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How Do You Tune Your Guitar?

One of the annoying tasks one has to go through often when playing the guitar is tuning it. You will usually have to do some tuning every time you play the guitar, especially if your strings are relatively new.

Most people tune by the ear. They will usually start from either the highest (thinnest) string or the lowest (thickest), tune it to E (or approximately so, depending on how good is their ear for that), and then one on the next strings one by one. In this method one will play the note of the higher (thinner) string on the lower one, by positioning one’s finger in the right fret on the guitar neck, and compare the sounds till both strings have the same sound in this position.

When you are not sure you can find the first E yourself, the easiest way would be to find a piano or flute, sound it, and start from it.

Some people will prefer to tune all strings by comparing to and outside source, instead of comparing them to each other as described above. They will either use a piano or flute, or some kind of simple tuner, which is actually in this case just a tone generator. They will play the tuner or flute to the right note and stretch the corresponding string till it plays the same note.

An easier method of tuning the guitar is using a digital tuner which instead of just playing the desired note, will “hear” the note you play on your guitar and tell you if it is right or not, or give you the name of the note you have just played. The screen display will show you if the note you play on a certain string is lower or higher than the desired, and by how much. When using such a tuner you do not have to rely on your own hearing at all – you act according to what the tuner shows you.

Such electric or digital tuners can be found either online – as a pc program or smartphone app, or as a small device.

The most exact digital tuners will have a pickup that can be clipped on to the guitar. The pickup lets the tuner “hear” the note played on your guitar and react to it shutting down all background noise.

Main Guitar Types

My youngest daughter has started going to guitar lessons this last week. Yayyy! Another guitarist in our family!

For her and her friends, I would like to give here a short introduction to guitars:

Guitars are probably the most popular musical instrument in the Western world today, used for all music genres. I cannot imagine Pop music, Country music, and Jazz without them! And of course Latin music, Flamenco, Rock, Heavy Metal… They all use guitars. I have also heard guitars playing Classical Music, an more.

Of the various types of guitars, I would like to speak here about 4 basic types, each of which is ideally played for specific genre of music, or specific classes of sounds. These four types are:

  1. The acoustic guitar.
  2. The electric guitar.
  3. The bass guitar.
  4. The twelve string guitar.

 

1. The Acoustic Guitar

The acoustic guitar is thought to be the most “basic”. It’s origins go back over 5000 years ago, to guitar-like musical instruments. New players will normally start their career with these guitars, and move on to the electric guitar, and then to the bass or the twelve string guitar. Acoustic guitars are the most common, and thus also often the cheapest. Country music and Jazz will often be played on acoustic guitars.

The most common sub-types of acoustic guitar classes would be the steel stringed and the classic guitars. The steel stringed are defined to have one sound hole and narrow necks, and use metal strings. Classical have a very similar appearance to the steel stringed, but have much wider necks and are stringed with nylon strings.

2. The Electric Guitar

Teen agers learning to play the guitar will often want to get their first electric guitar after a year or two of playing the acoustic guitar. Electric guitars have a more “cool” appeal, and are used for Rock, Hip-Hop and other genres identified more with the younger generation.

Electric guitars are guitars which use pickups to convert the vibration of its strings into an electric current, and require an amplifier for them to be heard. Other types of guitars, like acoustic guitars, could work with or without amplifiers. The electric guitars may come with hollow bodies, semi-solid bodies, or fully solid bodies, each type having its specific sounds and set of advantages. Special sound effects could be made with electric guitars, like distortions, and are often used in heavy metal music.

3. The Bass Guitar

The bass guitar, also called the electric bass guitar, is an electric guitar in the sense it uses a pickup and requires and amplifier. It appeared sometime around the begining of the 20th century, and replaced the double bass guitar which is a big and curmbersome instrument. It is similar in appearance to the electric guitar, but has a longer neck and scale length, and produces lower scale notes. It is used in Rock, Regai, Punk and other genres.

The bass guitar will usually have only four strings which are tuned the same as the double bass (or the mandoline). Some bass guitars will have additional strings, making them have in total 5 or 6 strings (and rarely even more – sometimes strung in pairs), with the main ones being tuned as in the double bass. Bass guitars are often made fretless, making it more difficult for the novice player.

4. The twelve string guitar

In the twelve string guitar each regular guitar string is replaced by a pair, giving it a richer sound.  Note the twelve string guitar is not the same as the double neck guitar, which will also have 12 strings, but not in pairs. Normally the strings in the 2 higher pairs would be tuned in unison, while in the 4 lower-note pairs the second string will be tuned one octave higher than the first.

 

 

Learning to Play a Left Handed Guitar on Your Own

Many people try to learn playing guitar on their own. Their reason vary: sometimes it is lack of time, for others it is lack of money, and some are just too lazy to find a proper teacher with fixed hours and prefer to learn on their own schedule, whenever they find the time and patience for it.

