Tuning your guitar
One of the first things you need to know as a new guitarist is how to tune your guitar. The principle is the same for all 6-string guitars regardless of whether they are acoustic, electric or classical.
The thinnest and highest sounding string is the 1st string. The thickest and lowest sounding string on the guitar is the 6th string.
The strings are named as follows:
6th string = low E
5th string = A
4th string = D
3rd string = G
2nd string = B
1st string = high E
Tuning your guitar with an electronic guitar tuner
The easiest way of tuning is to use an electronic guitar tuner – basic models are available for under $15. Check your particular tuner for instructions, but remember the basic rule to get the string roughly in tune, but slightly flat (i.e. its pitch is a little too low), then tune up to the right note. Turn the tuning peg to carefully and slowly increase the pitch (tightening the string) until your tuner indicates that it is in tune. This will ensure that your guitar strings stay in tune.
A particular feature that is useful for beginners is an off-note indication. This will tell you which way to tune even if the string is a very long way out of tune.
You will sometimes find that your guitar loses its tuning as soon as you start playing, so it is best to get into the habit of tuning you guitar, then playing a few chords or scales as you would normally, but then re-checking the tuning and re-adjusting if necessary. Having done this, you guitar should stay in tune throughout your practice or playing session.
For information on different types of guitar tuners available, from beginners to professional, check out http://guitartunerguide.com - it also includes some useful guitar tuner FAQs, including the terminology used in tuner specifications.
Tuning your guitar by ear
You might hear people talking about “A440” or “concert pitch”. Concert Pitch is the standard pitch that you should tune to and when correctly tuned your 5th string (the ‘A’ string) should produce a frequency of 440Hz (440 hertz). To hear a 440Hz ‘A’ note, either use a tuning fork or try this great online version: http://www.onlinetuningfork.com/
To tune your guitar by ear, first tune the 5th string to sound the same as the A440 tone.
Once your 5th string (A) is in tune hold down the 5th fret on this string and play the note.
This note is a D so tune the 4th string to sound the same.
Once your 4th string (D) is in tune hold down the 5th fret on this string and play the note.
This note is a G so tune the 3rd string to sound the same.
Once your 3rd string (G) is in tune hold down the 4th fret on this string and play the note.
This note is a B so tune the 2nd string to sound the same.
Once your 2nd string (B) is in tune hold down the 5th fret on this string and play the note.
This note is a high E so tune the 1st string to sound the same.
The 6th string (low E) and the 1st string (high E) should sound the same note an octave apart.
You can check the low E is correct by holding it down the 5th fret and playing the note.
This note will be an A and should sound the same as the 5th string..
Below is a great video of tuning a guitar, with some really good tips and help on what to listen for when tuning by ear - including listening for 'beat frequencies' or vibrations when tuning your guitar. Also shows how to use harmonics for tuning, which is a great method for slightly more experienced guitarists.