April 19, 2023

Standard Guitar Tuning: Quick Guide To Guitar Tuning

As you learn to play guitar, it's important to also learn how to make sure your guitar is in tune, and the first step to that is to understand Standard Guitar Tuning.

Especially as you're learning, keeping your guitar strings in tune is critical for helping to reinforce that you're playing the right notes --- if you're out of tune, not even the perfect fingering can make your chord sound like it's supposed to.

With that, here's everything you need to know to tune your guitar to Standard Guitar Tuning, also known as E Standard Tuning.

What Are the Notes for Standard Guitar Tuning?

Before actually tuning your guitar, it's important to know how the guitar is laid out.

Standard E Tuning for a guitar is as follows:

  • Low E on the thickest string, closest to you, String 6
  • A on String 5
  • D on String 4
  • G on String 3
  • B on String 2
  • High E on the thinnest string, furthest from you, String 1

When purchasing a new set of strings or even when learning guitar through a music learning software, you'll see the strings are numbered.

These one-through-six numbers start from the highest string and end on the low E. Try to fight the urge to call your Low E String 1, even though it's the string closest to you when looking down at your guitar!

These strings are each tuned to very specific frequencies. Sound is measured in hertz, or the number of times the string's vibrations change directions in one second to create sound. If you want to see this in action, you can actually record yourself in slow motion plucking your Low E string, and you'll see it vibrate back and forth.

The exact frequencies matter because that's what tuners are detecting to get you to the perfect note.

Here are the frequencies you'll tune to for E Standard:

  • 82.41 Hz Low E (6th string)
  • 110.00 Hz A (5th string)
  • 146.83 Hz D (4th string)
  • 196.00 Hz G (3rd string)
  • 246.94 Hz B (2nd string)
  • 329.63 Hz High E (1st string)

What If I Pick Up a Bass?

[RS+] Standard Guitar Tuning SEO ARTICLE - What if I pick up a bass

It's normal for a guitarist to also eventually pick up a bass, banjo, mandolin, or any other stringed instrument to give it a go.

A common transition is the bass guitar --- the bass guitar is as essential as the electric or acoustic guitar in any musical setting. From the smooth walks you'll hear in the blues, to the driving eighth notes of heavy rock and rockabilly, every band needs a bass guitar.

The notes on a standard bass are:

  • E on the thickest string closest to you
  • A
  • D
  • G on the thinnest string furthest from you

Looking between the two instruments, you will find the notes of the bass match the lowest 4 strings of the guitar. If you wanted to, the standard runs and walks you play on your guitar could be played on bass!

The big difference is that the bass is tuned to a much lower frequency:

  • 41.203 Hz E
  • 55.00 Hz A
  • 73.416 Hz D
  • 97.999 Hz G

Do I Need To Regularly Tune My Guitar If I Always Play in Standard Guitar Tuning?

Whether you have an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, it's important you tune your guitar each time you play, even if it's just a quick practice session.

Ensuring your guitar is in perfect tune not only ensures you're ultimately producing the right notes, but can also help you better play by ear and understand what notes do or don't belong in certain scales and modes.

It's also essential you re-check that your guitar's in tune before you perform, even if you just practiced beforehand. A singular string being slightly out of tune can cause your chords to sound off, even if what you're doing on the fretboard is spot on.

The bottom line: Always tune your guitar, and check your tuning frequently if you're part of a particularly long jam sesh.

How To Tune a Guitar to Standard Guitar Tuning (E Standard)

The only tool you'll need to tune your guitar is a quality guitar tuner, and you can download the Rocksmith tuner, with guided tuner & chromatic tuner, for free through Google Play or The App Store.

Try to find yourself a relatively quiet area to tune your guitar. While it's usually okay for there to be general ambient noise like people talking around you, loud noises (like other musicians also trying to tune) can mess with your readings and make precise tuning difficult.

One String at a Time

When tuning your guitar, take it one string at a time. Starting with the Low E string closest to you (aka the 6th string), only pluck that string, and slowly make your adjustments.

With the string ringing, rotate the tuning nut in one direction and listen to hear if the tone rises or drops.

While righty-tighty lefty-loosey hasn't failed you yet, it could here --- depending on how the string was wrapped around the tuning peg, turning it to the right could make it tighter or looser, so use your ear to hear if the note gets higher or lower.

