How to tune a guitar by ear. To tune a guitar by ear you need to know the pitch of the lowest string on the guitar. This is the string number six or the low E string. To find out the low E string pitch that you will need to tune the strings to you can use an E pitch tuning fork or you can use a piano and play the note E or using your phone search for an app that will play you the note E and help you with your tuning. Play the note E on your app, piano or tuning fork so that you can hear the pitch of the note. Now play the low E string on your guitar then turn the tuning peg for the low E string either tighter to tune the string up closer to the reference note or looser to take the string down to the reference note. Keep adjusting the string tension until they sound the same pitch. You may need to replay the note quite a few times until you tune the guitar to the correct note. Let’s have a go.

Now that you have the low E string in tune you can use the low E string as a reference to tune the next string on the guitar. The note on the fifth string is an A note also the note that is made by placing your finger on the fifth fret of the sixth string is also A. If you place your finger on the sixth string in the fifth fret and play both the sixth string and the fifth string they should be the same pitch because they’re both an A note. Try it and listen to the pitch difference. If you find the pitch is different you will need to adjust the fifth string either up or down until it sounds the same as the note
on the fifth fret of the sixth string.

Let’s try tuning the fifth string, here we go. Now that the fifth string is in tune we can move to the fourth string. The note on the fifth fret of the fifth string is the note D which is the same note as the open fourth string. Place your finger on the
fifth fret of the fifth string play the note then play the fourth string. Again they should sound the same. Tune the fourth string until it sounds the same as the fifth fret on the fifth string. Let’s tune the fourth string.

To tune the third string place your finger on the fifth fret of the fourth string and play the note followed by the third
string, this is the note G. Let’s tune the third string. To tune the second string is a little bit different put your finger on the fourth fret not the fifth, on the third string this note is B and the B string is the second string. You can now tune the B string using the fourth fret on the third string.

Let’s tune B. To tune the last E string put your finger on the fifth fret of the second string, this note is E You can now tune the high E string. Now that you have the E string tuned play the low E sixth string and the high E first string at the same time, they should sound like the same note but two octaves apart, like this. If the notes don’t sound the same then you need to start again at the sixth string, check each note and check them slowly. It only takes one wrong note and every other string from then on will be out take it slowly as this is a skill that many people struggle with and can take time to learn to do correctly. If you want to check your tuning go back to your electric tuner and see how well you did. 

It is well worth learning this skill as there will be times when you can’t find an electric tuner or the battery goes flat and you want your guitar to sound in tune whenever you play. Each time you pick up the guitar, quickly run through and check the tuning by ear fix it and then check with your tuner soon you’ll be able to tune your guitar by ear confidently.

Remember that the first note low E string must be at the correct pitch first so always use a reference note played first to check that the low E string is correct. As a helpful hint you may find that you can only get the note for A or Concert A, as it is sometimes called. Because the second string is the note A you can tune the second string first then use the second string to tune the first string once you’ve completed that you can then move on as normal through the other strings.