By: E. Lucktong
Downbeating describes the technique whereby natural harmonics are used in tuning guitars. This is a very effective way to tune guitars that can be more accurate than just tuning by ear. It is also a great way of fine tuning once your have approximated tuning with standard techniques.
A prerequisite technique you must learn before you can use downbeating is hitting natural harmonics. Natural harmonics are produced by picking the string while lightly touching the string over the fret wire. You don’t need to push the string down against the fret wire. Natural harmonics sound like a ringing chimed tone. The easiest place to practice natural harmonics is the 12th fret, but you can produce a natural harmonic at nearly every fret. It is easier to hear them when your guitar is plugged into an amp and even easier when using the overdrive channel.
Once you have mastered hitting natural harmonics downbeating is quite simple. You can use this technique to tune every string except the B string (the 2nd string). The reason for this is because the interval between the G and B string is 4 half steps rather 5 half steps like all of the other strings.
Here’s how to do it. Start at the E and A string and work your way up. Simply hit the natural harmonic on the 5th fret on the lower string followed by the natural harmonic on the 7th fret of the higher string next to it. They should produce the exact same tone. For example, if you are tuning the E and A strings, hit the natural harmonic on the 5th fret of the E string followed by the natural harmonic on the 7th fret of the A string.
You need to have both natural harmonic tones sounding together at the same time. If the strings are not in perfect tune together, what you will hear is the tone oscillate back and forth between the two strings. The faster the oscillation the further off tune the strings are. As you adjust the tuning peg you should hear the oscillation slow down until you only hear one non-oscillating tone. This is called downbeating.
You may have to resound the harmonics a few times while you are adjusting the tuners. Once you hear only one non-oscillating tone the strings are in perfect tune with one another. Repeat the steps for all of the strings (except the B string) and you’ll find your guitar in perfect tune. This technique will work with any guitar acoustic or electric but is much easier to hear with an electric through the overdriven channel.
Try this proven technique, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the sound of your guitar in perfect tune. Visit www.2ndstringguitars.com for the best value in new and used guitars, factory 2nds, and refurbished instruments at cheap guitar prices.