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Tuning A Guitar Without A Tuner

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Tuning A Guitar Without A Tuner

electric guitar lessonsI admit it, I'm an old guy. My passion for guitar was ignited one February night in 1964 when I stared with my jaw agape at John, Paul, George and Ringo on the "Ed Sullivan Show". I knew in my gut that the world would never be quite the same and I knew that I must have a guitar!

I got it for Christmas, a nameless acoustic that my brothers picked up for $7 and a six-pack of "Old Milwaukee" beer. If it had been a car it would have been put on blocks in front of a run-down trailer. It was a piece of junk but I didn't know any better so I set about learning everything I could about playing the guitar. Step #1 was tuning the guitar.

We didn't have digital tuners in the 60's so we had to tune 'manually',

...that is tune one string properly, then tune the others based on that. A piano might be a good source for finding an "E" as would a pitch pipe; I honestly don't remember where I found the first note. Be that as it may, here's how to tune your guitar without a tuner.

Let's start with your low E string (aka "6th")--that's the fat one closest to you. Find an accurate E somewhere; a piano or just get on the 'Net and google "guitar tuner". Play your E note, then tune the E string to sound the same. This takes some practice but trust me, you'll get it. (*Note that you're learning some ear training as a bonus!)

When your E string is in tune press your finger behind the fifth fret and strike the E string; that note is an A, which coincidentally is what the next string needs to be tuned to. When you get the A string (aka "5th") in tune repeat for the D (aka "4th"), then the G (aka "3rd").

In order to tune the 2nd, or B string, you will press the G string behind the 4th fret (no, I don't know why). With the B in tune return to our routine and press it behind the 5th fret to sound another E note, which is what we need for the high E, or 1st string. See; tuning a guitar without a tuner isn't that tough, now is it?

I know this sounds tedious and makes you ask "why bother?"

And I concede that you may have a valid point. But imagine this: you finally get good enough that some friends ask you to audition for the band they're putting together. You run through a few songs when one of them says, "Dude; I think you're out of tune a bit."

What are you going to do? What will you say? Tuning a guitar manually is a skill you never bothered to learn! "Uh, dude, I uh need to go to my case and get my digital tuner--it will only take about 10 minutes!" And in those 10 minutes your gig will be lost; trust me, nobody wants to play with a Mama's boy who can't tune his axe like a real man!


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