How to Tune Your Classical Guitar

An old joke says that, "Guitarists Spend 50% of their time tuning, and the other 50% of their time playing out of tune."

Don't be like most guitarists! Learn how to tune quickly and effectively, so that you can play in-tune, 100% of the time!

On this page, I teach you everything you need to know to tune your classical guitar.

Tuning Basics

These are the notes of the 6 open strings of the classical guitar:

(lowest) E - A - D - G - B - E (highest)

And these are the specific note names and frequencies for each string. You will use a guitar tuner to help you tune each string to the correct note:

  • 1st String - E4, (frequency = 329.63)
  • 2nd String - B3, (frequency = 246.94)
  • 3rd String - G3, (frequency = 196.00)
  • 4th String - D3, (frequency = 146.83)
  • 5th String - A2, (frequency = 110.00)
  • 6th String - E2, (frequency = 82.41)

Click here if you need to review the string numbers on the classical guitar.

There are two methods of tuning classical guitar strings - tuning to an absolute pitch, and tuning to a relative pitch.


Method 1: Tuning to Absolute Pitch

In this method, you tune each string of the guitar to an "absolute" pitch - given to you by a guitar tuner. This is the fastest and easiest way to tune.

First, you need to get a guitar tuner. If you don't have a guitar tuner yet, click here to learn how to find one.

Then, play a string on the guitar, and use the guitar tuner to adjust that string to the correct pitch. It's that simple!


Method 2: Tuning to Relative Pitch

In this method, you tune each string "relatively" to the same-sounding pitch on a different string of the guitar. This method is a little more complicated, but is just as useful. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Using fretted notes:

To tune with fretted notes, play an open string, then play the same pitch on a fretted string. Then adjust the two strings until they are in-tune with each other.

For instance, if you play open E on the first string, you could then tune this with the same pitch on the 5th fret of the 2nd string, or the 9th fret of the 3rd string.

Here are some useful examples:

  • Open 1st string = 5th fret of 2nd string, or 9th fret of 3rd string
  • Open 2nd string = 4th fret of 3rd string, or 9th fret of 4th string
  • Open 3rd string = 5th fret of 4th string, or 10th fret of 5th string
  • Open 4th string = 5th fret of 5th string, or 10th fret of 6th string
  • Open 5th string = 5th fret of the 6th string

Repeat this process until all the strings in tune with each other.

Still confused? Use this guitar diagram help you find all of the same-sounding notes on the guitar.

Using harmonics:

Using harmonics is not as accurate as using fretted notes, but can still be helpful. To tune with harmonics, play two harmonics that are the same pitch, and adjust them until they are in-tune. If you don't know how to play a harmonic, don't worry about this yet.

Here are some of the same-sounding harmonics on the guitar:

  • 7th fret of 1st String = 5th fret of 2nd string
  • 5th fret of 2nd String = 4th fret of 3rd string
  • 7th fret of 3rd String = 5th fret of 4th string
  • 7th fret of 4th String = 5th fret of 5th string
  • 7th fret of 5th String = 5th fret of 6th string

You can also use harmonics to tune open strings

  • Open 1st string = 7th fret harmonic of 5th String
  • Open 2nd string = 7th fret harmonic of 6th string

Relative Tuning Tips:

Here are some general tips for relative tuning that will make your life much easier

  • Use a "reference string" - choose a string that is in-tune (you can check this with a guitar tuner), and make this your "reference string." Then, tune all the other strings in relation to this one reference string.
  • Check the tuning many in different ways - Don't just check the tuning against one other note. Check the tuning in many different ways to increase your accuracy.


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About Me

My name is Daniel Nelson, and I am a classical guitar teacher and performer from Los Angeles, California. Click here to learn more.