If you’re looking for an alternative way to accurately tune your guitar, you’re definitely in the right place!
In my latest YMI guide, you will learn the following:
- What is standard guitar tuning?
- How Often Should You Tune Your Guitar
- Does it matter if I use a keyboard or a piano?
- How to tune your guitar using a piano?
And much more!
Are you ready? Let’s go!
What Is Standard Guitar Tuning?
Guitars are typically tuned to what we call ‘standard tuning’. But what is this, and why is it standard?
If you’ve already picked up a guitar you’ll know, that from the biggest string to the smallest, your guitar is normally tuned EADGBE.
The reason behind it is pretty simple – it’s comfortable and convenient!
Centuries ago, guitarists came to realize that existing tunings resulted in excessive hand movement and fingering around the fretboard.
This new tuning setup revolutionized the way guitar is played.
Keep reading to find out how you can tune your guitar using a piano or keyboard.
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How Often Should You Tune Your Guitar?
I believe it’s a good habit to be in to tune your guitar each and every time you pick it up to play.
No matter whether it’s an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, the act of strumming, fingering, fretting, and especially bending notes can stretch out the guitar strings and cause them to fall out of tune.
Being properly tuned is even more important if you’re playing with others. Being out of tune is a pretty obvious beginner's mistake when you’re playing with others and their properly tuned guitars, so don’t be that guy!
It’s a fairly obvious statement that you need to tune whenever you replace one or more strings.
Note, that if you put one new string on to get you through a gig or set due to breakage, don’t just tune the one you installed, take a second to check that they’re all still ringing true.
Finally, if you’ve been playing outside, you may very well need to tune up after coming inside (or vice versa). A change in the humidity can cause the wood of your guitar to expand and contract, causing the strings to tighten or slacken.
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Does It Matter If I Use A Keyboard Or A Piano?
Yes, and no. Much like a guitar, a piano relies on the vibrations of strings to make its sound, the key difference being that piano strings are struck by a hammer, rather than plucked or strummed.
Piano strings are kept under enormous tension, and again, like a guitar can and do fall out of tune.
Pianos should be tuned around every 6 months, so, if the piano you’re using hasn’t been maintained in a while, it could very well be out of tune itself.
It goes without saying, that if the piano isn’t in tune, your guitar won’t be either!
Note, that it’s pretty difficult, if not impossible to tune a piano with a guitar! Pianos are tuned by experts using a whole array of tuning forks.
An electronic keyboard, on the other hand, by its very definition can’t go out of tune. Each key is electronically programmed to be correct, so it really does make an excellent tool for tuning a guitar accurately.
This isn’t to say that you can’t use a piano, all I’m saying is exercise caution, and be sure that your piano is properly tuned before attempting to tune your guitar.
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How To Tune Your Guitar With A Piano
When you’re not using a guitar tuner, but rather using a piano or keyboard to tune, there are two ways you can accomplish the task.
1) Get your reference notes directly from the piano keyboard for each string.
Step 2 - Use the piano for a reference pitch on the sixth string, or low E string, and tune the remaining strings using the fifth fret trick.
Using Reference Notes For Each String
Let’s talk about option 1 first. Once you’re in front of your piano or keyboard, find middle C. From here, count back 12 white keys.
This will be the low E or sixth string on your guitar. Now, press down the sustain pedal on your piano, and press the E key.
You should then pluck the 6th string, or low E string of your guitar and listen for the difference in pitch – if the guitar sounds lower, tighten the string, or if it sounds higher, slacken it.
Once the sixth string is in tune, move up 3 white keys to A and tune your A string as before. For D, move up another 3 white keys, and again for G.
When tuning B, you should only move 2 white keys up from G, not 3. After B is tuned, revert back to a 3-key jump from B up to the first string, or high E.
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Using The Piano For One Reference Pitch
This process starts in exactly the same way as above – find middle C and go back 12 keys to find the comparative note for your guitar’s low E (the thickest string).
Strike the note on your piano, and pluck it on the guitar to hear the difference and tune accordingly.
Once your low E (6th string) is in tune, finger the 5th fret on that string, then play the 5th string (A note) open.
The two should sound identical when in tune. Adjust A by tightening or slackening the tuning machine according to whether it’s flat or sharp.
Carry on up the strings with the same method until reaching the G string (3rd string), which has to be fingered at the 4th fret rather than the 5th.
When you’re tuning the 1st string (high E), finger the 5th fret of the B string (2nd string).
My Closing Thoughts On How To Tune Your Guitar With A Piano
Truthfully, this is not my preferred method – I don’t own a piano, and it’s frankly much easier (and probably way more accurate) to use an electronic tuner.
I've mentioned it in a few of my blogs, but I love this clip on tuner from Fender. It's accurate and inexpensive - what more could you ask for?
Regardless of my preferences, knowledge is power. If you're ever jamming with friends and nobody has a tuner, you can use these techniques to quickly get back on track.