Even top of the line guitars need a little care and maintenance in order to sound phenomenal. From minor maintenance, such as replacing worn strings, to more significant adjustments, such as neck realignment, taking care of your guitar ensures that it always sounds its best.
One of the most minor steps in guitar care is guitar tuning. An untuned guitar can sound out of key, generate excessive "buzzing", and even be more difficult to play.
Guitar strings extend from the headstock, or the top of the guitar, to the bridge, where the strings are attached to the body. In order for a guitar to play properly, these strings must have the correct tension. If the strings are too tight, they will key higher and sharper, and the "action" (the space between the strings and the frets) will be greater. The greater the action, the more difficult it is to properly press the strings against the frets.
When strings are too loose, the guitar will generate lower, flatter notes, and there is an increased possibility of "buzzing", which is caused by strings vibrating against the frets. However, a properly tuned guitar sounds crisp, clear, and on-key, and plays comfortably.
The process of guitar tuning is relatively simple. Novice guitar players may benefit from a few tools that make the process even easier, and more accurate. There are a variety of guitar tuners available. Some play a note in perfect pitch, allowing you to hear how your notes should sound.
These are often very basic, and quite inexpensive. Some more sophisticated models can also detect a note as you play it, and indicate how far off-key (and in which direction) the string is. There are even online tools that help you tune your guitar properly by playing a note in perfect pitch, and are very often completely free. For actually adjusting the strings, a basic peg winder can make turning the tuning pegs easier (and come in especially handy when replacing strings). With experience, you may be able to tune your guitar by ear - very handy for those moments when your tuning supplies aren't close at hand.
Actually tuning the guitar is also fairly simple. The simplest process is to first tune the low E string (when holding the guitar, this is the first string from top to bottom). Use a tuner to determine how the low E should sound. If your note sounds sharper than the tuner, loosen the tension on the string. Do this in gradual steps, checking the result after each adjustment. If it sounds flatter than the tuner, increase tension, until the note sounds perfectly in key. Once you've adjusted the first string, the tuner isn't necessary anymore, as you can tune the rest of your guitar according to each tuned string.
Once the low E string is tuned, you can move on to the next string. Hold down the fifth fret of the E string, and pluck it and the A string (unfretted) simultaneously. If the sound wavers or pulsates, the A string is out of tune. You can then pluck each string independently to determine how to adjust the A string. Once it is adjusted, you can move on to the next string. Now hold down the fifth fret of the A string, and pluck it and the D string. You can continue on in this way, fretting the newly-tuned string and its untuned neighbor:
(E String tuned with a tuner)
A String - Fifth Fret of E String, Open A String
D String - Fifth Fret of A String, Open D String
G String - Fifth Fret of D String, Open G String
B String - Fourth Fret of G String, Open B String
High E String - Fifth Fret of B String, Open E String
Once you've done it a few times, the process becomes second nature, and will only take a few moments. You'll also quickly learn how to tell when your guitar is out of tune. Enjoy the rewards of your effort by creating perfectly tuned, clear notes from your guitar.
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