How to Tune a Guitar without a Tuner

How to Tune a Guitar without a Tuner

How to Tune a Guitar Without a Tuner


  • Tuning an electric guitar or acoustic model without a tuner is not only possible, but there are various methods to do so.
  • You can use a smartphone app or simply tune to another instrument, such as a piano or a synthesizer. A tuning fork also works. 
  • You can only tune a guitar by ear by tuning the guitar to itself, starting with the top E string and working your way down the guitar strings to keep the guitar in tune.

If you are new to the world of musical instruments, you may wonder how to tune a guitar without a tuner. Many of the best guitars, after all, are acoustics, and these instruments do not require a dedicated tuner to stay in tune. So what is the standard tuning for the best acoustic guitars, and how can you achieve this tuning without a standalone device? Keep reading to find out.

Alternatives to Tuning With a Tuner

When learning standard tuning, you are not tethered to a dedicated tuner, as you have plenty of options to choose from. These options are great for a standard Yamaha acoustic guitar — or just about any guitar. Keep these in mind when learning how to play slide guitar and when appropriating any new style.

Use a Smartphone App

In the old days, tuners were your only real option to get an instrument tuned to an actual note. That is no longer true, as any smartphone has access to dedicated tuning apps that rival even the most expensive standalone tuners. Head into your preferred app store, download an app, and enable the phone’s microphone. The rest should be pretty self-evident. Tune it to each note just as you would with a standalone tuner.

Use a Piano, Synth, or VST

To tune a guitar to standard tuning, you just need to be able to match the actual notes. In other words, use a piano, synthesizer, or a virtual instrument to create the notes for you and follow along. For a piano, for instance, push a lower E key and to that. Follow that up the scale for the rest of the tuning. Remember, standard guitar tuning is E-A-D-G-B-E. As long as your source instrument is in tune, you should have no problems. With that in mind, a VST might be your best bet, as digital instruments are always in tune.

Tune by Ear

Unless you have perfect pitch, you will not be able to tune by ear to exact notes, but that doesn’t mean your guitar will be out of tune. Use your ear to tune the guitar to itself. Start with the top E string and use that as a reference note. Press down on the 5th fret to create the A note and use that note to tune the second string. Do the same on the second string to tune the third string, and so on. Remember to press down on the actual note and do not just use the fifth fret, as one string, in particular, uses the 4th fret. 

Tuning FAQs

Why learn tuning by ear technique? 

Learning to play by ear helps you learn the correct pitch and stops any reliance you may have on electronic tuners. 

How do you tune a classical guitar? 

Use the same tuning methods described above to tune a classical guitar, as they feature the same tuning pegs as other types of guitar. 

How do you know when it is in tune? 

A guitar is in tune when it sounds good. There is really no magic beyond that, though you can ensure your guitar is in tune by comparing the final product to a tuning fork. 



“Guitar tuning is controlled by the tuning pegs on the headstock of the guitar. Turning the pegs changes the pitch of the strings up or down. Tightening the strings makes the pitch go up; loosening the strings makes the pitch go down.” (source)

TIP: Changing out your strings with new ones generally makes a guitar easier to tune.


Lawrence Bonk
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