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I'm having a bit of trouble in tuning. I've tried tuning apps and even bought a tuner. However, when I pick the E string, it says it's the B string; when I pick the G string it says it's the D string. Please help!

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  • Has the guitar ever been tuned before, and are you sure it's strung properly?
    – Aaron
    Apr 16 at 1:22
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    it has never been tuned and I'm not sure if its strung properly since it used to be my brother's, he didn't use it much though.
    – denisse
    Apr 16 at 2:38
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    It is difficult to guess what is the issue in your case. Maybe the tuner is bad, maybe the strings are completely out of tune, or maybe the strings are not right? Can you try to compare the pitches by ear e.g. with this: youtube.com/watch?v=fvF2V3X1FCk ? Apr 16 at 3:00
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    @CarlWitthoft Most tuners just lock onto whatever pitch is closest. Likely the strings are just out of tune. Or maybe OP's brother has a seven string guitar or played a lot of heavy stuff where the instrument is tuned down to C or B... (ie: death metal, etc). Actually, some of the answers already note this.
    – J...
    Apr 16 at 14:46
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    update!! my guitar has 6 strings , high e string and d string are tuned, I'm still having trouble on the other strings.
    – denisse
    Apr 16 at 15:53
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First, replace the strings

Old strings will not, ever, stay in tune. They physically can't, because of the way they degrade over time. Strings over a year old must always be changed, even if no-one touched the instrument in that time. (Instruments played regularly, you might only get a month out of a set. Pro musicians might put a new set on for every gig. But a year is the outside limit for the longest time.)

If you can't do it yourself, get a music shop to do it. They'll charge some nominal amount, and then you'll know it's all OK.

Damp the other strings during tuning

When you pick one string, the vibrations through the instrument bridge will excite all the other strings, making them ring too. The adjacent strings are closest on the bridge, so will be most affected. Tuners are very bad at dealing with extra notes happening at the same time, so this is a real problem for them. There's even more problems when it comes to strings ringing at other harmonics too.

The normal way of tuning using a tuner is to hold your fingers or the palm of your hand over the next-door strings as you pick the one you care about. You should then be guaranteed to only get the string you want.

Perhaps it's a baritone guitar?

Baritone guitars are naturally tuned down a 4th from standard tuning - B-E-A-D-F#-B. A proper baritone guitar will generally have a longer scale length (neck) and a slightly different bridge setup to deal with this, but you can make it work on a regular guitar with thicker strings and less tension.

Baritone guitars are fairly rare. Guitars with random stringing are not, and too much tension can seriously damage an instrument. New strings as per the first step solves both problems

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    What happens if you’re a rebel and ignore the one year rule?
    – ojs
    Apr 17 at 8:18
  • @ojs Your guitar sounds bad.
    – wizzwizz4
    Apr 17 at 16:43
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    @ojs - You have bad luck for the next six years - one year for each string. Apr 17 at 17:33
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    @ojs It doesn't make you a rebel, it just makes you a bit of a rubbish guitarist.
    – Graham
    Apr 17 at 20:15
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Some tuning apps or outboard tuners have a transpose function which may have been inadvertently activated because all your intervals are off by a Perfect 4th. However, if you are not familiar with how a tuned guitar should sound then you may be off by that amount. Try comparing your guitar‘s pitch to this or a similar video to see if you’re in the ballpark first. Good luck!

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It sounds like you're new to the guitar, and there are a variety of things that could be causing the problem. Your best bet will be to go to someone you know who has guitar experience, or take the guitar to a music or guitar store, and ask them to check it for you: to make sure the instrument is set up correctly, that your tuner is working, and to help you tune it for your first time.

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The most probable explanation is that you have tuned exactly one fourth down from standard tuning. The tuner does not know which string you pick, so when it hears a B, it shows that B string is played, when it hears a D it shows D and so on.

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  • I agree that this is a quite probable explanation, however if the OP follows is although the problem is something different then they would probably snap some strings, which would be very frustrating. Apr 16 at 14:56
  • That's why I wrote "the most probable explanation". Other chances is that it's actually a baritone guitar, bass guitar or that a wizard did it. If the strings are so wrong that they break below standard tuning, they need some new strings anyway.
    – ojs
    Apr 16 at 17:36
  • You're missing my point. The risk is that the strings are actually in (roughly) correct tuning already, but the tuner for some reason displays them being a fourth down. If you then try to tune them to the pitch the tuner would indicate as correct, you would end up with much too high tension and this can easily break even new strings. Apr 16 at 19:52
  • To me tuner being wrong by a fourth sounds a lot like "a wizard did it". It would make some sense if the tuner picks up a harmonic and shows a fifth or octave up, but a fourth down doesn't make any sense.
    – ojs
    Apr 16 at 20:49
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    I agree with this answer being highly probable. If both the tuning apps and tuner are reading a fourth down, the strings are probably tuned a fourth down.
    – wabisabied
    Apr 17 at 2:58
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One possible explanation is that you have a 7 string guitar. Most 7-strings have the lowest string tuned to B, and the remaining 6 strings tuned as a regular guitar. When you say all strings are off by a fourth (which is the tuning interval between guitar strings), this sounds like it's a possibility.

So if the guitar does have 7 strings, you should expect the second string to be tuned to E, not the first.

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    Possible? OK. Plausible? Erm, no.
    – Strawberry
    Apr 16 at 13:44
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    I would have left a comment, but as a new user my rep is too low to do that. They don't say that it's a 6-string guitar specifically, but I don't see anything in the original question that would rule this out as a possibility.
    – Scott
    Apr 16 at 13:46
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    We usually count the strings the other way! The 7th string is the low B, the top string is the thinnest, called the 1st string, and will still be E.
    – Tim
    Apr 16 at 16:05
  • I think this is something the OP would notice! :) That said though, the similar situation with a baritone guitar is not implausible, and would be harder to spot.
    – Graham
    Apr 17 at 8:01

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