Musicians are always trying to develop their ear. One of the simplest forms of ear training is matching pitch or tuning!
So throw away your tuner. Work on tuning by ear. Get one string correct, then us octaves and harmonics to tune the rest of the strings.
I usually use a tuning fork or my metronome to get an A440 (the fifth fret harmonic on the fifth string), and tune the rest of the strings in relation to that string.
Here’s what I do:
- Tune the fifth string with the tuning fork or metronome
- Tune the sixth string by matching its fifth fret harmonic to the fifth string’s seventh fret harmonic.
- Tune the fourth string by matching its seventh fret harmonic to the fifth string’s fifth fret harmonic.
- Match the A on the third string, second fret to the open fifth string.
- Match the D on the second string, third fret with the open fourth string.
- Tune the first string as a fifth with the open fifth string. I also tend to tune the first string to the seventh fret harmonic on the fifth string.
I recently found this great article with very detailed article on Tuning by Ear. Some great suggestions that challenge what I thought I knew about tuning.
After that’s done, additional checks can be done by checking and adjusting fifths. The fifth string C (third fret) with the open third string (G) is a good one to check. As is the open sixth string and the open second string. Checking fifths takes a bit of practice, however, and is not as approachable as tuning in octaves or using unison harmonics. That is, the sound of a good (perfect, even!) fifth is not always in everyone’s ear–the clear “beats” in out of tune octaves or unisons are easier to hear. It’s possible to train your ear to hear a fifth, though!
Its also be a good idea to check octaves all around the guitar.
This method has produced better intonation across the neck for me. However, it will vary from guitar to guitar. I definitely had to adjust the way I tuned a bit when I got my new guitar.
Just a holiday note: First off, thank you so much for reading the classical guitar blog. I wish you and yours happy holidays and a great new year of guitar learning and development. I had hoped to publish a big interview by Christmas, but it’s still in the works (waiting for approval!). Instead there are two new arrangements of Satie available on the Free Stuff page.