Tuning guitars is easier than ever. Players are now relying more and more on electronic tuners, rather than tuning by ear. But there are still many factors that can affect the outcome.
“If you are tuning by ear, your ear is king,” says our very own electric guitar specialist Eddie Berman. “If your ear is tired it obviously makes a world of difference.”
But if you are using an electronic tuner, it’s not just the quality of the tuner that affects the results, but also strings, weather, tuning keys, nut’s lubrication, position of the guitar, and several other factors.
Here, directly from Eddie, are six highly-recommended and rarely-heard tuning tips:
1) Weather and temperature are a big factor. When summer comes you are probably playing outdoors, but if you are lucky enough to have an air-conditioned dressing room, “do not sit back there with your guitar waiting to go on,” says Eddie. The guitar needs to be acclimated to the temperature you will find on stage. “We’re kind of trying to take care (of guitars) as if they are a living, breathing thing.” One very crucial mistake you want to avoid is to tune your guitar in the 75-degree room, and hope that it will hold the tuning when you go out and play it in 100 degrees!
2) You should tune your guitar in the position in which you would normally play it. If you tune your guitar laying flat, when you pick it up the tuner will still show it that it is out of tune, but the pitch you are tuning to will not have changed. If you are playing standing up with the strap on, that’s how you need to tune the guitar. And don’t leave your hand on the headstock while you’re tuning — the note will be sharper with your hands off.
3) How you stretch the strings is another big deal. “Don’t be bashful, you gotta yank on them,” says Eddie. While you yank on them, keep constant pressure on the strings with the other hand. You have to repeat this multiple times. You will notice that the string will stabilize itself and won’t dip as much.
4) Another simple, homemade recommendation from Eddie is to use a no. 2 pencil in the nut to lubricate it, so the string goes back and forth with less friction. There are lubrication products out there, but it is easier to just bring a pencil in your guitar case.
5) In the past, Eddie used the bridge pickup while tuning to get “clarity.” But there is another school of thought. You should use the neck pickup instead, with the tone control down. This gives a smaller amount of harmonics to the tuner.
6) And a final tip: if you have super-hot pickups on your guitar, you might distort or overload the tuner. Back the volume off a little bit, and you are good to go.
Most of these tips are as valid for acoustic guitars as they are for electric guitars (except for the the one about pickups).
We hope you will try Eddie’s tips, and let us know what you think.