How to Tune your Guitar Without a Tuner Easily

There are tons of guitar tuning apps that will help you tune your guitar in seconds.

So, why do we even think about tuning it by our ears? Why learn how to tune your guitar without a tuner? I mean, is that even necessary?

Well, let’s put it this way- tuning a guitar with a tuner is for beginners. But don’t judge yet! Let’s delve into the benefits of tuning your guitar without a tuner, standard E tuning, a step-by-step process, and some quick tips.

Why is tuning a guitar without a tuner considered beneficial?

Honestly speaking, a guitarist’s experience and sense of music are judged by some of his/her attributes.

The ability to tune his guitar without any technological touch may not be an important one, but it sure does reflect how inconsiderate he/she is to memorize the notes.

Besides, it doesn’t take rocket science to learn how to tune a guitar without a tuner. All you need is the basics.

It is true that technology has made our lives easier, but this is pure knowledge that you can’t just ignore, or underrate at all. 

Your ears develop as you start spending more time on practice. Don’t rush, just follow a proper routine and you will be there.

There is no specific time for perfection as it varies from person to person. But if you keep playing, your ears will adapt to the notes that are necessary for tuning the guitar all by yourself.

How to Tune your Guitar Without a Tuner

The Standard E Tuning

There are, however, lots of tune configurations these days. But, the majority of them follow Standard E tuning, that is – E A D G B E from the thickest string (6th) to the thinnest (1st). 

The process of tuning the guitar is simple. First, you must tune the 6th string. Then, you go down to the 1st one by one. 

Please remember, the perfection of this process closely depends on how developed your ears are. The more accurate pitching your ears can detect, the more accurate your tuning is going to be. 

See also: Best guitar for drop tuning

Steps of Tuning

First, we must tune the E String. Assuming you don’t know how the perfect E string sounds like, click here and listen.

Pick up your guitar, tune your 6th string, and adjust it according to the sound of the audio clip.

The next steps are quite important for you to remember.

Fret 1

In the fretboard, you can play certain notes by placing your fingers on them. For example, if you place your finger on the 5th fret of the 6th string, you get an A. But isn’t that the tune of your 5th string?

Now, considering the E String is already tuned, all you have to do is adjust your 5th string according to the 6th string while placing your finger on the 5th fret. 

Fret 2

Match both sounds, and you are almost there. 

Next, you place your finger on the 5th fret of the A string (5th) and you get a D, which is your 4th fret’s tune. Repeat what you just did for the previous string.

Fret 3 

Same thing for the G string.

Fret 4

To tune your B string, you must match it with the 4th fret of your 3rd string(G).

Fret 5

For the thinnest string E, we follow the 5th fret rule.

So the sequence is – 55545.

See also: Guitar care tips

Accuracy Measurement

Again, it strictly depends on your ears, but there is one more thing. While comparing two strings, you are most likely to hear a clear WARBLING sound that is created when two strings don’t match in terms of frequency.

The lesser the frequency difference, the more accurate your tuning will be. This warbling sound may be similar to a tiny uncomfortable vibration. 

This is not perfect. But with time, you will find it easier and start making more accurate tunings of your guitar. 

See also: Differences between guitar and ukelele

Quick Tips

  • Be confident while tuning, otherwise you may end up tearing a string.
  • Start increasing your pitch from low to high as it is more accurate.
  • While stroking two strings, the first stroke is the one that is being tuned.

Wrapping Up

Standard E tuning is not the only tune configuration in the world. But you will have the basics about how to tune a guitar without a tuner in any configuration if you follow the steps described above.

You must have your guitar while reading it and try to implement these. This will help you understand the sequence and remember it for a long time. 

If you are a beginner, don’t worry about the accuracy just yet. For you, we even recommend sticking with a tuner app for a while. Once you are done with some of the fingerpicking lessons, you might give it a try.

But if you want to try it anyway, just relax and don’t panic.

Keep calm and keep rocking!

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tune my guitar without a tuner?

As a seasoned guitarist, I remember my early days of struggling with guitar tuning. But over time, I learned that it’s quite possible, and interestingly fun, to tune without a tuner. The first thing to note is that standard guitar tuning is E, A, D, G, B, E – starting from the lowest string to the highest.

Start by tuning your lowest string (E) as accurately as possible. You can use a keyboard, a piano, or even play a specific clip of a song you know starts with an E note. From there, getting the rest of the strings is fairly easy. Fret the fifth fret on the E string (which should now be in tune), and you should hear an A note. Compare this to your open A string and adjust until they produce the same sound.

Repeat the same process for the other strings, but remember that the B string is tuned by fretting the fourth fret of the G string instead of the fifth.

This method, called "relative tuning," has saved me several times when my tuner was missing or my device was out of battery. Picking up this skill makes jamming impromptu even more enjoyable and easier.

How do you manually tune a guitar by ear?

Coming from someone who’s played the guitar for years, manually tuning a guitar by ear is a skill that can be cultivated with practice and the right approach. The process involves *relative tuning*, where you tune one string and then use it as the reference to tune others.

Firstly, fix your low E string as close to the correct note as possible. From there, you can tighten or loosen each consecutive string to match the pitch of the note on the 5th fret of the preceding string (or the 4th fret for the G string, when tuning the B string).

Remember that this method assumes your first string, the E string, is perfectly in tune. This method won't be effective if your initial E note reference is out of tune. I recall those early years of practice when my ear was gradually training to pick up slight differences in pitch. Don't be daunted if it seems hard initially, it becomes more intuitive and faster with time.

How to tune a guitar easily?

There’s a reason why the guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. It’s flexible, versatile, and simple to get started with. But one burning question for most beginners is how to easily tune it.

A simple, foolproof method is to use an electronic guitar tuner. You just have to clip it onto the headstock of the guitar, strum each string, and then the tuner will show the closest note to what the string is currently tuned to. You can then adjust the string until the tuner shows that you're at the correct note.

On many occasions, when I was on the go without my usual gadgets, I utilized my smartphone by installing guitar tuning apps. These include gStrings and Pano Tuner among others. They come in handy and are quite accurate.

Over time, you might also want to learn to tune by ear. It's challenging, but can be very rewarding and allows you to tune your guitar anywhere, even when no tuning aids are available.

It's all a matter of personal comfort and convenience. With time, you'll find the method that works best for you!

How do you tune a guitar with just strings?

As a full-time musician, I’ve found that learning to tune a guitar using only the strings comes in handy during those inevitable moments when a tuner is unavailable.

This method, commonly referred to as relative tuning, involves using the pitch of one string to adjust the tuning of the string next to it. You start with the low E string, which you tune as accurately as possible using whatever reference you have on hand (a song, a piano, another guitar, etc.)

From there, you use an audio reference from a properly tuned string (usually from the 5th or 4th fret) to match the tuning of the next open string. This is done in this order: The 5th fret on the E string to tune the open A; the 5th fret on the A to tune the open D; the 5th fret on the D to tune the open G; the 4th fret on the G to tune the open B; and the 5th fret on the B to tune the open higher E.

Using this tuning method, I've had successful gigs even with a broken tuner or drained smartphone. You'll want to double-check your tuning a few times because it's easy to slightly detune the previously tuned strings in the process.


I'm Johnny, the guy behind Guitar Manifesto. I've been playing guitar since my teens and now that I'm in my 40s, I'm all about sharing what I've learned to help you become a better guitarist.

Recent Posts