Lesson 3: Get in Tune

In this lesson I talk about the best ways for a beginner to get their guitar in tune. There are two main methods:

Tuning to another reference

Basically this means tuning up to something else that is already in tune. This could be another guitar, a piano or other instrument, pitch pipes (a mouth organ type-thingie with the same notes as a guitar's strings), a tuning fork, tuning notes on the internet etc.

It's a good way to get in tune, but you need to already have a good ear. This method can be problematic for a total beginner who may not have a sufficiently developed sense of pitch to tune accurately. 

Using a Guitar Tuner

This is the best and most accurate way to get in tune. Some people seem to think a guitar tuner all but tunes the guitar for you, but it does take a bit of practice to get the hang of it. One thing I forgot to mention in the video is that if you're tuning an electric guitar you should plug your guitar into the tuner for best results.

Recommended Tuners

You need to get a guitar tuner. I've probably got a dozen or so tuners that I've picked up over the years (not including apps), and these are some that I like the most.

The best tuner for a beginner is probably the Korg GA-40. It works, and it's cheap. Better than apps in my opinion as there's no hunting through screens on your phone to find it, and you have the option of plugging in if you're tuning in a noisy environment. The CA-40 is also good, and is a chromatic tuner, which may be useful for players wanting to use non-standard tunings. It could be slightly confusing for a beginner though.

Peterson are renowned for making super accurate strobe tuners. They're probably not best for beginners as they're expensive and a bit tricky to read, but are great when tuning precision is absolutely critical. I'll use one of these when I'm recording.

I've got a few really great tuner apps on my phone. The one I use in the video is part of the Guitar Toolkit app, which works smoothly and has a nice clear display. I also like the TC Electronic Polytune and the excellent Peterson iStrobosoft.

If you're playing live you'll need a pedal-based stage tuner which will allow you to tune silently between songs. I tried using the pricey Peterson Strobostomp 2 for a while but it was a bit erratic and difficult to read during gigs, so now I'm back with my old, dependable Boss TU-2 which has never let me down (a newer model the TU-3 is now available).

Other Tuning Methods

There are a few so-called relative tuning methods, including the common 5th fret method, that you can use to get the guitar in tune with itself. These are useful to know, but a bit outside the scope of this very basic beginner's course. I might cover some of them in a later lesson.