Tunings

Ok, what are tunings?

Standard Tuning

Surely you still remember how the strings of your guitar are tuned, right?
Exactly: E – A – D – G – H – E

This is called standard tuning.

Tuning is how the guitar is tuned and tunings in general are the variation / deviation from the standard tuning.

Why do you do that? Why change the standard tuning?

There are a lot of reasons for that:

  • You can play some chords in a different tunings more easily (see drop tunings)
  • It sounds interesting, because you almost automatically play extended chords (see modal tunings)
  • It sounds heavier, fatter (see drop / down tunings)
  • Some tunings make the songs easier for the singer to sing (see down tunings)

Basic Math

Because you can tune every string to 12 different notes independently you could end up with 12^6 = 2985984 different tunings. Whosh!

But are they all useful? I guess not! So I will walk You through some basic alternate tunings which have practical use.

First, a small picture for the overview

I roughly divide the tunings according to which or how many strings are tuned differently to standard tuning

Drop-Tuning

If You are new to tunings, start with a drop tuning: Usually the low E-string is tuned a whole tone done, this is then called Drop-D:

An advantage of this tuning is that you can grab power chords with just one finger, because the empty strings D – A – D already represent the D – powerchord.
You can now change the powerchords extremely fast.

Open-Tuning

In an open-tuning, all empty strings played together already form a chord, so you can put the finger on a chord or a bottleneck over all strings, move the chord.
You have to decide in an open-tuning, if you want to hear a minor or major chord.

Open D major

Loser by Beck is played in open D major with a bottle neck.

G major

An example for usage of this tuning is Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones

Some other open tunings:

D minor D A D F A D
G minor D G D G Bb D

A major E – A – E – A – C#- E
A minor E – A – E – A – C – E

E major E – H – e – gis – h – e ‘
E minor E – H – e – gis – h – e ‘

Theoretically, there are more tunings, but you have to be careful because of the string pattern: the strings can not be tuned arbitrarily high, because they tear otherwise and also not arbitrarily deep, because they then schlabbern!

Modal Tunings

Out of all modal tunings especially the DADGAD should be emphasized. Not least because Led Zeppelins Kashmir is played in this tuning and had the true commercial success with the cover version “Come with me” by Puff Daddy.

There is even a perfect tuning for me called D – A – D – D – A – D!

Down Tuning

As down tuning, I refer to tunings where all strings are tuned down by the same number of semitones. Most common in rock and heavy metal are down tunings by a semitone step

and in harder / modern styles of the metal, e.g. metalcoreĀ  guitars are tuned down by a whole tone or even more.

Combinations

You can of course always add a dropped E string to your down tuned guitar as well.

At Excess Pressure we use to tune down a half tone to Eb/D# and drop the Eb to a Db

One of my favorite bands Killswitch Engage uses a whole step down plus drop tuning called Drop C

My friend Daniel uses a Drop B on his six string: B F# B E G# C#

It is highly recommend to use heavier strings when tuning down that much.

If you want to go even deeper, buy a 7-string guitar or pick up a baritone guitar, as the deepest string is already tuned to H or A

But again you can tune or drop down again šŸ™‚