g. The second string is the b string tuned to middle b. The first string is the high e string. Once you figure out how to tune the tuner on the sixth string which is the button furthest left while the high e string or first string is the furthest right. You want the needle in the middle. Not to the left which means the string is too low or too much to the right which means the string is too high in pitch. You want the red light to turn green.
Now if you want to tune the guitar to the piano without necessarily becoming a piano major you will have to find your way around the piano and find your way around the guitar.
Now go to the middle of the piano. The first white key to the left of the two black keys is middle c. To the right of middle c, the next white keys go to cdefgabc and then it repeats. The black keys are sharps and flats and are not needed for this article. Going to the left of middle c goes backwards as in bagfedc. This is the low range as in low e, and low a. So, go down five notes down from middle c and you will get low e or the sixth string of the guitar. Trust your ears? Strike the low e note on the piano and the six string. You want the six string to sound like the low e of the piano. Now you are dependent on the piano or you can try to tune the guitar to itself.
To tune the guitar to itself, you must know that like the piano, the guitar has a pattern.So far, we have learned to play the open notes of eadgb and e. To play a closed note you have to put your fingers before frets. Frets are the steel bars that go across the neck of the guitar.
Play the fifth fret of the sixth string which would be a. Play the sixth string a to the open a of the fifth string. Once those are in tune with each other, play the fifth fret of the fifth string to the open string of the fourth string. This would be d played against d. Next play the fifth fret of the fourth string against an open string of the third string. That would be g played against g. Now for the third string, play the fourth fret against an open string of the second string. You would, therefore, be playing b against b. The second string would be played at the fifth fret and you would be playing e against open e of the first string.