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Alternate Guitar Tunings

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Tuning your guitar beyond the norm

Most guitarists use the standard tuning of E, A, D, G, B, and E going from low string to high string. Naturally, most songs you will play and hear use this kind of tuning. After a while, you may want to expand the ways you play guitar. This can be accomplished with alternate tunings.

Alternate tuning is achieved by altering one or more of the strings on your guitar, making the tone go up or down. These tunings can create a whole new world of playing options for you. Here’s a closer look.

Standard Alternate Tunings

In this method, the same tuning intervals are used as standard tuning, but they start with a different note. For example, while standard tuning is also known as E A D G B E tuning, E flat tuning, which is sometimes used in blues and rock, is spelled out Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb. This alternate method of tuning can be based on any root note.

Open Tuning

Open tuning is a very common form of alternate tuning achieved by tuning the strings so that you create a full chord when you play the strings “open” (no fretting). Common open tunings include open C major tuning (C G C G C E), open D tuning (D A D F# A D) and open E tuning (E B E G B E). There are unlimited options here.

Dropped Tunings

Dropped tuning is achieved by unwinding one or more of the strings on your guitar to produce a lower note when played. The most common of these tunings is “Drop D” tuning, which is frequently used in hard rock, metal, and alternative rock. For this tuning, you simply lower your bottom E string to produce a D. Drop D tuning has become so popular with guitarists that several electric guitar models feature a mechanism that allows your E string to automatically drop down to D.

Modal Tunings

Modal tunings are open tunings that do not produce a tertian (that is, major minor, etc.) chord. The strings may be tuned to present a single interval (fourths, fifths, etc.) or may be uniquely tuned in a completely non-tertian fashion. Metal and avant-garde guitarists are the ones who most commonly use this tuning.


A guitar in standard tuning is tuned to perfect fourths with the exception of the B string, which is tuned to the major 3rd of the G string. You can change the intervals, but the closer you stay to fourths, the less adjustment you will need.

Be Careful!

Too much strain from tightening the strings can cause your neck to warp or your strings to break. On the other hand, frequent droppings in tuning can produce a lot of strain on your strings as well and will shorten their playing life. Make sure that both your guitar and its strings are up to the task. Talk to a guitar expert to ensure you can do this on your guitar without any problems.

Phone Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664 or email: guitarman.glenn@gmail.com

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