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Classical Guitar Lessons: Tuning the Guitar

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So, you've bought your first guitar from,
from the store or from a guitar dealer and
you, you take it home and you open the
And you have a pluck of the strings, and
this is what you hear.
So not very pleasant.
So we have a lesson today on tuning your
Now, to my left here on this table we have
there's all kinds of things now
that technology has provided for
us to be able to tune the strings, the
individual strings of the guitar, and.
So we have of course the iPhone, this app
on the iPhone does that as you can see.
There are these tuners.
Here's a, here's another tuner and you
play a, you play you're open string and
it'll tell you which pitch it's closest
And it'll, and then it has, it tells you
whether to tune higher or
lower to match it.
This one clips right onto your head stock
Here's a, here's another one.
This is a kind of a slightly newer version
of the IntelliTouch tuner.
And does basically the same thing.
But the, as I was saying,
these, these can tune your individual
strings to the proper pitch.
But they do not actually end up tuning
your guitar.
I mean, what, if you're I mean, before,
what did, what did we ever do before for
how we ever tuned this instrument before
all these gadgets came, came about?
Well we just had, we had a tuning fork.
And it would play A, and
sort of put, put the metal tuning fork on
to the wood so it would vibrate.
And we'd basically get our A on this on
our A string and
then tune the rest of the strings to, to
that, to the A, open A string.
And so that's what I'm gonna teach you how
to do here.
Because as, as you'll eventually discover,
if you haven't already
something, if you've never tuned a guitar
to these tuners and
then play like a C chord or an E-major
chord it still
sometimes doesn't really sound like it's
quite in tune.
That's because you have to go a step
further if you really want your
guitar to be in tune to the piece that
you're playing and
to the key that it's in by tempering it a
little bit.
So let's start from here.
Completely out of tune guitar.
I still use the old metronome A440,
the sort of the tuning fork [SOUND]
version here.
And, [SOUND] the fifth fret harmonic,
the fifth fret harmonic on the fifth
string should
be the same pitch as A440.
[SOUND] So, let's get that now.
[SOUND] And there's an aural s, s,
sorta sensation that happens when you're
further away
from a pitch that you're trying to tune
you hear kinda like a fast pulsation
almost between the two notes.
So if I'm kind of like a quarter tone
sharp flat on, on this A harmonic and
it's clashing against the A440, you'll
hear this kind of, this, this kind of.
This kind of pulsating of the frequency.
as you get closer and closer,
as you tune up.
Here, I'll try that again, I'll make the
string purposefully flat again.
[SOUND] As you get closer to your target,
you'll see that that pulsating actually
gets wider and wider, you know, further
apart until it disappears.
When it disappears then the two notes are
in tune.
See, this is right around the point where
I can hear this.
You'll here this pulsation between the two
[SOUND] Here we go.
That's really close.
That's, that's just about right there.
Oh by the way, I should show you how to,
to make that sound with a harmonic.
Cuz I'm realizing I haven't shown you how
to actually
play a harmonic on the guitar and playing
these natural harmonics
on all the strings is essential to being
able to tune the guitar.
You lightly, with your left, with the left
hand finger.
Preferably a small one like your fourth
You just lightly touch, instead of
depressing the string down onto the fret,
you actually just lightly touch it and
then simply pluck with any right hand
And then at the moment that you pluck the
string you want to
actually release your finger from the
If you leave it on the string,
that's what happens, that happens.
It gets, so it muffles it.
But if you just lightly touch then pluck,
then release, as you can hear.
The, the harmonic, the natural harmonic
sustains re, quite nicely.
So now that we got that out of the way
let's continue on to tuning.
you can tune with harmonics or
you can just tune with regular notes on
the guitar.
I'll show you first how to do this with
regular, regular notes, and
then I'll kind of de-tune the guitar again
and start over.
And show you how to do it with natural
[COUGH] So, I like the, the fifth string
to start with, getting that in A440.
It's a ver, it's one of the more stable
strings on the guitar.
I, I think that and
the fourth string are usually the truer
strings on the instrument.
So, from there the next step is to tune,
you can tune the, the fourth string.
[SOUND] And if you place your any let hand
finger on the fifth fret of the fifth
string, [SOUND] you'll get a D, and
that's what you can tune your open D
string, your fourth string with.
[SOUND] You want to get very very good at
detecting whether or not the out of tune
string is sharp or
flat in relation to your string that is
[SOUND] This D is sharp.
There we go.
[SOUND] That's better.
[SOUND] Okay.
Now you have a pair of strings that are
really in tune with each other.
Rather than continue working your way up
the strings, as,
as as, as normally what we're taught to do
is sort of a begin,
sort of a beginner level of tuning.
What, unfortunately what happens with that
is by the time,
it's kind of like a game of, that game of
Where you you whisper something in
somebody's ear and what,
with everybody sitting in a circle.
By the time it gets around back to you
again, that, that, that, that sentence or
that message has changed.
