There’s one universal truth when it comes to guitars of any type:
A cheap, poorly made, but properly tuned guitar will sound much better than a super expensive one that is out of tune.
It is just a matter of fact.
Having your guitar in tune is the rule, the law, and the one thing you need to pay attention to before you play a single note on it.
Here I’m going to tell you how to manually tune a guitar the simple way.
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Harmonics are one of the most interesting sounds you can play on a guitar.
They are unique compared to any note or other technique out there.
A harmonic is basically a muted open string where enough vibration pushes through to produce a sound, but not enough to actually amplify the sound.
There are numerous places where you can play harmonics on every string, with the one at the 12th fret being the most popular.
However, today we are interested in only 2 positions out of them all:
The first one is that between the 5th and 6th fret, while the other one occurs between 7th and 8th fret.
To play a harmonic, you will want to gently touch, not press, the string above the actual metal fret. Once you have your finger positioned correctly, play that string and let go with your left hand as soon as you do.
You will hear a high pitched tone that sounds like nothing else you can play on a guitar.
Tuning The Guitar With Harmonics
So, how do harmonics help us tune a guitar?
There’s one interesting thing about harmonics:
A harmonic played on the 5th fret of a low E string should sound exactly the same as the one played on the 7th fret of an A string when the guitar is in tune.
With this you can tune the entire instrument rather precisely. All you have to do is start with the low E and work your way down until you reach the high E.
However, there is one exception and that is the B string.
Instead of playing a harmonic on the G string and matching it with the one on the B string, you will do something else.
You will match the sound of an open B string with a harmonic on the 7th fret of the low E string.
It sounds a bit complicated, but it’s really not.
Lastly, match the 5th fret harmonic on the B string with the high E string’s 7th fret harmonic.
The only real downside to this method is that you will need to find a way to tune that low E string into true E. Otherwise you are lost.
You can either use a tuning fork for this, your buddy’s low E string or some other method.
In essence, using harmonics is great when you need to make sure the guitar didn’t jump out of key mid-performance.
Take Advantage of Technology to Make it Easier
Depending on where you are, and what you have access to, you can certainly tune your guitar with the help of technology.
There are clip-on guitar tuners which are super easy to use, and there are many online guitar tuners as well.
Both of the guitar websites I recommend for learning have their own built in guitar tuners.
Here are the screenshots and links to their homepage: