Accurate tuning is an essential talent for any guitar player. You want to play the perfect tune, after all.
As with playing any other instrument, practice makes perfect for fine-tuning. It’s best to do it before every practice.
Doing so will help you perfect the act of harmonic tuning, where you tune one string with another.
When playing harmonics, you need to use your left hand to turn the keys as the notes remain ringing. This allows you to string all the strings at a quicker pace.
Not sure how to tune a guitar using harmonics? Well, all you need to do is read the tips and techniques below.
Basic Routine for Natural Harmonics
Use an Outside Tuning Source
To fine-tune your guitar through harmonics, you first need to use an outside source. You can use a pitch instrument, such as the pitch-pipe or piano.
You can also tune your guitar with an electronic tuner from your computer or smart device.
Play the Harmonics
Start the routine by playing the harmonic of the fifth fret of the low E string. Listen to the sound it makes.
Next, play the seventh fret harmonics of the fifth string. Listen to it and note the differences between the two harmonics.
Make sure to place your left hand over the fretted note. Don’t just place it behind the fret, which is usually the case for left-hand fingers.
Precise placement can help you produce a clearer harmonic.
Tune the Strings
Tune the 5th fret until the tune matches the 6th string. Continue tuning the other strings.
Test the 4th, then proceed with the 5th string. They are the 5th fret harmonic on the fifth string and the seventh fret on the fourth string, respectively.
Repeat this method for the D string (fourth) and the G string (third). They are the fifth fret on the fourth and seventh fret on the third.
Repeat the Tuning Method
Tune the B string or the second string. Play the 7th fret harmonic on the sixth string. This should match the open B string (no harmonics).
Next, tune the first string. You can do this by playing the harmonic on the seventh fret of the fifth string. This should match the first open string (without the harmonics).
Tuning Fork Method
Apart from the tuning sources mentioned above, you can also use a fork for your guitars.
Since it vibrates at 440 hertz per second, it can create an A pitch (or a ‘la’ in solfege).
To tune your guitar to this pitch, match the tune to the 7th fret harmonic of the D string (fourth).
Other tuning forks vibrate to other harmonic series. Some vibrate at E, although the A-440 is easier to hear.
For these forks, you need to find the harmonic to match the sound. The E fork, for example, corresponds to the seventh fret of the fifth string.
Checking the Guitar Sounds
If you want to check the intonation quickly, all you need to do is play the 12th fret harmonic on a particular string.
Once you play the note, you need to listen if the intonation is off.
Remember to check every string in this case since one may end up sounding off. Should this be the case, you can always replace the strings.
Another way is to ask a guitar technician to look at your instrument. They would immediately know what needs to be done.
Concerns About String Harmonic Tuning
Just like tuning your whole guitar by ear, it can become a game of telephone. In other words, the first string may not be in tune with the final strings.
The only good thing is that the first and second strings are tuned to the sixth and fifth, minimizing the issue.
The string harmonic method also assumes that the guitar’s intonation is perfect, which is not always true. As a result, the harmonic may not equal the pitch you get when you play the string. The sound may be different, especially when plucking nylon guitar strings.
The harmonic method is relatively quiet, so it’s not recommended if you’re in a loud or busy place.
That said, you may try to play it louder as needed with your right hand. Move it back towards the bridge for a bit as you do so.
Doing so will prevent you from muting out frequencies as you play some notes. The best sound quality will come at 3/4 of the string length.
Practice makes perfect with this one. It may take some time before you become more comfortable with the force you use.
There you have it—tuning your guitar with harmonics. It may be hard at first, but repeating the process will help you create an excellent sound for your string instrument.