It's kind of the same thing with tuning.
By the time you work your way pair by pair
up the strings the, the first string
isn't really going to resemble being
really in tune with the fifth string.
So what I recommend is to now take your
good pair of strings.
Fourth and fifth and tune all the other
strings to those two strings.
That results in a much more in tune
I now go to the first and
second strings.
I, I personally leave the third and the
sixth string for last.
I know I've got a good fourth and fifth
string, so if I go to my second string, I
can tune the D of the second string.
Its octave to the open fourth string,
and that's on sharp.
There we go.
So I just tuned it down a little bit.
That's good.
Now I'm not done yet with second string.
I want to also check the second string
against the A string, my open,
my open fifth string.
So I can do that
by playing the, the A on the tenth fret.
That sounds
pretty good so
it's in tune with the fourth,
my second string is in tune with the
fourth and fifth strings.
And so now I have a trio of very true
strings going onto the first string.
I can tune that, what's supposed to be an
to my E on the, on the fourth string.
And of course it's severely flat,
a whole half step away.
Not quite there yet.
Here we go.
Not done yet.
I'm gonna check it against,
I've, I've tuned my my first string E to
the fourth string.
And now I'm gonna check it, double check
it by tuning it to the fifth.
I can do that by playing the A on the
first string and checking it with, and
checking that against the open fifth
But remember,
what I'm doing is I'm taking each new
string and
checking them with both the fourth and the
It's pretty good.
[COUGH] Now I'll take care of my final
pair of strings, the third and
the sixth with I, which I tend to leave
for last.
Let's go to the sixth.
And of course, we've got if we play the A
on the sixth string,
which is on the fifth fret.
We could check that against the open
fifth string.
This is very sharp.
This sixth string is very sharp to
the fifth string.
You can even use fourths.
Intervals of fourths and
fifths can help you tune.
That's pretty good.
Not done yet.
I will check it against the fourth string.
And I can do that by just playing
the fourth playing the fourth string E,
which is on the second fret.
Not bad.
So now I've got five good strings.
I have one left and
here's the third string,
which should be an open G here.
again checking it against the fourth and
fifth strings.
the, I know that on the third string
the second fret is an A,
so I can check that octave against the
open fifth string A.
It's very flat.
Okay good.
I'm not done yet.
I'll check it on the, against the fourth
string by play,
playing the D which is on the seventh fret
of the third string.
This note here, and
I will check it against the fourth string.
Pretty good.
There you have it.
If you get, of course, when you get a new
guitar you change strings.
[COUGH] On your guitar you'll notice that
they slip initially at first.
It does take time for new strings to break
So sometimes when you're tuning a guitar
with really brand new strings on it,
you'll have to tune it again and again and
again while you're practicing.
But that's actually a good thing.
It gives you a lot of practice with
keeping the guitar in tune.
So, the final step here is tempering the
instrument to the key that you're in.
So I have a guitar that's generally in
tune with, with the open strings and such.
But it doesn't necessarily mean that any,
it's going to be in tune with any given
key that I play in.
So if I'm playing a piece in E major.
I think we all know this chord here.
As you become more advanced with tuning
and your ear starts to become, a bit
a bit keener,
you can make those fine tune adjustments
if needed,
according to the key that you're in.
You that, that doesn't neces, not
necessarily mean that other key areas in
the piece that you're playing, or other
are also going to be in tune because
that's just the nature of the instrument.
For example, this sounds okay to me in E
But if I go to C major,
this sounds kind of flat then,
this open string.
This open G string sounds sort of flat.
However, if I correct that G string in C
major in the to the, tune it to the chord
of C major.
Now, that sounds truer in C major.
But if I go back now to E major, it sounds
too sharp, that same string now.
Functioning as the major third of the
chord of E major now sounds too sharp.
So this is a,
this is more of a finer point of tuning
with, between things that, let's
say that I had a piece that basically had
a lot of those two chords in it.
Well, from there it's kind of a, like a
middle of a road approach.
I have to make the third string so that
it's bearable in both of those chords.
It can't be perfect in, in both.
And I think it's better to be okay, when
tuning okay in C major,
in other words, listenable, and okay in E
major, rather than have it perfect in,
in C major but have it pretty out of tune
for E major.
So that covers tuning with regular notes.
In the next video in this series on
I'm going to cover how to tune your guitar
harmonics, using natural harmonics.
In the last segment on tuning I showed you
how to tune the guitar just using a single
four, fourty from a metronome and
using the natural notes of the guitar.
In this segment, I'm going to show you how
to do the same thing, but
with natural harmonics on the guitar.
In that last lesson, I went through
I gave you a demonstration of how to
actually play a natural harmonic.
I'll go through it briefly once again and
then we'll be on our way.
I've, [SOUND] as you can hear, [SOUND]
once again,
I've made my guitar sound absolutely
horribly out of tune.
[COUGH] So once again, with the national
harmonic you, just using here,
we're going to use the fifth fret on the
fifth string because that's where we're
going to get our A four fourty from.
