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Why Your Guitar Sounds Out of Tune, Regardless of What Your Tuner Says

The easiest mistake to make as an eager, developing guitarist is to neglect the basics in our later stages of experience. Learning and mastering an instrument is all about peaks and valleys. Certain days, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a huge leap in your proficiency, while other days you’ll feel like you just can’t play anything right.

Even though this is an unavoidable reality we all deal with, there is a way to make the valleys (times when you’re not playing well) less frequent, not as deep and easier to climb out of. The solution is being mindful of various fundamental techniques that will lead us to those towering peaks of guitar playing glory.

There are many different ways this lesson could go, but one of the most common issues I find with my students is that they’re not always in control of their finger strength. This results in out of tune notes and chords, which can be extremely frustrating, especially for more advanced guitar players who thought they’d never have to deal with such elementary matters again.

Luckily, a simple adjustment of the torque you’re putting on the neck is all you need to get back to normal. In the video below, you’ll notice the image turn from a red hue (indicating incorrect chord playing) to a normal image as I reduce the force from my fingers on the frets.

The point of this article is not necessarily to show you how to play chords properly; a lot of you are advanced and capable players who don’t need a beginner lesson like that. The main takeaway is to always be conscious of the little intricacies that make up a great guitar player: bending in tune, proper vibrato, solid time and intonated chords, among others. When you’re wary of these rudiments, you’ll put yourself in a position to improve your skills faster and more consistently than ever before.

Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.