It takes a while to learn this method of tuning, but it’s an investment for those moments when you find yourself performing without having an available digital tuner. For example, in a situation where they are about to play in public, you will see many musicians perform this task without the aid of a tuner. They seem to instinctively know which of the strings is out of tune, or do they? They may just be using a method of tuning the guitar from the guitar and that’s where the learning begins.
Your guitar, if in regular use, will hold the tune in at least one string. That string is usually the bottom E string. This is the thickest string and much more likely to hold its tune than other strings because of this thickness. Once you have that string sounding correctly, the rest is easy. Remember, bottom means the base string so is actually placed at the top of the guitar. Looking at a diagram may help you to see the guitar layout and learn the names of the strings. It may also help you to have a visual reminder of the correct strings and frets for tuning.
Look at the frets at the top of the guitar. Place your finger on the top string fifth fret. What you produce by doing this is an A and this helps you to tune other strings. With your finger held in place on the fifth fret, pick the two strings at the bottom of the guitar. You will find that you need to adjust the fifth string until both sound identical. It’s quite easy once you have done this a couple of times and most established musicians do this as second nature.
Staying on the same fret, move your finger down to the second string down which is an A string. Now tune the D string to that sound. The D string is the fourth string down and is the leader for a D chord.
There is a progression which is easy to follow for tuning. Remember the fifth fret as that’s important, but to tune the next string, all you do is move your finger down to the third string, which is a D string which is now in tune. When pressed, this gives a perfect G, so tune your G string. Tuning of the E string is the only one that uses a different fret, so skip that one for now.
Move the finger on the fifth fret down to the fifth string or B string. This gives you a perfect E, so tune your E string.
The odd one out
You will get accustomed to tuning in this way, but the one note which is exceptional is the B string. Here, the finger is placed on the fourth fret rather than the fifth, and upon the G string and this gives you the perfect B.
Once you learn this technique, it means that you can tune your guitar wherever you are. If you wish to prepare for a trip, make sure that the heavy E string is in tune as this will set you up for the trip. The rest can then be done.
Guitars lose their tune when in transit sometimes, and being able to tune it wherever you are is a very neat trick for a guitarist to learn. Do protect your guitar while in transit and impress your fellow musicians by being able to tune the guitar from the guitar strings themselves rather than depending upon electronic devices.
It’s worth bearing in mind that you should always carry a fresh pack of strings is case of breakage. Since breakages can happen during the tightening up of strings when you tune a guitar, it follows that having a spare set is common sense.
Practice, practice and practice again until you know those strings by heart as they may just get you out of a tricky situation, when turning up for a gig with a guitar that’s not in tune.