To learn Fretboard Theory, the guitar must be in tune. We have an old saying, “We tune because we care.” So, before we can play the guitar, we need to make sure that it is in tune. Tuning can be done any number of ways: using a piano to tune the strings to the correct notes. This involves the ear. Some people have what is known as perfect pitch and for them, this method is fine. Others may lack or have a slight loss of tonality where certain notes are concerned. This will usually be the G and B strings.
In older days, a tuning fork could be used to generate a tone that could be used in tuning the first string. Forks could be bought in sets with each fork having a frequency or tone the equivalent of each string. Of course, this required money, so many times a man would get his hands on one and that’s the note he/she tuned from. Tuners have all but eliminated the need for tuning forks. Some piano tuning professionals still possess a full set.
If someone couldn’t afford a tuning fork or a set of forks, often times the next resort was what is known as a pitch pipe. A very simplified, one-note harmonica, one could blow into the pitch pipe to obtain the note used to tune the guitar. Of course, a harmonica could also be used.
An available piano could also be used to tune a guitar, assuming that the piano is tuned properly. When some bands went out on the road for a tour, often times the piano player didn’t carry around a piano. Too bulky and much too heavy. Instead they would rely on the venue to have a piano ready for them to use. The trouble with that method is that most times the piano was out of tune. It might be 1/2 step flat or sharp across the board. In that case, the band always tuned to the piano being used.
Now we have electronic tuners that can be anywhere from your pedalboard to a small version that clips onto the headstock of your guitar. Personally, I have one on my pedalboard for my electric guitars and I have one clipped onto the headstock of my acoustic. It is battery operated, flawlessly helps me tune each string, and turns itself off after a minute. I want to make a very strong recommendation that you purchase a tuner. The “Snark” runs about $40 and can be bought in most guitar stores. It uses a watch battery that lasts a year or two, usually two. You can leave it clipped to the headstock and it will always be with you and your guitar.
There are any number of tunings but that’s beyond the scope of this blog. There is one tuning that is standard. That’s why we call it… Standard Tuning. Beginning with the low-E string and progressing up each string, standard tuning is: EADGBE. Tune each string one at a time. Take your time. The tuner will let you know when it is in tune.
Bear in mind that the string is wound on a spindle and when tightened and left tightened, there can usually be no slippage. However, if the string is tightened, then loosened just a tad before there is an indication that it is in tune. For that reason, there’s an unspoken rule called “Tune UP,” that is always be tightening the string before the tuner says it is tuned. That way, the string is left tight on the spindle.
There are other tunings other than Standard Tuning and they serve various, unique purposes. Some artists experiment non-stop with different tunings. Another tuning commonly used is called Open-D Tuning. The strings are tuned as: DADGAD. It facilitates the use of a slide and is a commonly used tuning in the Blues. There is an Open-C Tuning and many, many more.
That will do it for tuning. Fretboard Theory, Tuning, and, oh yeah…
The tuna? That’s for making lunch later.
Coming up next… Guitar Lesson Reviews
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