Always Tune Up to the Note

When tuning a guitar, you want to rise to the perfect tone. If your tone is too high, drop your frequency down past the tone you actually want, then slowly tune up until you're at the perfect pitch.

As you loosen the string tension, there is a chance with friction that the string will ever so slightly hang on the guitar nut, and once you actually play the string, it can slip and cause the tone to drop. This isn't always the case and can be avoided with graphite lubricants added to the nut when restringing your guitar.

Now You're Ready To Use Your Tuner

[RS+] Standard Guitar Tuning SEO ARTICLE - TUNER

Turn on your tuner.

  • When using the Rocksmith Tuner, simply open the app on your phone and click the green "Tune Your Guitar" box ---  by default, you're set to tune to E Standard Tuning. The app will show you a visual of a guitar, highlighting the tuning peg and string you should tune on your own guitar --- as you adjust, it will show you whether you need to raise or lower the pitch of the string to perfectly get to the right note.

To choose from more than 30 alternative tunings, tap the current tuning at the bottom of the screen (in the screenshot, it's shown as "E Standard") to open the tuning selection menu.

To use the Chromatic Tuner, tap the upper left tuner selection setting (in the screenshot, it's shown as "Guitar (6-Inline)"), and choose the chromatic tuner option.

  • If you are using a generic tuner, ensure it's set to "Guitar" or "Chromatic."

  • If you are using a clip-on style tuner, you'll want to clip the tuner to your headstock in a way you can see the screen. Other clip-on tuners designed for acoustic sound holes need to be attached following the manufacturer's instructions.

  • If you are using a plug-in tuner, you'll need to unplug your sound cable from your amp and attach it straight into the tuner. While most plug-in tuners are designed to run a second cable from the tuner to the amp, it's not recommended you leave the tuner plugged in and "play through" the tuner unless you're specifically using a high-end play-through tuner.

Re-Check After You're Done

Your guitar is a balancing act of tension. The strings are pulled against the wooden neck, and to avoid the neck bowing over like a bow-and-arrow, a truss rod is inserted inside. The truss rod is tightened to pull tension back in the other direction.

If you remove all the strings on your guitar and look at the neck, you will likely see it arches.

When you add the strings and tighten them down across the fretboards, it pulls and flattens the neck back out.

With this in mind, changing to an alternative tuning or changing back to standard tuning may add or take away extra tension.

You've tuned your first string, and it was accurate, but after adding or taking away a bunch of tension with the other 5 strings, your first string could be off again, so make sure to give each string a final check after you've made it through all 6.

When learning to play guitar with Rocksmith+, you'll notice this final check happens whenever you tune your guitar before you start the next song!

What Is the Best Guitar Tuner?

The more precisely your guitar is tuned, the cleaner your playing will sound. You could play the most recognizable song in the world without flaw, but a guitar that is even slightly out of tune won't give you the credit for that perfect run.

In this day and age, most of us wouldn't step out of the house without our phone on us. You're likely carrying your own piece of advanced technology in your pocket right now, and built-in, it has an extremely high-quality mic, which means you already have an electronic tuner on hand.

Tuner apps such as Rocksmith Tuner (which is a free, professional-grade tuner) are designed and calibrated to tune your guitar. The Rocksmith Tuner offers a little extra with a precise chromatic tuner, over 30 alternative tunings to pick from, and the ability to tune a guitar or bass.

How Can You Quickly Check Your Tuning?

[RS+] Standard Guitar Tuning SEO ARTICLE - How can you quickly check your tuning

If you generally only play in Standard Tuning, your tuner may only see the light of day once a week.

Trust us, you'll want to let it out of the case more to frequently check your tuning.

Things happen. Sometimes you bend a string a little too far during a solo, or you bang the tip of your guitar against your mic stand as you're really getting into the music. If you're out enjoying your favorite local artist and you see them turn down the volume on their guitar to quickly pluck through their strings, they're checking if they're still in tune.

We all work hard to sound good --- don't let a string out of tune turn your chord sour. So reach over, click on your tuner, and check that your guitar is perfect if you've got even a minute before the next song in the set. 

