What You Should Know
  1. Basic tuning concepts
What You Will Learn
  1. How to tune without a tuner using several different methods

Tuning Your Guitar by Ear

There are many ways to tune a guitar without an electronic tuner. These methods should only be used for quick touch up tunings or for situations where your guitar doesn't have to be tuned to concert pitch.

If you are a beginner, you should learn these only after you have tuned with an electronic tuner for a while. Even then, using a tuner is recommended. All of these methods will produce a tuning less accurate than a tuner. However, they work well for getting the strings in tune with each other even if they aren't tuned to concert pitch (E A D G B E).

Tuning to Notes on a Separate String

Tuning the Fifth String

The most common method is to fret a note on one string and tune another string to that pitch. Comparing the pitch of a fretted note and open string allows you to tune the open string to the fretted pitch. An open string is when no notes are fretted. The steps below walk you through this approach string by string.


If the string is not perfectly in tune, you will hear 'beats' with both strings ringing. These beats are a slight pulsing in the sound that occurs when two pitches are close to each other. The beats will lose intensity as both strings get closer to the same pitch. It may be difficult to hear these beats at first, but you should start to perceive them as your ear develops.

Tuning the Rest of the Strings

You need to follow a similar procedure to tune the other strings. Below is a list of which note to use to tune each string:

If you were paying attention, you should have noticed that the only string where you use a fret other than the fifth fret is when you tune the second string to the pitch at the fourth fret on the third string.

Tuning with a Piano

A guitar can be tuned by using specific pitches on a piano or keyboard. This will only work if the piano is in tune. You can use the piano to tune each string or just tune the low E string and tune the other strings to the E string using another method. The chart below shows how the pitches of the open strings correspond to pitches on the piano:

Pitches on the piano that correspond to the open strings of the guitar

Tuning with Harmonics

There are a number of ways to tune with harmonics. Some don't work very well because they get the harmonics in tune, but not the fretted pitches. Below are links to explanations of several of these methods: