I've the exact same tuner from this video only the brand name changes. I am new to guitars, I am trying to tune(standard tuning) an ESP M-50 with it(can I?). I plug the guitar cable to the tuner input and the tuner has three modes: guitar, bass and chromatic.

When I strum any string in the guitar with the tuner in guitar mode, the tuner reads it and displays things like 4D, 6E,... etc on its LED screen. What do those numbers and letters indicate?

When I strum any string in the guitar with the tuner in chromatic mode, the tuner reads it and displays things like A, B, F#, B♭, etc on its LED screen. What do those letters indicate?

What is the difference between the two modes?

  • 2
    My interest in words made me question 'strum'. I'd have said 'pluck'. Looked up 'strum' in Oxford dictionary - "play on stringed instrument, esp.carelessly or unskilfully ". Wish I hadn't bothered !!
    – Tim
    Jan 6, 2014 at 17:07
  • 1
    Note that on your tuner the number likely refers to which string of the guitar you are tuning, but on some tuners the number refers to the piano octave number, eg, G4 is the G above middle C, G5 is the one above that, and so on. See pianofinders.com/educational/keynumbersystem.htm Jan 6, 2014 at 18:45

4 Answers 4


The guitar mode is referencing each string EADGBE in order from highest frequency to lowest frequency. So the high E (thinnist string) would be 1E, then the B string would be 2B, then the G string would be 3G, ect all the way to the low E string.

The chromatic mode just tells you what note you are playing and how close it is to that note. i.e.

A, A♯/B♭, B, C, C♯/D♭, D, D♯/E♭, E, F, F♯/G♭, G, and G♯/A♭

If you are tuning your guitar to the standard EADGBE, you would use guitar mode. However if you wanted to tune your guitar to drop D DADGBE, you would use chromatic mode because the low D is not a standard tuning for the guitar.

Another use for chromatic mode is to tell what notes you are playing on your guitar. It is very useful when you start learning guitar and you don't know what note you're playing. Also if you feel like notes are going out of tune higher on your guitar you can check with the chromatic mode. If your string is in tune and your higher notes are out of tune you may have an intonation problem or you may have to change your strings.

In short, guitar mode is for tuning the strings on your guitar to standard tuning. While chromatic mode shows you the current note you are playing and how out of tune you are with that note so it can be use for more than just tuning your guitar (although it still can be used that way).

My advice would be is use guitar mode until you have a good grasp of what each string should be tuned to then switch to chromatic mode because it can do a lot more.


The quick answer is, read the tuner's manual. Different tuners have different ways of working.

But more generally:

A digital tuner will generally show you the name of the closest note to the one it can hear (to the nearest semitone), and an indicator showing you whether you are sharp, flat, or exactly on that note.

So, in chromatic mode, A indicates that it can hear something close to an A. There will also be some sign -- sometimes a flashing light, sometimes an animated needle -- for fine-tuning. Tune your instrument until that indicator is in the middle.

The guitar mode, I infer, is locked to the standard open-string tunings of a guitar: EBGDAE. D is the fourth string, hence 4D; 6E refers to the 6th string, bottom E.

Some tuners also allow you to choose which note you are aiming for.


As a beginner, use the 'guitar' setting. I had a pupil; who had tuned his low E with a tuner, and it was spot on - only an octave too high ! No, it didn't break, but as far as he was concerned, the string was right ! As slim says, if all else fails, read the instructions - they can be downloaded if the originals are missing. It's always a good idea anyway, as sometimes the gadget will do 'hidden' things as well as the obvious.

  • 4
    As a beginner, I broke a string by tuning an octave too high. Lucky it was a nylon string, or I might have broken the guitar instead. It was over 20 years ago, and I still remember the injury it did to my hand.
    – slim
    Jan 6, 2014 at 16:53

The numbers in the guitar mode refer to which octave scale that note is in. The scale starts with C. Maybe if I type it out it will help more. The capital letters are the strings on a guitar. The number represents the scale. (4)c,d,E,f,g,A,b (5)c,D,e,f,G,a,B (6)c,d,E,f,g,a,b

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