Learning how to tune a 12-string guitar in octaves can be a rewarding experience provided you have a bit of patience. An octave is a note or tone that is eight degrees away from the base note or tone. For example, the lowest open note on your 12-string guitar is an “E,” so in order to tune in octaves you must count eight steps up from that note to reach another “E.” This will create a double pair of notes (both tuned to an “E”) though one will be an octave higher. This is the basis for tuning 12-string guitars, as each pair of strings is tuned to the same note. However, not all pairs of strings are tuned in octaves, as we will soon see.
To tune a 12-string guitar, you will need:
- Your 12-string guitar
- An electronic guitar tuner or piano
- Determine the string arrangement. For this guide we will be using the standard 12-string tuning arrangement, which starts from the top lowest note and looks like this: eE, aA, dD, gG, BB, EE. The lower case letters represent the notes that will be tuned an octave higher.
- Start with the lowest pair of notes. Use your electronic guitar tuner or piano to tune the lowest pair of notes (the topmost strings) to “eE.” If you are using a piano to tune these strings, simply count eight steps up from your reference “E” to reach an octave higher “e.”
- The “aA” strings. To tune this pair of strings you can use your tuner, piano or play an “A” on the “E” strings (located at the fifth fret).
- The “dD” strings. To correctly tune your pair of “D” strings, you can play a “D” on the “A” string (located at the fifth fret), or use your electronic tuner or piano.
- The “gG” strings. The octave higher “g” string is the hardest to tune as it is prone to snapping, so be careful when tuning this string. Use an electronic tuner or piano to ensure you have not gone higher than a “g.” Alternatively, you can tune the “G” strings by playing a “G” on the “D” string (located at the fifth fret).
- The “BB” strings. The “B” strings are the first pair not tuned in octaves. Both “B” strings should be exactly the same. You can tune the “B” strings by playing a “B” on the “G” string (located at the fourth fret), or by using your electronic tuner or piano.
- The “EE” strings. Like the “B” strings, the high “E” strings are not tuned in octaves. The “E” strings can be tuned by playing an “E” on the “B” string (located at the fifth fret) or by using your electronic tuner or piano.