Tuning Using Harmonics
How To Tune Using Harmonics
Tuning with harmonics is a very handy skill to have–widely used among all guitarists regardless of skill level. In this lesson I go over what a harmonic is, how to produce one on guitar, and how to tune using harmonics. The tuning is similar to my previous lesson “Tuning Using Fretted Strings”, so you should be comfortable with tuning your guitar in that fashion first. Tuning with harmonics is useful for getting the guitar in tune with itself quickly and easily when no tuner is available, but keep in mind that this method cannot give you a perfect tuning since the strings are in equal temperament so the harmonics will be as well.
EDIT: Also, (upon request) I was wrong about the name of the E string harmonic in this video, however this won’t effect the rest of the lesson.
what is a harmonic?
Here’s what Wikipedia says: A guitar harmonic is a musical note played by preventing or amplifying vibration of certain overtones of a guitar string. Guitar harmonics also produce a different sound quality than fretted notes, and are one of many techniques used to create musical variety.
Sounds good to me.
how to produce a harmonic
Try lightly resting your index finger over the 12th fret of the low E string. Do not fret the note–let your finger cover the string very lightly, then pick the string and lift your index finger away immediately. You should hear a harp-like sound an octave above the 12th fret E string note–this is a harmonic!
tuning using harmonics
For this we need to get good at doing harmonics at our 5th and 7th frets, so get used to them. It takes a softer touch for these than it did at the 12th fret. The tuning concept is similar to tuning using fretting notes–we’ll use the E string harmonic to tune the A string (by using it’s harmonic against the E string’s.) Let’s break it into steps.
#1 You want to play the 5th fret E string harmonic and the 7th fret A string harmonic at the same time, then listen for a wobbling sound between them. This wobble appears from the tension between both tones when they are very close together and trying to pull into unison.
#2 Adjust your A string harmonic until the wobble flatlines, NOT the E string. Remember that the E is our reference pitch! If the wobble gets faster you’re going more out of tune, if it gets slower you’re coming into tune. This takes a while to get comfortable with, but this wobble is much easier to hear using harmonics than it is using fretted/open pitches. Be precise! It’s important!
#3 Repeat this for the A/D, D/G strings.
#4 Tune the B string by playing the 7th fret harmonic on the low E, then the open B string.
#5 Tune the high E string by playing the 7th fret harmonic on the A string, then the open high E.
Study the image above! This will help a lot!
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