Tuning a guitar using harmonics

How to Tune a Guitar Using Harmonics

Most beginner guitarists tend to rely on acoustic guitar tuners to help them tune their new acoustic or electric guitar.  However, learning how to tune a guitar using harmonics without a tuner is a great way to train your ear.  

 

There are multiple techniques for tuning.  But, using what is known as guitar harmonics is by far the most accurate way to tune your guitar.

Watch the demonstration below for a step-by-step guide to tune a guitar using harmonics.

How to Create Guitar Harmonics

The first step to tuning your guitar using harmonics is to learn how to create a harmonic. You create a harmonic when you lightly place your finger on a specific nodal point along the guitar string and plucking the string. This is most notably at the 5th, 7th and 12th frets – although there are others.  Test out exactly where to place the finger, but it usually works best when the finger is directly above the fret.

Doing this creates a tone much higher than if you had pressed down firmly on the fret. These higher tones are much easier for the ear to pick up and discern, therefore making tuning the beginner guitar easier.

Tune a Guitar Using Harmonics

Once you understand how to create a harmonic, the next step is to tune the guitar. You will begin on the 5th fret of the top string (the E) and create the harmonic. While that is still ringing, pluck the harmonic on the 5th string (the A) on the 7th fret. These two should sound exactly the same.

Move along each of the 6 strings and repeat this same process, testing the 5th fret harmonic of the top string against the 7th fret of the string below it.

There is one exception.  Due to the way a guitar is laid out, this will not work on the G string going to the B string. In this case just press down on the 4th fret of the G string and compare that to the open B string.

Testing Your Tuning

In order to test the accuracy of your tune, use the 12th fret harmonic on both the top E and bottom E strings. If they sound in perfect tune, then you’ve done a good job! If not, it’s back to the drawing board 🙂

4 thoughts on “How to Tune a Guitar Using Harmonics

  1. Chris Reynard

    I stumbled into a harmonic way to tune the B string… by hitting the B harmonic on the low E string, 7th fret. Just wanted to pass this on.
    Also, fwiw, to establish proper pitch, there must be a “standard” in which to start – after all, one can tune their guitar harmonically, but it can still be flat… or sharp to proper pitch. I used a 440 (A) tuning fork for years.
    Please keep posting on G+!!

    Reply
  2. K Urkosky

    If you read some published articles on the internet that actually show the math involved using 5th & 7th Fret harmonics is far from accurate due to the error in the harmonic at the 7th fret.

    Reply

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