How To Tune An Electric Guitar 2023: Complete Beginner’s Guide

If you want to play your electric guitar well consistently, learning how to tune it correctly is crucial. The sooner you learn how to tune your guitar, the faster you’ll be able to enjoy playing it regularly.

I, too, delayed learning to tune my guitar properly for far too long, which hampered my early development as a guitarist.

There are multiple methods for tuning an electric guitar, but I’ll mainly concentrate on standard tuning. This will provide a solid foundation in understanding pitch and harmony.

While some of these techniques are specific to electric guitars, most can also be applied to tuning an acoustic guitar!

It’s essential to know how to tune a guitar in various ways, as you should never be entirely dependent on an electronic tuner. Therefore, I’ll cover how to tune a guitar without a tuner and how to tune a guitar using an app.

How To Tune

Tune By Ear:

Before resorting to an electronic tuner, every guitarist should learn to tune by ear. This valuable skill will benefit you throughout your guitar playing career.

Microphone-Based Tuner:

These electronic tuners detect the sound of each string through a microphone. They feature a basic interface and a display that clearly indicates how close your string is to being in tune.

Vibration-Based Tuner:

Ideal for tuning an electric guitar in noisy or busy environments, vibration-based tuners are popular among guitarists and come in various shapes and sizes.


Often found on stage alongside other exciting pedals, plug-in/pedal tuners are perfect for gigs and studio settings.

The following is a beginner’s guide on tuning an electric guitar, covering the most common methods as well as some more modern techniques.

Mastering tuning now will help you as you start playing beginner guitar songs. Playing an out-of-tune guitar is not a pleasant experience. Once you have a reliable method of tuning, you can start playing and having fun.

I will also discuss the concepts behind standard tuning and the value of experimenting with alternative tunings.

Let’s get started!

Properly Tuning a Guitar

The standard tuning for a guitar is E-A-D-G-B-E.

Several useful mnemonics can help you remember which note corresponds to each string. Once you know which note you’re tuning your strings to, it’s time to begin tuning!

Standard tuning enables you to learn all the fundamental guitar chords and notes in their proper positions.

As you advance, you will experiment with alternative tunings. However, standard tuning will always serve as a foundation and guide for navigating the fretboard.

Most electric guitarists use plug-in/pedal tuners, but it’s also essential to learn how to tune an electric guitar without an amp.

Tuning A Guitar Without A Tuner

Tuning by ear is a standard method for tuning the guitar and an invaluable lesson for beginners. This skill will improve your ability to recognize pitch and help you understand harmony.

With this technique, you’re tuning the guitar relative to itself. It’s crucial to learn this method, as it helps your ear hear pitch variations and the relationships between notes.

Follow these steps to tune a guitar without a tuner:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the pegs on the side of the guitar’s headstock, which you’ll use to tune your guitar. This should be similar for both electric and acoustic guitars.
  2. Low E string: This method requires the low E string to already be in tune. Tune your E string to a piano’s E as a reference. If a piano isn’t available, you could use another guitar as your reference pitch.
  3. A String: Play the fifth fret on the Low E string (an A) and tune your A string to match. This is the method used to tune the remaining strings.
  4. D String: Play the fifth fret on the A string, which is a D note. Tune your D string to match this note.
  5. G String: Use the same method to tune the G string.
  6. B String: To tune the B string, the method changes slightly. Instead of using the fifth fret of the G string, play the fourth fret to find the pitch for the open B string.
  7. High E String: Return to the original fifth fret method to tune the high E string.

Remembering the frets for this method is known as the ‘55545’ technique.

If you have a six-string guitar, you should use this method to keep it in tune. Some people may find it more intuitive than others. Even if it’s challenging at first, it’s worth persevering.

Now that you’ve learned how to tune an electric guitar by ear and relative to itself, let’s look at electronic tuners. In the future, you’ll likely use an electronic tuner more often than tuning by ear.

However, it’s essential not to forget this skill, as it significantly improves your ear training for pitch recognition.

Tuning an Electric Guitar with an Electronic Tuner

For a more straightforward way of tuning your guitar, you can choose from various electronic guitar tuners. Over the years, the industry has developed many innovative electronic tuners to make your tuning experience easier and more accurate.

There are three types of tuners:

  1. Microphone-based tuners
  2. Vibration-based tuners
  3. Plug-in/pedal tuners

Each type has its pros and cons, and all are widely available and relatively easy to use. You can decide which one to use based on your preferences and needs.

Microphone-based tuner

Microphone-based tuners are an excellent addition to your guitar accessory collection and are particularly useful for tuning electric guitars.

As the name suggests, these tuners pick up the sound of each string through a microphone. Most have a straightforward interface and a display that clearly shows how close your string is to being in tune.

They are widely available and generally affordable. For beginners, the simple display and intuitive usage make them an ideal entry point for tuning electric guitars.

The main downside of a microphone-based electronic guitar tuner is that the microphone will pick up other noise. If you’re tuning your guitar this way, you’ll need to find a relatively quiet place to do so.

I recommend the Korg CA-50. This tuner has a wide detection range and marks for pure major and minor third intervals. You can purchase these tuners online and in reputable music stores.

Vibration-based tuner

If you’re concerned about tuning your guitar in a noisy environment, consider using a vibration-based tuner for your electric guitar. These tuners clip onto the headstock of the guitar and detect the pitch of each note through vibrations.

Many of these clip-on tuners are small and convenient, with a needle and interface that usually light up when the string is in tune. Tuning an electric guitar with a vibration-based tuner is quick and easy.

The only downside is that they may seem like an unattractive addition to your electric guitar’s headstock. For many electric guitarists, style is important. Fortunately, there are plenty of other tuners to choose from.


