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How To Tune a Guitar by Ear

Learning how to tune a guitar can be tricky. We all know that the Ancient Greeks were smart, what with creating democracy, philosophy, and all. What most people don't know however is that their discoveries also helped us to figure how to tune a guitar.

In this video online guitar teacher Martin Taylor talks about what the Ancient Greeks can teach us about how to keep your guitar in tune:

Tuning the guitar is made a lot easier these days with guitar tuners but there are some other things you need to know because you can't always rely on them.  

"You have to use the guitar tuner as a starting point and you will never get your guitar in tune unless the guitar is in tune with itself.  The 12th fret has to be exactly half way between the bridge and the nut of the guitar.  Something that happens with the guitar when you have this half way point is that you get what is called a 'natural harmonic'."

The way we check whether the 12th fret is at the half way point is that we play the natural harmonic and then we play the note itself.  The natural harmonic and the note should be the same.  If the note is flat that means the bridge is too far away from the 12th fret.  If it's sharp it means the bridge is too close to the twelfth fret.


Watch Martin's Free Guitar Lessons

For those of you that have been playing for a while you'll notice that when you tune using a guitar tuner you'll play certain things and they just don't quite sound right.  This is called inharmonicity and the guitar has to be slightly out of tune to sound in tune!

Archtop and jazz guitars have a floating pickup and you can move them around.  If you have a guitar with a set bridge you should take it into your local guitar store and they can adjust it for you.

When you play the fattest string on the guitar you'll notice something called the latitudinal modes of vibration and this causes those strings to sometimes sound sharp.  The opposite happens with the high strings because there isn't as much movement and the result is that they may sound flat to the ear.  Once you've got the guitar in tune with a tuner you have to start trusting your ears.

Want to learn more? Be sure to have a look these free guitar lessons.  For more information about jazz guitar lessons from Martin Taylor visit today. 

guitar tuning

***Also available in the ArtistWorks Tuning and Intonation Series: