A common question beginners often ask is “How to use a guitar tuner?”
So I thought I would make a quick lesson here on how to use a digital guitar tuner to tune your guitar.
Tuning your guitar is incredibly important. If the guitar isn’t in tune, you’re not going to want to play it, because it will sound terrible. It’s pretty much that simple. So if you’re just getting started, there’s nothing that’s more demoralizing than sounding terrible all the time, so that’s something you need to fix! Strangely enough, this is still one of the most often-overlooked issues that beginners face. Simply taking the time to tune your guitar before you play it will make for a much more enjoyable practice session… and don’t even get me started if you’re planning on performing! It doesn’t matter how good a person is on the guitar, tuning the instrument is ALWAYS the first step.
As a side note, if you’re really struggling to get your guitar properly in tune, and you already know how to use a guitar tuner, then there is a very good possibility that the intonation is out on your guitar. If so, I recommend bringing your guitar to a music store or guitar tech and get it checked out. Oftentimes it will need a re-intonation, which isn’t difficult, and can make a world of difference.
How To Use A Guitar Tuner
You might also want to check out a related lesson that I did on How To Tune Your Guitar By Ear. Hopefully this lesson will clear up any questions on how to use a guitar tuner.
The other day I found myself building a simple midi jam track so I could practice a particular 4-bar turnaround lick with it. I wanted something I could easily change the tempo on, because it was a complicated lick and despite learning it really slow, like around 50 beats per minute, ultimately my goal was to play it at 100 bpm, or even 120 bpm.
So, I built a little track, and after using it to increase my speed on the lick from 50 to 135 bpm (it’s best to practice past your target bpm, because then playing it at the target will feel effortless), I realized what a powerful little tool that was.
So today we’re going to look at how you can build these for yourself. I’m using Logic Pro X, but the basic process using other software would be similar, I just can’t tell you exactly how.
The track we’re making is going to be really simple – just drums and bass, and I’m pulling the drums from a Groove Monkee pack I like using.
If you’d like the file that was created in this video, you can download it here. You’ll have to unzip it first.
12 Bar Blues
Here’s a real quick refresher on 12 bar blues, if you need it. Basically, you’ve got 12 bars, and you can do with them what you want. How’s that? ?
That’s actually true, but what is also true is that there are “classic” ways of using 12 bars that you bump into all over the place. The following diagram represents one of those:
To use this, you’ll need to know a little about the numbering system, but if we applied it to the key of G major for instance, the I would be G, IV=C, V=D.
In the video, I used the key of A, so I=A, IV=D, V=E.
You could play these all minor as well (Am, Dm, Em) or you could add additional chords from the key, or you could change up the placements. It’s a very flexible tool, so don’t let yourself get caught in a box by it (har har).
Being able to play guitar and sing is one of the most coveted skills out there. Most popular artists do both, which means you’ll be more likely to gain popularity as a musician if you’re able to sing while playing the guitar simultaneously. Teaching yourself to sing with a guitar can be difficult, but thankfully there are some things you can do to make your learning process easier. Here are some tips on learning how to sing while playing guitar:
Find the Root
The first step to learning how to sing with a guitar is finding the root of the chord you’re strumming. For many beginners, this can be a difficult task. We’re often so used to have another person’s voice from a recording to guide us when we’re looking for which notes to sing. When you take away that guidance, many musicians lose their sense of pitch. This is why it’s important to train yourself to find the root of a chord.
If you strum a chord and have no idea which notes to sing, try experimenting with your voice. Some notes you sing will fit with the chord much better than others. This is because when we sing “non-chord tones,” we create dissonance. The notes that sound correct will probably be either the root, third, or fifth of the chord. To ensure you’re singing the correct pitch, find the root on the guitar and pluck the string. If you want to take a look at some of the best fingerstyle guitars, check out this article.
Practice Singing Thirds & Fifths
After you’ve learned how to find the root of a chord with your voice, you can begin to practice harmonizing. Harmony is when we combine different notes together to create texture. If you simply sing the same note an octave higher or lower, you haven’t created any texture. As a singer, it’s important to stack thirds and fifths to create something more complex. The first step to singing thirds is to identify the root of the chord you’re playing.
