How to Tune to E9 Chromatic on a Pedal Steel Guitar

Learn how to tune to E9 chromatic in this Howcast video about how to tune a pedal steel guitar.

Okay, how do you tune this thing? As I said before this is an E9th chromatic tuning. What does that mean? Well it means that it’s tuned to an open chord of E9. It has two E notes, two G sharp notes, two B notes, two F sharp notes, one D, and one D sharp. The D sharp is why it’s chromatic. All the other notes are in the E9th chord. You will want to use a tuner that shows you what are called the cents. You see here: 440, 442, 444, 446. It’s just a matter of rote exercise and following this little chart. The first not is 441 and a half. The second is 439. The third is 439. The fourth, the E, 442 and a half. The B, 442. The G sharp, the six string, 439. The F sharp, 441 and a half. The second E, 442 and a half again. The D, 441 and a half. The B, 442. You really just have to look at what’s on the tuner.

I’ll turn on it, see where we are here. This has gotten a little flat in the course of these exercises. I’m going to bring it up, a little tiny bit, to 441 and a half. You see the increments are two at a time. So, 441 and a half is going to be almost at the second bar but not quite. The 439 is going to sit right in the middle between 438 and 440. I’m going to tune it up just a tiny bit here. You can use a harmonic some times. That will help you get a more stable note. There you go, smack dab in the middle.

The G sharp, again that’s gone a little flat. We’re going to turn that just a tad here up a little more. Here’s the E, 442 and a half. Right now it’s sitting pretty much square right on 440. We’re just going to give it just a little scootch, just past the line. Your B note here, should be on 442. There we go. That G sharp is pretty good. The F sharp needs just a little encouragement. That’s not too bad. Then E, that again, just a tiny bit more. It’s not usual for the guitarist just to go ever so slightly out of tune, but you don’t want them to be all over the place. Tuning is enough of an issue with an instrument that has no frets and all these different strings. Now, there are other ways of doing it. You can tune by ear if your ear is good. The way to start would be from sample.

To just pick, decide where you want your E. You could just take tuning, straight 440 E if you want. Then just work against the 5th. You can hear, again if you have a good ear, you can hear the root and the 5th are getting along. Now, E is the root. B is the 5th. Likewise, B is going to be against the F sharp. That’s the same relationship. B is the root, F sharp is the 5th. Keep working that way and you’ll whether that’s in tune for you or not.

That’s just the set up of the strings. The pedals and knee levers are a whole other issue. Again, it involves compensating for unpleasant sounds. The tuning I’ve just given you is a widely accepted one and it’s as good a start as any. That’s it for tuning as far as I know.