Standard Tuning/Relative Tuning

The tuning most people use on their guitars is refered to as standard tuning.
Standard tuning is EADGBE (notes from thickest to thinnest).
When no other tuning is listed, standard tuning is assumed. (That goes not only for transcriptions in standard notation and TAB, but also for chord diagrams, etc.)

Relative tuning is the tuning of the guitar to itself. (Other methods of tuning would include using some exterior tone generator to create a pitch and tuning the strings to that. Tone generators include but are not limited to: tuning forks, pitch pipes, pianos, other guitars, electronic tuners, etc.) Relative tuning does not necessarily mean that the strings are at their correct pitches, but rather that there is a correct (interval) distance between the strings.

We'll assume that you're choosing to tune to the correct pitches (to the best of your ability) and that you can get your starting pitch from one source or another (try a search at for a tuning program if you don't have any other source).

In order to relative tune, follow the following:

Recall, from the first position that the open first string has the same value as the fifth fret of the second string. Therefore, in order for the guitar to be properly in tune, the fifth fret of the second string should sound the same as the open note from the first string.

Likewise, the fourth fret of the third string should sound like the open second string. The fifth fret of the fourth string should sound the same as the third string. The fifth fret of the fifth string should sound the same as the fourth string. And finally, the fifth fret of the sixth string should sound the same as the fifth string.

The last diagram shows a tuning map, like you would see in most books.

Christopher Roberts

Back to theFretboard lessons index
Next lesson - Names of the notes on the fretboard
Previous lesson - chromatic scale

Last updated February 9, 2003
Copyright 2003,2008. All rights reserved.