Electric Guitar Tuning
Fast and Accurate

Electric Guitar Tuning. How to get it right and keep it right.

Why is precise guitar tuning so critical to your sound?

Guitar tuning problems can wreck your sound. Any inconsistency in your electric guitar tuning become a problem when it is amplified and then you add distortion, harmonics and the overtones of your electric guitar interact in ways that make you sound, well crummy.

Being out of tune is obvious to some people with a good ear and may simply make other people wonder why they are uncomfortable with your sound.

The problem is that electric guitar tuning, in general, has always been a challenge because any stringed instrument is almost impossible to get absolutely perfect all the way up and down the neck. Close but hardly ever perfect.

It's taken hundreds of years for the worlds best musical ears to get it them to where it is almost right and its still not perfect.

There is a detailed explanation for it, but I'm not going to get into that because it's complicated and I don't understand it either.

Advances have been made to improve results. State of the art electronic tuners, advances in tuning machine design, bridge design, graphite nuts, compensated nuts, tuning systems and locking tuners have made guitar tuning more precise and closer to the ideal of a perfectly tuned guitar that stays in tune.

The first step is buying electric guitars that are high in quality and will be a joy to play instead of a burden to endure because its just a bad design or the components are not a good enough quality to give you the tools to work so you can stay in tune.

Inferior components like cheap tuning machines that don't work quite right or a bridge design that makes intonation difficult are out there on guitars that look great appearance wise.

Guitar nuts that are not cut right can mess you up too by binding and causing the string to slip and let out a pinging sound suddenly. This can be solved sometimes with a bit of graphite or nut lube in the nut slot but if the nut is not cut right it will still be a problem.

Any guitar you buy should be evaluated by a good guitar tech to make sure you are not making a mistake buying it.

Most of the time, this will not be a problem, if its a quality guitar.

Electric guitar tuning depends on having a guitar in good shape to start with. Take my word for it, I've made a few mistakes in this area.

Listen to your guitar tech, returning a bad guitar is worth it if they say the guitar you picked is not the best it could be.

Especially if you dropped a large amount of money on the thing. If the problem is not your fault most of the online guitar stores will pay postage.

Most of the time, no matter how good the guitar is, it probably needs a setup (setting the action, intonation, neck adjustment and making sure the frets are level to make it play right and set it up to your personal playing preferences.

By the way, leveling frets is very expensive and is in my opinion a good reason to send a guitar back to the store that you bought it at if it is not perfect.

If you are in love with that particular guitar, fret leveling is around $200.

So your most likely going seeing your guitar tech for a setup, have him or her check it carefully. It's an investment in the enjoyment of your guitar to make sure everything is right. Ok, you've got a great guitar. Good start. What can you do to get it in tune fast and keep it in tune as long as possible?

Electric Guitar Tuning Tips

These are some ways to improve your guitars ability to hold itself in tune longer.

  1. Good fresh strings properly installed and stretched. Dirty old, stretched out strings just don't respond the way a good string should.
  2. Locking tuners - easily installed, makes changing strings a breeze and they stay in tune better. The ease of restringing your guitar and tuning stability are what make these worth buying. Make sure you are buying the right ones, or have your guitar tech get them for you.
  3. Consider a heavier gauge string as your fingers get stronger. They stay in tune better.(proceed with caution neck adjustments may be necessary)
  4. Talk to your guitar tech about the advanced bridge designs that are out there. They can improve tuning stability.
  5. If you get a ping or pop sound and suddenly go out of tune when you tuning try some graphite on the nut, if that doesn't work see your guitar tech. They can make sure your nut slots are cut right so they don't bind or install a graphite nut for you.

Once you've got your tuning stability where you want it, an electronic tuner will help get your guitar in tune fast.

Here's what I recommend.

  1. For onstage work, a good rack tuner is easy to use and accurate. I recommend a Korg DTR-2000 Rackmount Digital Tuner for their long list of features, versatility and ease of use.
  2. If you prefer a pedal tuner - the Boss TU-2 is a proven workhorse.
  3. They are designed for versatility and they are tough. There are various alternate tunings so its good to have a tuner that can handle the job. This was my first electric guitar tuning choice.
  4. The Peterson strobostomp is a strobe tuner in a stomp pedal and is my top choice for being extremely accurate versatile and just downright impressive to anyone watching you tune. They also have specially sweetened tuning that really bring out the best sounds in a guitar. A noticeable difference in sound.
  5. Planet waves desktop strobe tuner 15 times more accurate than ordinary tuners. Electric guitar tuning at its finest. Allot of fun to use
  6. Planet waves S.O.S. strobe tuner. A strobe tuner a little bit bigger than a guitar pick. I like mine.You just turn the dial to the string you want to tune, beam the light on it and tune it till the string stops moving. This one is easy to take with you and is accurate.
  7. Tuner software - The Peterson Strobosoft suite. Very impressive in versatility and accuracy. Great for computer based guitar workstations.

There you go - tune it up and let's make some music.

Links to useful websites

Boss Tu-2 tuner for electric guitar

Peterson strobostomp tuner

N tune on board tuner

Return to home from electric guitar tuning.

Roy Barnett

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