An essential ingredient to understanding your guitar is learning how the notes of the Musical Alphabet relate to the strings and fretboard. For example, there are only 7 letters that make up the Musical Alphabet: A B C D E F G
These 7 letters represent all the notes and tones that apply to music for any voice or instrument.
The tones EADGBE are taken from the Musical Alphabet to represent and tune the open strings of the guitar.
Starting from the sixth string and ascending to the first, the strings are tuned in intervals of fourths: E F G A. The only exception to this rule being the third string which is an interval [an interval is the distance from one tone to the next] of a third: G A B
Guitar strings vibrate at different rates of speed and create their own sound, or pitch. The tone A, which vibrates at 440Hz, is referred to as concert pitch.
Nowadays, most chromatic tuners indicate 440Hz for you automatically. They often come equipped with an LED screen, lights and sound to help you determine the correct pitch for each string quickly and easily. Digital tuners are very sensitive and can be thrown off by surrounding noises. Fortunately, many models have a jack where you can plug your guitar directly into the tuner in order to prevent other sounds from affecting the accuracy.
Keys to Understanding Your Guitar
Once your guitar is in tune, you will discover that the tones ABCDEFG occur sequentially on each string up and down the neck…
Open 5th string -> A ||– -|-B-|-C-|- -|-D-|- -|-E-|-F-|- -|-G-|-A-|
Playing the Musical Alphabet – 5th String:
- Start with the open A on the 5th string
- Place your 1st finger on the 2nd fret to play B
- Move your 1st finger to the 3rd fret to play C
- Continue in the same manner.
At the 12th fret the whole process begins again at A and continues up the neck.
The Snark Digital Tuner and Metronome can make the process quick and easy.
This “deadly accurate” musician’s tool senses string vibration when it’s attached to the head stock of a guitar or other instrument. So, you can understand why it’s a popular choice for many guitar players these days.
I lost my Korg TM 50 not too long ago. It worked great, but I will probably get a Snark next time because they’re pretty cool too.
The Tuning Fork is another tool you can use to achieve concert pitch, but you need to depend upon your ear.
How to Tune the Guitar Using a Tuning Fork:
1. Strike the fork against your knee
2. Place the base of the fork on the face of the guitar near the bridge
3. While the tuning fork is still ringing play the tone A on the first string at the fifth fret
4. The tone of the tuning fork and guitar string should match (blend)
5. Use this tone as the starting point for tuning your guitar to standard (concert) pitch.
There are lots of altered tunings that guitar players can use too. However, standard pitch is most commonly used for guitar, as well piano and other instruments. So, it’s the one you’ll likely be using when you play with other musicians. The majority of songs are written for standard tuning too.
Understanding your guitar and how the fretboard works will help eliminate the mystery behind chord structure, reading music, playing scales, solos and more.
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