Whether your playing alone or with others, a well tuned guitar will sit in the music as it should. Similar to when someone sings off key, even a single string slightly out of tune can stick out like a sore thumb. Don’t be a sore thumb. Here are some thoughts and practices to tuning your guitar.
Use a chromatic tuner. This is the most common tuner you can find for stringed instruments. A chromatic tuner will “lock in visually” to a note on a musical scale. This will give you a representation where your note sits on a scale of half steps to adjacent notes. This allows for easier alternate tunings. A non-chromatic guitar tuner will visually display standard guitar notes (EADGBE). You might save money on a basic tuner but, you lose the flexibility of alternate tunings and musical readability of a chromatic tuner.
In today’s age of having easy access to tech in the palm of your hand, it’s easier than ever to obtain a quality guitar tuner. When I’m not connected to a computer, I use the free version of the GuitarTuna app on my phone. For basic tuning, it’s perfectly suitable.
Brainworx bx_tuner plugin
In the studio and when recording on the computer at home, I use the bx_tuner from Brainworx through the Universal Audio Apollo Twin interface. I (enthusiastically) own the ENGL Savage 120 amp plug-in (also from Universal Audio) and this tuner comes free with it. (more about this interface and everything that I love about it in another article). This tuner from Brainworx does more than adequate job at tuning. It has simple and effective features out of the box and is equally good at tuning when using a capo.
It wasn’t until I had a guitar for a bit of time that I truly appreciated the absolute need for a properly intonated guitar. Intonation in its simplest explanation is the ability for a guitar to stay in tune with itself all the way up the fretboard.
To correctly intonate a guitar takes some practice. The note played on the 12th fret must be in tune with the note from an open string. Additionally, the 12th fret harmonic also needs to be in tune.
Peterson AutoStrobe 490 Strobe Tuner
Typical tuners are a capable tool when adjusting intonation, but the choice of pros would surely be a strobe tuner. They range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Definitely for the hard-core. I’ve used these before in the studio and they are incredibly accurate and quite memorizing to watch.
Intonation on an acoustic guitar is a totally different beast. It’s not impossible, but fair to say that it’s gonna take a luthier to made saddle adjustments. Do try this one on your own.
Through The Ears
Take these tips and use them if you can. Tuning your guitar is essential to good sound and just kind to those around you.