From the metronome or from a tuning fork.
You just lightly touch the string with any
I like the fourth finger because it's
lighter and smaller.
And just after you've plucked the string,
you release the finger from,
from the string, and that allows the note
to last a lot longer, to sustain longer.
If you leave the fingertip on the string,
you get a muffled kind of sound.
Your, your, the skin on your fingertip
will muffle the note and kill it.
[SOUND] That of course lifting at the
moment just after you pluck,
[SOUND] lift and then that note sustains.
Very important, of course, when you're
trying to tune to a 440 here we go.
[SOUND] Really flat.
Okay, now to the rest of the notes.
Tuning with harmonics.
Generally it's, you're tuning from fifth
to seventh fret.
There's an, there's exceptions.
But if you so, we'll just go step by step
The next the next step, just like in the
last lesson
the next step is to get a true fourth
string along with your fifth string.
Though the, so, so, you have a very good
strong pair of in tune strings, so.
How you do that here is you hit the fifth
fret harmonic [SOUND] of the fifth string,
and the seventh [SOUND] fret harmonic of
the D string.
Once again, [SOUND] it's a little sharp.
[SOUND] There we go.
The advantage to tuning with harmonics is,
is that the notes sustain,
both the notes sustain a lot longer.
Unlike using natural notes which you have
to lift your hand and stop and
keep checking,
the harmonics is once you get used to it
is actually a faster way to tune.
Because you don't need to go, keep going
back to the note so often.
You'll hear that pulsating that I spoke of
You'll hear that pulsating widen and
eventually disappear as the notes get
closer and close to each other.
Here, I'll do it again.
I'll make it I'll make it.
I'll make it purposely sharp.
There we go.
[SOUND] Another technique with harmonics
is to go low.
Go lower than your target.
[SOUND] And then crank slowly up to your
[SOUND] Like that.
Okay, now we can move onto the other
Again, I like to do the second and first
strings next.
So, with the seventh fret of the fifth
string we get the same pitch as the,
as the open string E.
And then you can do to check it against
your fourth string
you can just check your A on the fifth
fret of your first string with the seventh
fret natural
harmonic of the fourth string.
Always check your new string to the fourth
and fifth.
Tune all the rest of the strings of the
guitar to the fourth and fifth strings.
Always, it's sort of like a double check
for every string.
[SOUND] Okay.
Going to the fifth string.
Lets see, what do we got here.
We have.
[SOUND] Well, we can use that seventh fret
harmonic on the fifth string.
And use that to tune the fifth fret
natural, the natural note fifth fret of
the B string which is another E.
Here we go.
Then we can check it against the D by, I
think, just playing natural notes.
Again, you wanna get them so
that they sound, the note sounds okay with
both the fourth and fifth strings.
Passable for both strings.
there's the fifth string tuning the second
And now here's the fourth string tuning
the second.
Now will get to the sixth and third.
Okay now, we're, here's going again right
back to our E
note which is the seventh fret natural
harmonic of the fifth string.
[SOUND] Tune that to this harmonic on the
sixth string
is the fifth fret natural harmonic of the
sixth string.
We hear that those are sharp.
[SOUND] So while they're ringing,
while those harmonics are ringing go
Pretty good.
Here's to check it against the fourth
string I like to use the 12th
fret harmonic of the sixth string
and check it against the fourth string.
Natural note.
Just the regular note.
The E on the second fret of the fourth
And that one's pretty good.
That way I'm tempering it again to both
the fourth and fifth string.
Then we just have our third string left to
go and
if you hit the 12th fret on the A, on your
fifth string,
12th fret on your fifth string, you'll get
the same.
You'll get a unison A that you can tune to
the natural note A on your third string,
which is on the second fret of your third
So, 12th fret natural harmonic on the
fifth string to
the second fret note on the third string.
And it is flat.
this out.
Bending the string upward a little bit is
another little trick.
Bending upward while you're har, while
you're true harmonic is ringing can
give you a little bit of a sense of how
far away you are.
It's a nice sort of trick there.
There we go.
Sounds good.
Check it against the fourth string.
I mean, really there's always that,
the trusty fifth harmonic, fifth fret
harmonic to the seventh harmonic.
So you can hit play, the fifth fret
natural harmonic on the fourth string.
[SOUND] And the seventh fret natural
harmonic on the third string.
[SOUND] This one to me isn't quite so
reliable, because as I said before,
as I suggested before, I tune the third
string last,
I think the third string is kind of maybe
the most volatile.
[SOUND] That's close enough for
both of them.
Again, you're never really getting a
guitar in tune.
You are tempering the guitar.
And that's why it's good to, to, to tune
each string to
two strings that are very reliable, like
the fourth and fifth.
And then as you become more advanced with
you can actually check each string off of
all the other five strings.
But for now, that should get you started
get you on a pretty solid method of tuning
your guitar before each practice session.
Thank you very much.