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Quick Tips for Playing the Guitar in Tune

Give Your Axe the Edge

There are many ways to make your playing sound better. 


Train Your Ears. Tune the Gears.

A musical instrument that is not in tune, is not a musical instrument so much as it is a "instrument of noise." Memorize your tones. Try not to rely on a tuner. Choose a song that is burned into your brain that you know has its guitars tuned to standard tuning (A440). Your brain can use this pitch memory to tune your instrument. Of course you can choose any pitch as a reference point, A440 is commonly used in the industry.

Putting on New Strings

There are countless videos to teach you how to string your guitar, what many of them neglect to tell you is to stretch them well. While you are tuning up your new strings, stretch and bend each one vigorously. Try not to break them, of course, but experience will show you over time, how much is appropriate. One trick is to over tune your string (like the E string by a whole tone (from E to F# for example) and then tune it back down.

Remember, strings have a habit of getting hung up over the nut when the strings are tuned sharp and then tuned back down, so tug on the string anytime you adjust your tuners just to make sure.

Unless you are using a complete locking vibrato system, expect to spend more than a few minutes working your strings into a state of stability, especially if you bend a lot and hit the strings hard.

Mind Your Touch

A well tuned, stringed instrument can still be easily played out of tune. Learn to apply just enough pressure with your fingering hand to the string for it to make clean contact with the fret. Likewise, striking the strings with your picking hand can easily cause them to ring sharp. It is also easy to push on the neck in a way that makes the intonation go flat or sharp. Players often do this without realizing it. Pushing forward on the neck can be used as an effect, but in the beginning, you want to how learn to play without affecting the straightness of the neck.

Keep your fingering hand free. Make sure you are not supporting the neck of the guitar with your fingering hand. This often happens while playing in a sitting position. Your hand has more important things to do than hold up the guitar neck. Rely on your strap instead. Know that the guitar is an imperfect instrument.

OK, Now for the dirty truth

You own a quality axe, you had it professionally set up at the guitar shop, you bought new strings and stretched them thoroughly while tuning them and breaking them in, but the fact of the matter is, a guitar will sound perfectly tuned while playing one chord, but slightly out of tune when you play another. This is just a result of the guitar's physical design. It is not a digital instrument, it is a human instrument. It has moving parts and flaws, no matter how much you paid.

The skill of the experienced player knows this and learns over time to compensate for these imperfections and his/her playing is an example of the player's proficiency and knowledge of these facts and his/her ability to make sounds that are pleasing to the human ear, regardless of the instrument's natural flaws.

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Quick Tips for Playing the Guitar in Tune
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