There are many ways to tune an electric guitar. The easiest way is with a guitar tuner, if the intonation is set properly. Tuning a guitar trains your ear to the different sounds of each note.
Find a tuner that works with an electric guitar. Learn to tune your guitar with one note off a fixed source, or by ear. This will help train the ear for the pitch of each note and help with finger placement and the pressure to be applied to the string.
One way to tune is set out below: – Start off with open A (this is the second largest or 5th string). – Use a fixed source such as the piano, harmonica, tuning fork, even another guitar – Now make the A string match the pitch or tone of the A source note by picking the A string and letting it ring – Loosen the string below the tone and then tune while increasing the tension – Loosening and then tightening works best and keeps the guitar in tune longer
Once the A string is tuned move to the D string. – The D string is directly below the A string, it is the 4th string – Sound D by placing your middle finger on the 5th fret on A – This will give the D sound – Hold the finger down and leave it to ring while adjusting D
Now move to the G string; this is directly under the D string and is the 3rd string. – Sound G by placing your middle finger on the 5th fret on the D string – Let the sound ring out by holding your finger down – Adjust G by matching it to the sound
Then comes the B string or the 2nd string. This is directly under the G string. – Place your middle finger on the 4th fret on the G string – Hold your finger down to let it ring out – Adjust the B string to match the sound
Next, the upper E string, the thinnest string and the one below the B string. – Place your middle finger on the 5th fret of the B string; this gives the upper E note – Let it ring out by holding your finger down – Adjust the E string to match the sound
Finally, lower E, the largest string and also the first: – Place your middle finger on the 5th fret of lower E – This gives an open A sound – Match the sound produced by the A string to the 5th fret note – Adjust lower E accordingly
Be aware that when you tighten a string to tune it it’s put under lots of tension. Normally, this is not a problem. However, if your guitar has rough parts that can snag a string. If you tune it incorrectly and over tighten the string, it will break. Since the string is under so much tension, it can cause a lot of damage. Don’t over tighten strings. If in doubt, tune down.
You need to do one string at a time. Strings have tension and a pulling effect on the guitar’s neck. The force that each string exerts on the neck causes it to bend slightly.
Once you have tuned your guitar, you will probably find that some strings have gone out of tune. You will need to repeat the above procedure until all the strings are in tune.
Good intonation means your guitar will stay in tune as you play different notes along the neck. The string may be perfectly in tune but, on the 10th fret, it might be ½ semitone out. This is bad intonation.
Bad intonation can be caused by a mismatch between the length of the string and the spacing of the frets. It can also be caused by a non-uniform string (that is, the thickness changes along the length). If you can’t fix the intonation, try changing your strings.
Intonation is easily adjusted on the electric guitar since the bridge consists of several adjustable parts. A flat note means the string is too long, whereas a sharp note means the string is too short. Adjust the string slightly by moving the appropriate bridge piece. You may have to repeat this several times on each string. It is time-consuming the first time you do it, but well worth your while.