This may seem like a stupid beginner question but I can't begin to understand what's the problem exactly. Usually when I tune my guitar i start from the top string (the thickest) and work down to the thinnest string. When I finally tune the 1st string (aka high E string or the thinnest string) in my electric guitar (Ibanez IJRG200U-RD) with a chromatic tuner to E tuning and then pluck the high E string, it still sounds out of tune although all the previous strings sound alright.

Here's a picture I took for what the tuner registers as I pluck the thinnest string (even though it's out of tune):

The tuner displays the note as E

I don't know if I misused the chromatic tuner or if the 1st string needs replacing but what could possibly be causing the string to not sound "right"?

UPDATE: i'm sorry guys for not editing my post and clarifying it earlier enough due to personal circumstances.

  • I am not sure I understand you, but with the 1st string do you mean the low E string, or the high E string. Because when tuning the low E, the high E doesn't automatically tune itself. You also have to tune the other string to the right note.
    – Lars Maes
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 12:00
  • 1
    Can you explain what you mean - do you mean you have already tuned the guitar, starting at the high E and working down to the low E, and when you check the high E it is out of tune (in which case Tetsujin's answer applies perfectly) or are you asking something else?
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 12:14
  • 1
    I strongly recommend getting a real tuner, i.e. one of the Korgs or equivalent with a LCD-needle-dial so you can see whether you're really in tune. For $20-30 you can get a combo tuner and metronome with both microphone and line jack for tuning. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 15:11
  • Is this your image? The manual below shows a Floyd Rose type string locking system. While that could be great, having that would produce more opportunities for tuning difficulties. Do you have a string locking system on the guitar in question?
    – amalgamate
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 20:41
  • From experience the best tuners are the ones that pickup the waves. Yuo can't go wrong and its relative cheap even for a professional tuner.
    – Nachmen
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 17:19

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure how well I can turn this into an answer, but…

If the entire guitar starts off flat & you tune from high E down to low E, lifting each string to pitch as you go, then by the time you've reached low E, the entire tension across the guitar has increased, which will pull the neck forwards slightly & also any tremolo system you may have - making the first few strings you tuned flat again.

The simple solution is to repeat the process until it stabilises.


Tuning a guitar properly after new strings are installed (even if at the factory) works best if you follow the process I will outline below.

First, be sure the strings are installed properly. Each string should wrap around the tuning post at least four times and not overlap. Otherwise the string is more likely to slip on the tuning post. Here is a short article that gives step by step instructions for restringing an electric guitar. How to restring an electric guitar

Once the strings are properly installed, use an external reference pitch to tune the low E string which is the fattest string (referred to as the 6th string even though it's the first string you see when you look down at your guitar). What I mean by external reference is that your digital tuner won't know which octave E to recognize and won't start registering as the low E string until you get close. So use another in tune guitar, a piano, or an on line tuning site such as this one to get the low E string close enough for your digital tuner to pick it up as the low E string. Really Cool Online Guitar Tuning Site

After you get your low E (sixth string) tuned, either use the online tuner to get close on the 5th string (next to fattest string) or play the 6th string on the 5th fret and tune the fifth string to that note. Then use your digital tuner to make the final tuning adjustments.

Repeat this process for each string but with one caveat. If you choose the 5th fret method to get the next string close - note that when you are ready to start tuning the second string (next to skinniest) you will fret the third string on the fourth fret instead of the fifth. That's the only exception. It might be easier to simply use the on line tuner to get each string close.

After tuning all six strings, two things are beginning to happen which will necessitate retuning again - even though you have just tuned. Tuning the remaining strings has put more tension on the neck causing the geometry of the neck to change enough that the bass strings that you tuned first will now be out of tune. The other thing that always happens with new strings is they start slipping on the tuning posts as tension is applied during tuning and playing.

Some folks call this slippage "stretching" but there is little actual stretching that occurs on steel guitar strings but "stretching" is a descriptive analogy because the effect is the same as if the string actually stretched.

So to stabilize your tuning, after all six strings have been brought to proper pitch, go back to the fattest (sixth string) and gently tug on it near the center of it's length to "stretch" it. This will tighten up some of the slack where your string is wrapped around the tuning post and firmly seat the ball end in the bridge. You will notice after you do this that it is now out of tune (flat). Turn your tuning key to bring it back into tune. You can even go a tad sharp. Then repeat this process of gently tugging ("stretching" the string til it plays flat) and re-tuning until you can no longer make it play flat by tugging on it. Now the sixth string is nice and tight on the tuning post and will not be as inclined to go out of tune when you start playing.

Do the same thing for each subsequent string. Be especially careful on the skinnier strings not to tug too much or you could actually break the string. Tug just enough to make the string play flat.

Finally, after you have "stretched" in all the strings, go back through each string one final time to make the minor adjustments that may have been necessitated by the added tension to the neck.

Now all your strings should be in tune and you will be able to play without retuning at the end of each song as many guitarist who fail to go through the "stretching in" process will do.

Good luck and have fun on your journey towards learning to be a guitarist!


At issue are many factors. In broad strokes these include Intonation, String quality, Tuner Quality (Thanks @CarlWitthoft).

Intonation: Intonation, in this context, is the fixed tuning of the instrument. This can be adjusted on electric guitars at the bridge. Guitar repair shops will do this setup on electric guitars for a price. Shops around me call it a "supertune". Some of what you pay for with more expensive acoustic guitars is good intonation. Some of the cheaper guitars lack this.

Symptoms: A guitar that has poor intonation has strings that when the open string is in tune, the octave at the 12th fret is out of tune. Actually the way most guitarists test this is to check the twelfth fret harmonic with the twelfth fret note, if they match then your intonation is at least OK. The way the guitar is constructed it is near impossible to have perfect intonation but on a good well setup guitar the imperfections will be slight.

Resolution: If you have an acoustic guitar, new strings might help (see strings). Otherwise it's time to get a better guitar. If you have an electric guitar then you can learn how to fix your intonation, but a guitar repair shop will do a professional job.

String quality: Most guitar strings available on the market will produce quality intonation on a quality guitar, but there are some stinkers out there. Make sure you have a good set of strings. Bad strings and dirty strings can produce poor intonation.

I assume that the strings are on the correct places on the guitar. If the strings are mixed up, or are the wrong type for your guitar it can also affect the intonation. There would be other problems such as string tension that is to tight or too loose that would make this an obvious issue however.

Symptoms: Dirt, patina, rust (usually black), etc. or bad intonation (see intonation).

Resolution: Replace the strings.

Tuner Quality:

Symptoms: We can tell from your picture that your tuner in particular, while chromatic, does not tell you what octave you have tuned your string to. If you tuned to the wrong octave, your guitar would definitely sound weird if not out of tune. Also, as Carl is pointing out, your tuner may not be as picky as you would like it to be. At best, your tuner is difficult to use. While it does work and I could use it, if you gave it to me free of charge I would refuse it for being too difficult to use.

Resolution: Buy a new tuner.

Note: @RockinCowboy and @Tetsujin are correct and worth a read, so I won't retread what they have said.

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