-Tuning the Guitar-

© 2008 guitar novice, 700 x 290, Web-image

I started playing the guitar about, wow, seven years ago now! It is something that unlocked a whole other side of me. I sat in my room learning to play songs for hours on end and I practiced them until they sounded perfect (or so I thought was perfect). Playing the guitar helped me not only learn to be passionate about music, but also how to separate myself from the ordinary and everyday. I think that Pete Townshend said it best when he said, “I realized that the only way I was ever going to fit into society and have a role was via the guitar” (Townshend 1).

A guitar is a powerful and versatile instrument that many people have longed to play. “The guitar’s roots are in Spain. Realistically, it cannot be traced back further than the 15th Century. It is thought to have been invented by the people of Malaga. This early instrument was a “four course” guitar, from which the ukulele is derived. The first guitars were very small, and were originally strung with four pair of strings” (Some Guitar History). It has since changed. The instrument now has six strings and a slightly bigger body than its predecessors; this allows for the instrument to be played at a higher volume. Now-a-days, guitars come in all shapes and sizes, electric and acoustic, cheap and expensive. However despite the great amount of change to the instrument itself, the demand to learn to tame the apparatus has not changed.  Due to its versatility, the guitar can be found in virtually every genre music of almost every country of the world.  

© 2000-2008 8notes.comFor me, learning guitar was treated as play, not work. I practiced for hours in end and I learned to play songs just fine when I first started out. However, what I really struggled with was tuning the dang thing! Because of my perfectionist mentality if any one of those six strings were even slightly out of tune, it would literally, give me a headache. Although for many, the reaction to a poorly tuned instrument is not quite this dramatic, many freshly starting musicians struggle to properly tune their newly acquired music-makers.

In this lesson, people of all ages and demographics will learn how to tune a guitar. Hopefully, even with this minute amount of exposure to the instrument, you will cultivate a curiosity driving you to learn the guitar’s “in’s” and “out’s”. The other day in the locker room, I asked twenty of my male friends if they currently had interest or ever had interest in learning to play the guitar. Fifteen out of the twenty said that they had such an interest, but did not feel they could even tune a guitar let alone play one. Later on, I did the same with twenty girls (not in the locker room). The result was that eight of them had the same interests and apprehensions. How would these numbers translate into a population such as the college students found at Oregon State? Based on the Central Limit Theorem, this would tranlate to roughly 11,000 students with some interest in playing the guitar; 31% of these students being female.

This data goes to show that learning to play the guitar is a common goal shared by many, but the simple act of tuning the instrument could potentially be a deterrent. This is not a new trend however. “Right around the end of the fifties, college students and young people in general, began to realize that this music was almost like a history of our country – this music contained the real history of the people of this country” (Browne 1). Thus, the trend of desiring to learn to play an instrument, and more specifically the guitar, was instigated.  

After this lesson, students will no longer be able to put “not being able to tune it” on the list of things holding them back from learning to play the guitar. They will learn the following:

Learning Objectives

  • Students will be able to recognize the pitches associated with each string on their instrument
  • Students will be able to tune their instrument to proper specifications.
  • Students will acquire access to a tool they can use to repeat learning outcome two whenever they need to
  • Students will no longer be able to whine about tuning their instrument!

In order to be successful in these learning objectives, students will need:

  • A guitar: these learning objectives can be completed with an acoustic or an electric guitar
  • A computer: the internet tool used can be accessed on a Mac or a PC
  • A pick: this is not necessary, rather helpful in strumming individual strings
  • Possibly Headphones: these can help to block out some extraneous noise.
  • Patience: the process takes some practice, there is a bit of a learning curve involved


Browne, Jackson(2005, May, 10). Jackson Browne Quotes. Retrieved February 21, 2008, from Brainyquotes.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jackson_browne.html

Townshend, Pete (1999, August 20). Some Thoughts on Guitar by Various Authors and Musicians. Retrieved February 22, 2008, from kitsuneyama.com Web site: http://www.kitsuneyama.com/Mountain/Bardic/guitquot.htm

(2000, Feb 02). Some Guitar History. Retrieved February 19, 2008, from Earthlink.net Web site: http://home.earthlink.net/~guitarandlute/gtrhstry.html

Additional Reading: