Tuning

Sound quality is directly linked to fine tuning: a well tuned instrument delivers both a prettier and more powerful sound.

Tuning, however, is a limited process. You can get very close to perfect tuning without ever actually reaching it: the guitar, like many contemporary instruments with a fretted fingerboard, can never be absolutely in tune in the sense of natural, non tempered tuning allowing harmonic resonance. You’ll therefore be looking for a pleasing compromise with the main tone involved in the piece to be played. To achieve this, and once you’ve undertaken a more or less satisfactory preliminary tuning you can refine the process by playing a few  notes in the required tone. You can then, when playing, cautiously edge your way towards a truer sound, refining as you go: for instance, with one of your left hand fingertips, you can apply increased pressure on a string or exert slight leverage on the neck, to obtain a higher
pitch.

You can save time by using an electronic tuner.

This device offers a medium, albeit unsatisfactory to the trained ear, but nevertheless acceptable.
Anyway it’s always better to complete tuning in relation to the main tonality. If you neglect this, you may find the general sound of the instrument on the whole remains rather dull. We have to realize after all that the ear works like other senses of perception: if unused it will quickly regress like a muscle in a plaster cast. Stimulated, it will maintain and indeed greatly enhance its capacity.

From the lower strings through to the higher, I have used the following letters to symbolize the six usual strings: E, A, D, G, B, E and, for the octave strings: e, a, d, g.

So the order of the 12 strings will be as follows: e E, a A, d D, g G, B B, E E.

You can tune the  guitar in several ways.
It is usual to start by tuning the low A string using a tuning fork. This is necessary if you are to play with instruments which have inbuilt tuning (for example: piano). But if you get away from this established standard you can tune to suit yourself better! Often, you will find yourself tuning at a slightly higher or lower pitch according to your mood.

Here are two basic ways of tuning:

1° As you do on a six string guitar:

– for the low E string you press the 5th fret and adjust it to match the low A string;
– then the low A string at the 5th fret will yield a low D;
– the low D string at the 5th fret gives a low G;
– the low G string at the 4th fret will give you B for the two B strings;
– the two B strings at the 5th fret give a high E for the two high E strings.
Then the four low strings at the 12th fret will give their respective octave.

2° If you know how to do harmonics you can further refine the tuning by adjusting:

– the harmonic low E found at fret 5 with that of the low A at fret 7
– the harmonic low A found at fret 5 with that of the low D at fret 7
– the harmonic low D found at fret 5 with that of the low G at fret 7
– the low G pressed at fret 4 with the note given by the two open B strings,
– the harmonic of B strings found at fret 5 with that of the two high E strings at fret 7
– the four octave strings have to be tuned to the harmonic 12th fret of the lower course.

In both cases one then has to check the basic correspondences at the heart of the twelve
string guitar:

– the open e octave string must give the same note as the low D string 2nd fret
– the open a octave string must give the same note as the low G string 2nd fret
– the open d octave string must give the same note as the B strings 3rd fret
– the open g octave string must give the same note as the high E strings’ 3rd.fret

 
12 string guitar tuning