Guitar Tuning Using Harmonics

This will help you get your guitar more closely in tune with itself when you don't have a tuner or you only have a single pitch.  

First, it is necessary to know what a harmonic is.  A harmonic is achieved by lightly touching a string with one of your fretting fingers and then plucking the string with your picking hand as you would normally.  The thing with harmonics is, after you have plucked the note, if you release your fretting finger, the note will continue to play. The most clear harmonics are achieved over the fret marker of the 12th, 7th, and 5th frets. These frets chime notes one octave higher, an octave and a fifth higher and two octaves higher than the played string respectively. 

Physics Lesson: Harmonics are caused by the actual waves of the string itself. When you play a single string, you play all the higher frequencies as well. The higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths. When you rest your finger lightly on the node (or point at which the string is oscillating least) of a wave, it forces the string to emphasize that frequency, thus resulting in a higher pitch. 

To tune: Play the 5th fret harmonic on the low E string and the 7th fret harmonic on the A string, when played simultaneously the pitches should ring loud and clear. If you get a choppy sound (like a tremolo) it means the pitches are slightly out of tune. Do the same with the A and D and the D and G strings. To tune the B string, play the 7th fret harmonic of the low E and the open B string. Finally, tune the high E to the B as you did the A to the low E.

DONATED BY: Mike Isaacson

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