How to fine tune a guitar by ear without the aid of instruments or devices
Playing out of tune is one of the worst things that can happen to a guitarist. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are, how fast you can play, or accurate, if your acoustic or electric guitar is out of tune, it will sound bad anyway. Basically there are two popular ways to tune the guitar: via a tuner and by ear.
Naturally, fine tuning via an electric guitar tuner or with a software is the most accurate way, and the best choice. However there will inevitably be times when you will not have your electric finer tuner or software with you, and then what do you do? The key is to always appeal to tuning by ear, then it becomes an invaluable skill! Apart from that, this is a good way to demonstrate your level of interest as a musician.
Although it is not something that you develop overnight, it also does not demand supernatural hearing at the time of learning how to fine tune a guitar. All you need is to better sharpen your hearing and understand the notes better. Ideally, the best way to fine tune the guitar by ear is through another instrument fine tuned as a reference. But as we know, it is not always possible, and will be no point in knowing how to fine tune by ear depending on another instrument nearby, for this reason, we will explore some technical ways of fine tuning by ear using both methods. But for now in this lesson, let’s focus only on the method of fine tuning without the help of a nearby instrument.
Principal benefits of knowing how to fine tune the guitar by ear without external aid
So, what is the advantage of being able to fine tune the guitar by ear? Well firstly, if you learn to hear the intervals between the strings and notes, this ability will also be transferred to other areas at the time of learning to play the guitar. The more familiar you become with the sound relationship between two or more notes/strings, the less you will have to rely on other tools or external resources.
Secondly, this first method of fine tuning that I will present, in my opinion, beats the standard method, of the 5 cases because instead of tuning a pressed string (that causes natural inaccuracies), you will be tuning open strings, that will be a pitch loose string to another loose string. I use this method all the time, because it turns out to be the fastest way to fine tune once you master this method.
Other advantages of this method that I will present
Another characteristic that I like more about this method instead of the traditional one, is that in this case, the strings aren’t perfectly tuned in relation to its standard (E A D G B e), but they maintain relatively great tuning in relation to the other strings. For example, the string E (thick) may be slightly below tuning MI (E), but it won’t be a problem if the other strings present the same relation of tuning to its notes. This way, your chords will always sound good!
This lesson deals with pallet two strings and knowing whether they are tuned in relation to each other, without any external help.
Note: This method is not going to work if you are playing with other instruments that are perfectly tuned, it only serves for those moments that you have nothing at hand, except your guitar.
So let’s go!
Knowing your loose strings
To learn how to use this method, it requires that you already know the sound of the loose strings of your guitar, as well as fine tuning your guitar well, whether it be your tuner or with this online acoustic and electric guitar tuner.
Okay, are you with your fine-tined guitar?
Now play all the strings starting from the thickest to the thinnest.
It’s really important to know the sound of each string one by one. What many guitarists don’t realize is that, if you divide and play each string, for example, the E string (thicker) and A one after another, it represents an interval of a specific note that you just played.
A perfect fourth interval to be specific.
It is these intervals that you must fix in your head! Listen the strings E and A again below and try to absorb the range of sound between each string…
Try to sing the notes if you want, it also helps with the memorization. Now do the same with the strings A and D – it is the same perfect fourth interval (in fact every fourth interval and fifth are perfect), in other words, the same relation of strings E and A, but from a different note.
Now do the same process on the strings D and G – which is the same fourth range of the previous processes.
Now when you get to the strings G and B, the intervals will be different. In fact they are the third largest intervals. Try to memorize this range of sound.
And now the last interval between the strings B and E (fine). Is the same as the fourth interval of the strings E – A,A – D,D -G ( a little larger obviously).
Learn these sound intervals before moving on to the next step:
Using the intervals to fine tune
The reason I made you learn the sound of each pair of strings was because with them, you can use these intervals as a tuning tool. In fact, you’re using your ear as a guide here – the goal is to make the intervals harmonious. If they are not, it is because they are out of tune.
Start with the strings E (thicker) and A, do they sound ok?
Yep, seems to be ok. Now A and D?
It’s also fine tuned. And now D to G?
Oops! Now the G string has a very low tune, so we need to tune it. We know that the G string is out of tune due to the fact that we already established previously that the d string was tuned with A ( and the string A with E) this way, there are no mistakes!
Now that we know the g string is ok, we can now proceed with G and B strings – remember that your enter ranges here are different.
Ok, it is not tuned! We need to lower it’s tune slightly.
Note: The B string is a little weird due to the nature of the guitar, with this string, you need to tune the B string slightly higher as if it were in the third largest natural. Listen to the following audio to feel what happens when we don’t tune it to a slightly higher frequency, and then play the chord MI major…
It sounds a little out of tune with the rest of the chords doesn’t it?
Even though the B string sounds perfectly tuned in relation to the G string, some of the guitar chords will not provide a consonant form of sound. This is a personal observation from playing many guitars in which I felt this little problem. So all you need to do is to tune the B string slightly higher to compensate for it (you will have to listen to me closely to hear me tuning).
So the tip is to tune in syntony with the G string, and then tune again slightly higher. The B string in particular takes a while to get use to, but it will be something less frequent.
And finally now, we are going to verify if the B (thin) sounds well against the B string using the previous intervals we have already seen…
It seems all right!
Fine tuning the guitar through the vibration
If you still think is difficult to fine tune the guitar by ear, you can try the method presented below.
The best way to fine tune by ear, from far away, is to play the chords in two groups, as we did previously, but this time we will have to pay closer attention to the “vibrational” details or oscillations between the fourth perfect pairs (Note: This doesn’t work with the chord paris G – B because the fine-tuning intervals are different).
This vibratory effect tells you if this interval is perfect, and then you must lower or raise the tuning until this range is tuned and the vibration stops.
After using this method so many times repeatedly,your ear will automatically get used to to these sensitive changes in tuning, that’s what we call a well-tuned ear.
Remember, some chords will sound good even if you are a little out of tune, while others will sound terribly bad. So make the action of “tuning your guitar with accuracy” a regular habit!