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Sunday, July 31, 2011

How do you teach beginners to tune their guitars?

Thank you for the question. I have a lot to say on the subject, but will address only a couple of basic points here - 1) shortcuts 2) non-shortcuts.

1) Shortcuts - be sure to encourage students (and parents) to purchase electric tuners; find out which students already know how to tune and assign them to be tuning assistants.

2) Non-shortcuts -
-----Student need to learn the pluck/turn. Have them practice "plucking" one string in eight notes while simultaneously "turning" the corresponding knob. Teach them to pluck loudly so they can really hear the change in pitch.
----Once they can "pluck and turn" they can learn the tuning song: A-maze, A-maze, A-ma-zing, A-maze. Using echo imitation, have them use the song Amazing Grace as the basis for tuning - A-maze - E/A; A-maze -A/D; A-ma-zing - D/G/B; A-maze - B/E.

Finally, it is important to have realistic expectations. For many students, successful tuning will be the grand finale of the semester, not something that occurs during the first week. There are many ways to break the process down and give them small success. One way is to play an out of tune E & A and ask them to give you hand signals indicating the need to go higher, lower or stop.

Teachers should use "ear tuning" when tuning the guitars. As a voice exercise, learn to sing E A D G B E. Practice tuning until you can tune a guitar in 15 seconds or less. If the room is noisy, put your ear directly on the neck and you can hear it like a charm.

For more details I recommend my book "Teaching Classroom Guitar" (menc/Rowman and Littlefield) and some of the exercises in my curriculum "Guitar Essentials". Visit and for more information. Sincerely, Steve Eckels

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