Bill_Burke_360Most students learn to play before they learn to tune; however laying the fundamentals for learning to tune can be done from day one.

Most of the GAMA books have a play-along, demo CD included with the book. At the start of these CD there is usually a tuning track.

Tuning Position: To prepare for tuning in the classroom, I have students hold the guitar so that their left ear can be held against the side of the upper bout of the guitar. The right ear is free to hear the pitches from the tuning record. That way, students can clearly hear their instrument along with the pitches that are sounding from the tuning track.

Technique: Instruct the student to trace and study each string from the bridge to the tuning key. Next, have students move to the tuning position described above. Play the tuning CD and have the student move his left hand from the 6th string tuner to the 5th, then the 4th > 3rd > 2nd > and to the 1st string tuner. This way the student understands which tuning key controls which string.

As you demonstrate, explain to the students which direction makes the string get tighter (higher in pitch) and which direction makes the string looser (lower in pitch). For instance, on our classroom classical nylon string guitars, I tell the class that as you look at the tuning key, higher/tighter is a counter-clockwise tuning key motion and lower/looser is a clockwise tuning key motion.

Put the tuning track on repeat and play the recording. Call out the string numbers as the tuning record plays. After the first pass of all six strings, stop the tuning track. Explain to the class that the second pass is for fine tuning and adjustments.

Play the tuning track again for a second/third pass as students try to match pitch. Once a student believes her guitar is in tune, teach the student to stop playing. Now is not the time for strumming chords and riffs. This will impede the other student’s ability to tune and ultimately slow down the class.

GUITAR TUNING HINT: Tune up to the note. If the guitar string is higher than the reference pitch, lower the string below the reference pitch and tighten it up to match the tuning track.

Some other options for tuning in lieu of the tuning track method:
1. Keep some classroom headstock guitar tuners in a place where students can freely get, use, and return them when needed.
2. Have upper level students tune the guitars.
3. Tune only the treble strings if you are working on note reading on those strings, or simple chords.

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