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Guitar Tuners

In the last few years the price of electronic guitar tuners has dropped drastically. At the same time, the reliability has gone up. Currently you can buy a decent electronic tuner for under $25 (US). Tuning by ear takes some practice, so a good option for tuning your guitar when you are first starting out is to buy an electronic tuner. Below we are going to take a look at some things to look for in a tuner, and then how to use it.

There are good tuners and bad tuners, just like everything else in this world. I would suggest getting a digital tuner, with both a needle indication, and some sort of lights to tell you that you are either to high or to low.

Electronic tuners that you can use for guitar come in two varieties. The first is one that allows you to tune the 6 strings of the guitar to standard pitch. The other is a chromatic tuner, which will allow you to tune to any note, not just those in standard tuning. Of course in this day and age songs are often tuned down a 1/2 step (like there was one fret lower). There are also many alternate tunings in use, therefore the chromatic tuner is the way to go. Chromatic tuners are also easier to use even if you are just tuning to standard pitch.

How to use a standard guitar tuner

Using an electronic tuner should be self explanatory, right? Well, not really. Here is something to remember about using a standard guitar tuner. Unless the string that you are tuning is within a 1/2 step of the correct pitch, the tuner will not know what to tell you. For instance, if you are tuning your 6th string (E) and it is tuned to an F (which is a 1/2 step to high), the needle will not register anything. Worse yet the default position of the needle is to the left, so many people think that this automatically means that they are to low. Then they proceed to tune the string up, and up, until the string breaks. A standard guitar tuner is only good as a fine tuning tool, and unless you can tune by ear enough to get you within a 1/2 step, it is useless.

Here is a standard electric guitar tuner that I recommend to my students. It is cheap, and it is a good tuner.

Korg GA-30 Guitar/Bass Tuner
Korg GA30 Guitar and Bass Tuner


Of course, I would really recommend getting a chromatic tuner. That way you have the option of tuning to any note. Another advantage is that you do not need to be within a 1/2 step of the correct pitch, just somewhere in the area of the right octave. If, for instance, you were tuning your 6th string (E) and it was tuned to an F, you would see that it was it was an F and know to tune it down. You will need to have a basic knowledge of sharps and flats and the names of the notes on the guitar.

All of the chromatic notes

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab


When you are tuning, try and think about whether it would be closer to go up, or down to the note that you are trying to tune to. If you were trying to tune your 4th string to D, but your electronic tuner was registering a C, you would need to tune up.

Here is the chromatic tuner I would recommend. In fact this is the tuner that I personaly use.

Korg CA-40 Electronic Chromatic Tuner
Korg CA30 Chromatic Tuner


back guitar pick Page 4, using a pitch pipe to tune a guitar

Page 6, using a tuning fork to tune a guitar forward guitar pick

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