As long as you have a good ear for pitch matching, it's easy to learn how to tune a guitar without a tuner. By matching the pitches of the strings to pitches of frets and harmonics, you can tune the six guitar strings to each other; this is known as relative pitch. Unless you have perfect pitch or can hear a single starting pitch to tune one of your strings, you can't tune them absolutely (that is, to the exact pitches of E, A, D, G, B and e), but that doesn't matter as long as you're playing guitar on your own.
To tune a guitar without a tuner, you will need:
How to tune a guitar without a tuner:
- Choose a starting pitch for your low E string. If you aren't sure of the exact pitch, approximate it as best you can using a song that you know has an E.
- Play an A (the fifth fret on the low E string). Play the open A string. If the pitch of the open A string is flatter than the A on the E string, tighten the string; if it is higher, loosen the string.
- Play a D (the fifth fret on the A string). Play the open D string and tune it to the D on the A string.
- Play a G (the fifth fret on the D string). Tune the open G string to this note.
- Play a B (the fourth fret—not the fifth fret!—on the G string). Play the open B string and tune it to this note.
- Play the open high E string. The open E string should be exactly two octaves higher. Tune the high E string until it matches the low E string.
Play the open E string again. This time, play the fifth fret on the B string and tune the B string until this note matches the open E string. Repeat this process, going backwards all the way to Step 1. This will help correct small discrepancies in your tuning.
Check the guitar's tuning against the harmonics. You create harmonics by touching your finger to the string above a fret, but not pressing down. The harmonic at the fifth fret of the E, A, D and B strings will match the harmonic on the seventh fret of the string above it.
- Tune the B string to match the harmonic on the seventh fret of the E string.
Knowing how to tune a guitar without a tuner will help keep you from becoming dependent on chromatic tuners. It will also help improve your pitch-matching skills, making you a better musician.
Fret Jam: How to Tune a Guitar
Six String Zone: How to Tune Your Guitar Without a Tuner
Guitar Noise: How Do I Tune My Guitar Using Harmonics?