If your root is C, then a third above will be an E. Likewise if your root is G, a third above will be a B. Find these notes on your guitar to ensure you’re singing the right pitch. To take things even further, you can learn to sing fifths above. A fifth above C is a G, and a fifth above G is a D. If you’re singing with two other musicians, this will allow you to create full major and minor chords vocally.
Use Your Diaphragm
Taking advantage of your diaphragm is important for singers who want to create a powerful sound. Your diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that relaxes when you breathe in air, and contracts when you breathe out. When singing with your diaphragm, it’s important to breathe deeply “into your diaphragm.” Typically, most people breathe very shallowly. Try breathing in deeply and pushing out your stomach as much as you can. Find the right pocket trumpet to master correct breathing techniques.
When you exhale, pull your stomach back towards you. This is how you should breathe when you’re singing. Doing so will give you much more presence. If you want to strengthen this muscle, try breathing into your diaphragm for as many counts as you can, holding your breath, and then breathing out slowly. Since many guitarists sit while singing, their breathing can often be compromised. The more you strengthen your diaphragm, the less your vocal power will be compromised from hunching over your guitar.
Use A Capo
If you’re trying to sing a song and you just can’t seem to hit the right notes, it might be because the song isn’t in a key suitable for your vocal range. This problem is common for women singing songs by men and vice versa because men’s voices tend to be a lot lower than women’s. Capos allow musicians to change the key of the song they’re playing without having to mentally work out the new chords. On piano, changing a key requires shifting the chord progression up or down a certain number of steps.
For example, if your chords are: C, F, and G, and you want to raise the key by one whole step, your new chords would be D, G, and A. While changing keys can be simple, more complex chords make things difficult. That’s where a capo comes into the picture. By putting your capo on the first fret and strumming the same chords to a song, as usual, you’ll have raised the key by one-half step.
Therefore, if your chords were: C, F, and G, they will now sound like a C#, F#, and G#. If you’re not sure which key you should be singing in, simply experiment with the capo on different frets to find a range that’s comfortable for your voice. You might find that only one simple half step will solve most of your vocal range problems.
About The Author
I’m Natalie. I work as a professional musician, session guitarist, and guitar teacher, and would like to use my music blog as a personal outlet to share my six-string knowledge with the world.
You’ve made it all the way through our Level 1 series of guitar lessons. Regardless of your own thoughts on that, I think it’s worth celebrating. Sometimes when we’re in the middle of the grind, making tiny bits of progress each day, we lose sight of the fact that we’ve actually made significant progress.
Just think – only a few short weeks and months ago, you had basically zero experience on the guitar – a total newbie.
But now, you’re a real guitar player, still early on your journey, but a genuine guitar player nonetheless.
We’ve graduated you ahead into the Level 2 series of lessons, so you should start to receive those shortly.
But before you move on, would you do me a quick favor? If you’ve enjoyed the lessons and seen some progress in your playing, would you tell us about it briefly in the comments below? I’d love to hear where you were at when you started Level 1, and also how things have changed now that you’ve graduated.
You don’t see too many people using guitar capo’s – in fact I know some guitar players jokingly call them ‘lady fingers’ – but the fact is you can get some really cool and unique sounds out of your guitar, completely different from what you normally hear, simply by knowing how to use a guitar capo.
Using a capo is the easiest way to transpose something, and can work great if you want to play a song that is in the wrong key for your voice – simply move the capo to a place on the neck that works with your voice, and away you go!
Another very cool feature of using a guitar capo is that you really change the sound of the guitar; if you move it a ways up the neck the guitar can even start to sound a bit like a mandolin or another much higher instrument. If you’re clever, you can use this to your advantage and create some very interesting sounds… this is a great technique for adding a second guitar part to a song you’re recording for instance.
Just be careful though, if you’re playing with other instruments, you’re going to need to be careful to transpose the chords that you’re playing, because you are actually playing different chords once you capo the guitar. For instance, a normal open G chord, with the capo at the second fret, becomes an A chord.
One thing to keep in mind is that applying a guitar capo changes the tension on the strings, and as such, can alter the tuning of the guitar. Make sure you check your tuning after applying a capo, as well as after you’ve removed it. (See related post: How To Use A Guitar Tuner)
Video Problems? Watch How To Use a Guitar Capo on Youtube