Guitar tuning

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Summary

Get a tuning app for your mobile phone, and tune the strings as follow, with the string with the lowest sound, the highest from the ground, when you hold the guitar the normal way (and you're playing right-handed on a right-handed stringed guitar):

  • E2: 82,41 Hz
  • A2: 110 Hz
  • D3: 146,83 Hz
  • G3: 196,00 Hz
  • B3: 246,94 Hz
  • E4: 329,63 Hz

Background

Just some background, in case you feel like complicating the heck out of something that could be simple. You're welcome :)

Tuning systems

Ever since the days of Pythagoras (the triangle guy), musicians has been struggling with the question of how to tune musical instruments. As long as you're playing alone, and on an instrument that produces only one tone at a time (e.g., a flute), things are easy. But as as soon as you play together with other people, especially on instruments that can produce multiple tones at the same time (e.g., guitar, piano), stuff becomes suprisingly difficult.

Over the centuries, various tunings systems or musical temperament have been developed, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. Halfway the 19th century, the then-current meantone temperament has been mostly replaced by the equal temperament tuning system. This is the usual tuning system for guitars and piano's, and probably most instrument. But there are exceptions: Violins seem to be usually meantone temperament-tuned.

This article is limited to equal temperament.

Guitar tunings

Now that we figured out our tuning system, the next question is: What notes to choose?

Reassuringly, there is a guitar tuning called standard, and it is what pretty much everybody uses:

  1. E4: 329,63 Hz
  2. B3: 246,94 Hz
  3. G3: 196,00 Hz
  4. D3: 146,83 Hz
  5. A2: 110,00 Hz
  6. E2: 82,41 Hz

It's often abbreviated as EADGBe. Several mnemonics to remember the pitches:

  • Een Aap Die Graag Bananen Eet
  • Every Amateur Does Get Better, Eventually
  • Eddy Ate Dynamite - Good Bye Eddy.

Different ways to tune

Some ways to tune the guitar:

  1. With an app or tuning device: This is the recommended approach
  2. Through the fifth frets: The fifth (and once fourth) fret of a string should have the same frequency as the next string. This is how folks usually tuned their guitar, before the advent of tuning devices. It's still worthwhile to know how to do this (not discussed here)
  3. Harmonic tuning (flageolet): This way of tuning looks fancy, but it is simply wrong: It actually results in mean temperament tuning and not in equal temperament tuning. Your guitar will be slightly out of tune.

When tuning, start with the lowest string. As it has the thickest string,

  • The thicker the string, the less it gets out of tune. That's why it can be handy to start tuning with the low E string first, for changes are that it isn't much out of tune anyway
  • The basic goal with tuning the guitar, is that the strings are in tune with one another. However, with the advent of tunings apps for mobile phones, and cheap tuning devices, it's very easy to tune a guitar absolutely, meaning that the tones of the strings correspond with the exact tone of that note. That comes handy when playing together with other people.

B-gap

Finally! I figured out why the B-string is tuned relatively lower, compaired to the other strings: [1]

This gap is carried through on the last string. E.g.:

  • The D-string is 10 semitones higher than the high E-string
  • The highe E-string is 9 semitiones higher than the G-string.

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