We're going to cover how to use a guitar tuner, specifically the pedal tuner variety. Though, it's worth noting that most guitar tuners work the same way, meaning you can extrapolate the steps we cover here if you have a different kind of tuner.
Types of tuners could include the following:
- Clip on based on vibration
- Microphone-based tuner
- Guitar pedal tuner (chromatic)
All guitar tuners work by listening to the input of your guitar, telling you where the pitch is registering, then showing you how far you need to tune to reach your desired pitch. For example, let's say you wanted to tune your low E string (the thickest one) to E, and the tuner reads it as E flat, as you play the string. Tuners will typically show this by red lines to the left or right of a green "target" like on this tuner graphic:
That tuner would then show that you need to tune up to reach your desired E pitch.
In this article, we'll show you how to use a guitar tuner and how to set everything up in your rig.
Keep in mind, this process can apply to any of the following instruments:
- Electric guitar
- Acoustic guitar
Let's get started with setup and go from there.
Step 1: Connect your tuner
Unless your tuner relies on a microphone (most don't) your tuner will have an input. Plug the instrument cable from your guitar into the tuner's input jack. You won't need to plug anything into the tuner's output, unless you want to put the tuner in the rest of your signal chain (connect to additional pedals).
Read more: Ordering effects pedals
Step 2: Connect tuner to power source
Your tuner will need a power source which, if it's a pedal tuner, can come from a 9V battery or guitar pedal power supply with its own 9V power cable. Once you've connected to the tuner's input from your guitar, you can add the power via battery or by connecting a cable from your power supply to the tuner's power input. If the tuner is not in pedal form, a 9V battery or some other battery (AA, AAA, etc.) arrangement may be your only option.
Read more: Guitar pedal power supplies
Step 3: Pick a single string
Pick a string to see how close you are to being in tune. Standard tuning for a guitar is E - A - D - G - B - E going from the thickest to the thinnest string. For whatever string you pick, see how close you are to the note or "pitch" it should be. Sixth string should be E, fifth should be A, and so on.
Read more: Fretboard notes
Step 4: Use the tuner pegs to adjust
Now, use the tuning peg on your guitar's headstock (for the corresponding string) to adjust the pitch up or down. As you turn the peg the pitch of the string will change and the tuner will read the pitch to you as it changes. Once it gets close to the pitch you want, you can make more minor adjustments until it sounds right and the letter readout from your tuner is steady or on the green "target" (or your tuner's equivalent).
Step 5: Repeat process for all six strings
Steps three and four should now be repeated until all six strings are tuned correctly. Most people start with the low E (the thickest string) and tune until they get to the high E. Once you get used to the process, it's super-quick and easy to do on the fly. Most guitar players even use pedal tuners to tune when playing live, in between songs.
That's a Wrap
Once you get the hang of tuning your guitar, it's good practice to keep your tuner in your guitar rig somehow. This is why pedal tuners are so helpful as they can just become part of your pedalboard. In step two, you would simply run an instrument cable from the output of your pedal tuner to the input of your first guitar pedal.
In this setup, most tuners will actually mute your signal so you can tune silently, even while the rest of your electric guitar rig is on.
If you have an acoustic guitar without electronics, you might need to look at a smaller tuner like a clip on or something that uses a microphone.
Do you have questions about how to tune a guitar or how to use a guitar tuner? If so, feel free to leave them in the comments section on this page and we'll do our best to help out.