Plug-in or pedal tuners might be the option you use most if you plan to play electric guitar on stage.

While vibration and microphone-based tuners can be used on any guitar, plug-in/pedal tuners are designed specifically for electric guitarists.

You connect your electric guitar via a jack lead. The interface will give you an indication via a light or needle as to how close each string is to being in tune. The downside to these electronic guitar tuners is that they are usually more expensive than vibration or microphone-based tuners.

I recommend the Behringer TU300 or the Boss TU3. Both of these models are popular among electric guitarists for various reasons. They are reasonably priced, reliable, and make tuning an electric guitar exceptionally easy.

Best Guitar Tuning Apps

You might also want to know how to tune a guitar with an app. If you have an electric guitar and a smartphone, finding the right tuning app will be essential.

Finding a good app can make a huge difference when you’re trying to set up your electric guitar before a gig or when you have limited time for preparation.

Many tuning apps are available for free on Apple and Android app stores. However, sometimes it’s worth investing a bit of money to ensure you get a tuning app that is reliable, fast, and easy to use.

How to Tune a Guitar With An App

I always tune my electric guitar before starting a practice or a lesson with my Guitar Tricks app. Their tuner includes real guitar tones, so you know how every string should sound.

The software is reliable, and the interface is intuitive. It is a no-fuss app that will get the job done for your electric guitar.

Below, I’ve listed a few other tuning apps for both iOS and Android that have proved to be useful to many guitarists over the years:

  1. Cleartune is a widely popular tuning app for electric guitars, available for both Android and iOS.
  2. VITALtuner is another excellent option.
  3. Ultimate Guitar: Chords and Tabs also has a handy tuner within their app.

Now that you know how to tune a guitar with an app, you can explore some alternative tunings to experiment with.

As you become more proficient with tuning your guitar, you’ll likely find yourself using electronic tuners more frequently. However, it’s essential to continue practicing tuning by ear to maintain your pitch recognition skills. Whether you choose a tuner app, a plug-in/pedal, or a vibration-based tuner, remember that practice makes perfect and tuning is a vital part of playing the guitar.

Exploring Alternative Guitar Tunings

Venturing into alternative tunings can be an exciting way to discover hidden musical treasures and rejuvenate your playing experience.

Alternative tunings like drop-D are common in heavy metal, while other genres like blues and classical have long embraced them to create unique sounds.

Experimenting with alternative tunings allows you to uncover new tonal possibilities on your fretboard. Make sure to master the fundamentals before you begin adjusting the tuning pegs.

Some well-known alternative guitar tunings include:

Drop D

Favored in heavy metal and grunge music, Drop D tuning involves lowering the low E string to a D. This straightforward modification unlocks a variety of power chord options. Drop D tuning facilitates quick chord transitions and produces a deeper, heavier sound.

Open G

Originating with Delta Blues musicians, Open G tuning was later adopted by blues-rock legends such as The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. A typical string arrangement for open-G is D-G-D-G-B-D. This tuning allows you to play a G major chord across all six strings without fretting or using a capo.

Open D

Open D is another practical open major chord tuning. The open string notes for this tuning are D-A-D-F♯-A-D. Open D tuning is favored by blues and slide guitarists, as it enables full chords using a bottleneck. Bob Dylan also utilized this tuning in several of his songs.


Are you a Sonic Youth fan? Then you should recognize this sound. GABDEG tuning was popularized by the American rock band Sonic Youth, who were instrumental in developing the noise rock and alt-rock genres.

Knowing how to tune a guitar without a tuner allows you to experiment with various string pitches to create intriguing chord shapes and harmonies.

GABDEG tuning is perfect for exploring rock and metal sounds, whether you want to play Sonic Youth songs or simply experiment with alternative tunings. Sonic Youth employed this tuning effectively in their song “Teen Age Riot.”

Now that you know how to tune an electric guitar, it’s time to start experimenting! These tunings and more can help you reimagine the fretboard and reignite your passion for the guitar.

As a beginner, experimenting with alternative tunings can be both enjoyable and beneficial, as it exposes you to the guitar’s vast range of possibilities and may lead you to explore new musical genres.

Tuning for Beginners

The suggestions provided above should help you understand how to tune an electric guitar. As a novice, tuning your guitar without help can be challenging.

With the guidance on how to tune a guitar without a tuner now at your disposal, all you need to do is practice. It may take some time initially, but eventually, you could be tuning your guitar in seconds during a live performance, just like the professionals.

Tuning can be especially difficult if you have an inexpensive guitar that easily falls out of tune. Invest time and money into finding a guitar that suits you, and tuning should become less of a chore when playing a guitar you truly enjoy.

Once you have your guitar, be sure to follow at least one of the methods mentioned earlier.

As your guitar skills improve, I encourage you to create your own tunings. If you write or compose your own music, the ability to find new sounds through tuning can be an invaluable tool.


Learning how to tune an electric guitar is a crucial skill for any guitarist, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player. It’s important to keep your guitar in tune, as this ensures the best possible sound quality and playing experience. There are various methods available for tuning your electric guitar, including using a tuner or tuning app, listening by ear, and using harmonics.

As you become more comfortable with tuning your electric guitar, you may want to explore alternative tunings. These tunings can open up new possibilities for creative expression and lead you towards new genres of music. Some popular alternative tunings include Drop D, Open G, Open D, and GABDEG.

In summary, learning how to tune an electric guitar is an essential skill for any guitarist. By practicing regularly and experimenting with different tuning methods and alternative tunings, you will not only improve your overall guitar playing but also expand your musical horizons. So, pick up your electric guitar, and start tuning!