How do people learn to play on their own? The best way, in my opinion, is to find some good guidebooks which will teach you the basics, an then find guitar tunes to practice. Though some people will prefer learning by watching video tutorials.

As Lefties are a minority, most tutorials – books or video – will be geared towards the righty population. But good tutorials for left-handed players are available, so look for them. It is much easier to learn from a book that is set for you, instead of having to translate every position for the lefty version. When learning from books which show all the chords in a right-handed way it is easy to make mistakes which will make you loose your confidence and stop your learning.

One such book is Left-Handed Guitar – The Complete Method. This book, which comes together with a CD pack so that one can hear how the practice set should sound, is a good starting point for beginners. It guides you, with pictures, step-by-step through all the main stages in a simplified way. The chord charts are made for lefties so it is easier to understand what you have to do.

As I mentioned before, some people will prefer learning through videos. Here again, don’t compromise on learning from players which play right-handed. This may lead to confusion and frustration. Videos for Lefties are harder to find, but they exist, and worth the extra effort to look for them.

You can find some free video guides on Youtube. Below I brought a nice video for the absolute beginner lefty guitar player:

 

Buying a Left Handed Guitar Online

Buying a guitar online is scary. When you are out to buy a new guitar, you want to see it in your own eyes. You want to feel it, hold it, hear its sound, and above all – play on it. You want to feel that special connection you have with your guitar when playing on it.

If you are a parent buying your kid his or her first new guitar, you would like your kid to see the guitar is the right size, right weight, that your kid feels comfortable with the new guitar.

So why buy guitar online?

There are reasons for a right-handed person to buy a guitar online, but a left-handed guitar player has many more. Unless you live in a big city with a big guitar shop right near you, you will generally not be able to find more than a handful of choices of lefty guitars to chose from nearby. Most shops will hold only a very small collections of left-handed guitars. In some places you will be able to try the right-handed guitar and than order your left-handed one for some extra money, but your choice will still be limitted.

Online, you have a much bigger choice. Just take a look at the left handed guitars page on Amazon. See what I mean? An online shop can keep a much bigger selection, as it caters to clients from all over.

So what if you feel you simply cannot buy a guitar without hearing its sound?

After browsing through the left-handed guitars page in Amazon, go to the nearby music instruments shop, and take a look at the same guitar model in its right-hand version. You probably won’t be able to play on it if you are accustomed to playing on a left-handed guitar, but at least you have a real knowledge of its hight, weight and range, and of its sound.

Once you found a good choice in the regular shop, you can go visit you online store and buy the guitar model you have chosen in its left-handed version. Now you can be pretty sure the guitar model you are purchasing fits your dreams.

Should Lefties Learn to Play on Left Handed Guitars?

The world is set for right-handed people, and lefties will find difficulties almost everywhere they turn to. One big and important dilemma is the dilemma of a lefty person who wants to play on a string instrument, mainly guitar. Should a lefty learn to play on a regular right-handed guitar, or should she buy a specially-made left-handed guitar? And if a lefty uses a regular guitar, should it be used as right-handed people would use it, or should it be flipped (flipping the strings and holding it upside-down)?

There are advantages and disadvantages to each decision you make. Here are the main ones:

Why Learn on a Regular Guitar?

  • Most guitars are right-handed. Right handed guitars are much more available, and cheaper.
  • If you are able to learn to use it as a right-handed person would, you have a further advantage: In virtually all instruction books, the hand-position will be shown for right-handed people.

The problem is, for many lefties playing the guitar as a right-handed person would is difficult, or nearly impossible. You are reversing the normal function of your hands, as much as in learning to right with you right hand, and thus your music may come out slower, strained and unnatural.

If you decide to take a regular guitar and flip the strings, you will still have the advantage of having more guitars available, and cheaper. Though there are also many disadvantages to this decision:

  • Not all guitars can be played upside-down, it depends on the shape of the guitar. Especially with electric guitars, many of them have cuttaways which make it impossible to play holding them the wrong way.
  • Flipping the strings is sometime bad for the strings: Depending on how the bridge is built, it is sometimes made with the places for the strings fitting their thickness, with the lower-pitched strings thicker than the high-pitched ones. This will make the thicker strings not sit in their exact places and get torn or worn much quicker.

Buying a specially-made left handed guitar seems the obvious choice if cannot play in a right-handed way.  As I said earlier, you will have to invest more money, and will have a smaller choice of guitars to learn from. Though if you are one of those lefties who  cannot learn to play in the “regular”, right-handed way, you may not have much choice.

In this blog I would like to review some of the left hand guitars that exist in the market, and also have some other articles related to left-handed players, or to guitar playing in general.