Absolute Or Relative Tuning?

If In Doubt Go For The Absolute Tuning

When using an online guitar tuner (or any other automatic tuning device) you mostly tune your instrument according to absolute pitch, trying to make each string sound exactly the notes e, b, g etc. This is essential when you are playing together with other absolutely tuned instruments – whether with a piano, accordion or some other instrument with a fixed tuning. It could be the Irish whistle. However, if you are playing alone or with other guitars, nothing will happen if the first strings of the guitars are not precisely E.

The important thing is to have the strings in tune with each other. So you can simply tell yourself that the first string is in tune and then tune the other strings according to it. You can for instance tune your friend’s guitar like that and you will be nicely in tune with each other when playing together.

If you have a very good ear you might find the fact that the instrument has not been tuned according to absolute pitch disturbing. In fact the word „absolute“ is not entirely appropriate here as A is not necessarily always 440 Hz, but this is the pitch to which the human ear is generally accustomed to.

In general there are a number of reasons why the guitar should be tuned more or less precisely. The guitar has been built in such a way that it can tolerate a certain tension caused by the strings and this tolerance reaches tens of kilograms. If you adjust the strings in such a way that they become too tense, the guitar is excessively burdened and although it is usually the string that gives way first, the bridge will also break off the guitar after a while. This is also why a guitar with nylon strings must not be fitted with ordinary metal strings! On the other hand – if the strings are too loose they no longer produce much sound.

How Did They Tune Their Guitars Before The Automatic Tuners

In ancient instruction books for the baroque guitar, the lute, the vihuela and other instruments you can find the advice: „Take a good thin string that will become the first string, tighten it as much as you can and then the next strings according to it“, but contemporary strings are all meant to have a specific pitch and tension and already for quite some time now they are not made of animal guts like in the old days:).

Now go and get yourself a fresh absolute tuning using our online guitar tuner app.

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