Are We All Tuning Our Guitars Wrong?

February 15th, 2017

By Christopher Scapelliti

We’ve all suffered the frustrations of getting our guitars to play in tune along the length of the neck. Sometimes it seems that even a guitar that is properly set up will sound out of tune depending on such factors as where you’re playing on the fretboard, how hard you hit the strings, whether you’re using a capo and so on.

The difficulties of achieving tuning perfection led Paul Davids to wonder “Are we all tuning our guitars wrong?”

Paul discovered a video from James Taylor where the folk guitarist reveals a unique tuning method he created to address some of the tuning conflicts inherent in the guitar’s design. The thinking behind Taylor’s method is that hitting the strings harder causes them to vibrate sharp, so we actually need to tune the guitar slightly flat to compensate for this. The low strings have a greater tendency to sound sharp when played hard, so they need to be flatter relatively speaking. In addition, the B string, should be flatter relative to A440 than the high E and G.

Using Taylor’s method, each strings would be tuned several cents flat of A440 as such:
low E: -12 cents
A: -10
D: -8
G: -4
B: -6
E: -3

In this video, Paul presents several songs performed on guitars in standard tuning and using Taylor’s method. See if one method sounds more in tune to you than the other. Better still, try this yourself and see how it works for you.

We’ve included Taylor’s original video below for reference.

See Paul Davids’ YouTube channel for more of his videos.