Turn Your Tuner Off

The nice part about using your phone as a tuner is that you don't have to remember to turn it off --- with traditional tuners, you have to turn them back off if you don't want to have to change the battery every time.

This seems simple, but the reality is that you go through and check your tuning quickly, then you look away and head straight into your song --- even tuners designed to automatically shut off may stay on if they detect the sound coming from your guitar.

That said, most of these tuners use non-standard batteries, so if you're not using the free Rocksmith Tuner on your phone, make sure you always have the right batteries on hand in case your tuner dies when you really need it the most!

Why Did My Guitar Fall Out of Tune?

[RS+] Standard Guitar Tuning SEO ARTICLE - Why did my guitar fall out of tune

While it's true that higher-quality guitars are designed to maintain their tune much longer than a cheaper guitar, every guitar will fall out of tune from time to time.

This is especially true when traveling with your guitar. As wood is exposed to warmer temperatures, the moisture within the grains of wood slightly expands, causing the wood to "grow." As those temperatures drop, the water content contracts and causes the wood to "shrink."

Even taking your guitar from your house to your car to wherever you plan to play will likely cause the guitar to grow and shrink even just a little, pushing it out of tune.

Musicians often refer to waiting for a guitar to reach temperature as "leveling out" so it can stay in tune.

Your guitar can also fall out of tune over time as the vibrations of the strings and tension on the tuning pegs cause the peg to ever so slightly rotate. This is normal, and something tuner locks and guitar designs have pushed to correct over the years.

The History of Guitar Tuning

What we know of today as "Standard Tuning" wasn't always the standard way to tune a guitar. As you start exploring music from around the world and from different points in history, you will find a range of different tunings.

Throughout history, the six-string guitar wasn't always the standard, and musicians would tune their guitars by ear. This gave musicians a unique sound, with many songs being a singular guitar and singer, which meant the guitarist could play whatever they wanted without clashing with other band members --- because there was simply no "band" yet.

If you were to play Renaissance-era music, you would find that the standard for lutes and vihuelas were usually ADGBE tuning, leading guitarists of the time to use EADGBE tuning.

As music developed and changed, different sounds and guitar chords became popular.

This eventually led to the development of today's Standard E tuning.

It's not quite that Standard Tuning is the "best" tuning, but more that it matches modern transitions and playing styles for musicians in the past couple of centuries.

Why Does That Old Song Sound Out-of-Tune?

If you're a fan of early 1900s music, such as early Southern blues, you may notice that a specific solo or run sounds a bit off, and when you try to reproduce it yourself on your own guitar, it just doesn't sound right even with a fresh tune.

While a wider range of equalization and new developments in pickups will absolutely give you a more well-rounded sound, in many cases, it's the tune of that old guitar that isn't quite "right."

The first guitar tuner, the Stroboconn, didn't hit the market until 1936, and was a massively complex machine. A proper portable tuner wouldn't be seen until the 1970s. This means early guitarists had to tune using a tuning fork or by ear.

Once you had the Low E string either tuned (or at least close to it), you could tune the rest of the guitar simply based on the frets.

  • The 5th fret on the Low E string was an A, so you could tune the next string up (the 5th String) to A, and follow this pattern until all of your strings were tuned
  • The 5th fret on the A string is a D
  • The 5th fret on the D string is a G
  • The 4th fret on the G string is a B
  • The 5th fret on the B string is an E

This basic 5 5 5 4 5 pattern is still used by many guitarists to quickly check if their guitar is in tune with itself.

The downfall is that if that initial E string is out of tune, the entire guitar will be out of tune.

Get Your Guitar in Tune, Then Put Those Strings to Work

Knowing how to keep your guitar in tune will keep your playing sounding more balanced and precise.

When learning to play new songs, it's important that your tuning is as accurate as possible. For this job, it's important to use a tuner you can trust.

When you want to learn a new song or improve your skills as a musician, check out the more than 6,000 songs with Rocksmith+.

Don't think you have what it takes to play complex songs?

Rocksmith allows you to simplify songs down to your comfort level, increasing the difficulty as you go, allowing you to build your skills and confidence into those complex riffs and solos.


World of Guitar Tuning | Rāga Junglism

Frequency and Period of a Wave | The Physics Classroom

Stroboconn 6T | Formica Peak

Social Share


Learning Guide

Get My Guide