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Lyle Ronglien >> Beginning Guitar I - The Very Beginning >>

Beginning Guitar I - Lesson 1

Tuning and Strings

Lyle: Besides teaching you how to play music on your guitar, I will help you on the following topics: how to choose and buy a guitar, how to choose an amp - effects, strings - what kind to get, when and how to restring, picks, basic tools you need, how to tune your guitar, anatomy of the guitar - electric and acoustic, how to hold the guitar, how to hold the pick, using a strap, how much should you practice?, how I learned to play guitar, how long will it take until you get good?, where do you put your fingers?, how to read TAB, chords, strumming, finger picking, scales, playing melodies, finger exercises, music theory, ear training, basic song structures, chord progression formulas, all the different guitar effects noises and techniques, and a guide to reading all the different TAB symbols.

Lyle: There are so many things to cover so let's get started!


Lyle: This is the hardest part for the beginning guitarist, how to tune your guitar. I strongly suggest you buy an electronic tuner from the music store. Here's an example of one:

electric tuner

Lyle: A good electric tuner can cost anywhere from $20 - $50. Ask your sales person to show you how to use it before you leave the store with it.

Lyle: Before you can play anything you need to have a tuned Guitar. The standard tuning for a guitar is:

1st string (the thin one) - E
2nd string - B
3rd string - G
4th string - D
5th string - A 

6th string (the big string) - E


Lyle: To help you remember the name of each string, just remember this silly phrase: Easter Bunnies Get Drunk After Easter. That is from string 1 through 6.

Lyle: Here's an interactive TAB file. It has the correct tunings notes of each string. Click on the TAB file, it will load over to the right side of the page to the interactive TAB player. Then click on Load Media, or Media, you will now see and hear the TAB file playback. You'll hear the sound of my guitar. Match up your strings to the sounds of mine by turning your tuning pegs. Notice you're starting with the low/big E string.

tuning 1

Lyle: Remember, tuning is difficult for most beginners. That's why I suggest getting and using an electronic tuner so you don't waste your time and patients trying to tune.

Lyle: There are several ways to tune besides using a tuner. You can tune to yourself by following these few steps:

-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the E string. That should match the tone on the open A string. Turn the A tuning key until they match.

-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the A string. That should match the tone on the open D string. Turn the D tuning key until they match.

-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the D string. That should match the tone on the open G string. Turn the G tuning key until they match.

-Put your finger on the 4th fret on the G string. That should match the tone on the open B string. Turn the B tuning key until they match.
-Put your finger on the 5th fret on the B string. That should match the tone on the open E string. Turn the E tuning key until they match.

tuning 2

tuning 2

Lyle: Always tune in the SHARP direction. Sharp is high, Flat is low. Suppose you are trying to tune the fifth string to A. Currently the string is flat. In order to tune properly you need to turn the tuning gear until you hit A. If you go SHARP, the WRONG thing to do is to turn the gear down until you hit A. The reason this is incorrect is because there is still a minute amount of slack in the tuner--no matter how good the tuner is, there is ALWAYS some slack.

Lyle: If you go too far sharp, the PROPER way to tune is to turn the gear so that the resulting note is DELIBERATELY flat. In other words, going back to our example, if you overshoot your A note, then turn the tuner so you are FLATTER than A. Now give the string a tug, as you would do when you are stretching, the slack in the tuner will give. Now tune towards the A, being careful not to overshoot. If you overshoot, repeat the process. The key is to tune in the SHARP direction only!

Lyle: Another way to tune is by using the sound of harmonics. To make a harmonic, or "that bell sound", gently touch the string, don't push down on it, right on top of the fret wire at the 5th fret, pluck the string, then move your finger away from the string. You should hear a high pitch sound. Also, use the bridge pickup on your guitar and turn up the volume, these harmonic sounds can be hard to hear at first. Match the 5thret of the big string to the 7th fret of the 5th string using harmonics. If it's out of tune, change the 5th string. Here's a TAB file and video that can help you see and hear how this is done across all the strings. The third and second strings are tuned normal, without using harmonics:

tuning with harmonics

tuning with harmonics


Lyle: There are 3 basic types of strings for the 3 types of guitars: Nylon for classical acoustic guitars, Bronze wound/steel for steel string acoustic guitars, and Nickel wound/steel for electric guitars.

Lyle: There are many different companies that make guitar strings such as Ernie Ball, Dean Markley, GHS, and D'Addario. I like them all. Strings come in sets ranging in different tensions from extra light to heavy gauge. The thicker or heavier the gauge of string, the harder it is to push down but the bigger the tone is. I suggest to you, as a beginner, is to start with light gauge strings so your fingers wont get too sore. For my acoustic guitars I use a medium-light gauge string size and on my electric guitars I use a light gauge.

Lyle: Strings get old and dirty from the acidic sweat and oils from your hand. The strings will start to loose their original shiny appearance and become dull and muffled sounding. They also can become brittle and break on you and hard to keep in tune. To keep your strings clean and long lasting you should wash your hands before you play, then wipe down the strings and fretboard with a soft cloth after you're done playing. How much you play and how clean you keep the strings depends on how often you should change your strings. I'd say once or twice a year for acoustic guitars, more often for electric guitars because they have smaller strings and become dead faster. I change strings on my main electric guitar once a week because I play it so much. New strings and a clean fretboard feels good on my hand and also the tone is best on new strings.

Lyle: The basic tools you need for your guitar, besides an electric tuner, are simply:

basic tools needed

Lyle: A soft cleaning cloth, guitar polish (available from your local music store), peg winder, wire cutter, and a small Phillips head screwdriver.

Lyle: It's easy to change your strings on your guitar but the first time can be a challenge. I suggest you ask your local music store dealer or teacher to show you once. I've made a video clip to show you how to do it. Here's a demonstration video that I hope helps you:

restringing video

Lyle: Guitar picks are fun to pick out. They come in every color imaginable and sometimes include graphics. The most common material used is plastic, but picks can be made from almost anything - stone, metal, glass, and even felt! There are also many shapes, sizes and thicknesses to choose from. I suggest you start off with a standard plastic type of pick, medium gauge and the normal shape >

standard guitar pick

Lyle: That's all for this lesson on tuning and your strings. Next you'll learn how to play stuff!


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