||Home : Other Documents : Alternate Tunings
The strings of the guitar are often tuned to notes other than the standard E, A, D, G, B,
and E. Alternate tunings are popular in various acoustic fingerpicking, slide guitar, and
heavy rock styles. Often, the guitar is tuned to a chord, so that the open strings produce a
single harmony. This is popular with slide styles, because the slide can produce a full
chord at every fret. Alternate tunings are also used to make interesting musical patterns
and chords simpler to play on the fretboard. Finally, strings are often tuned down to allow
for lower notes and more deeply resonant tones. Below is a list of the most common
tunings, along with pieces to demonstrate each tuning in a variety of styles:
D A D G B E
Tune the 6th string down, so that it produces the pitch "D". Tuning your 6th string so that
it matches the 4th string is the most common method. The harmonic at the 12th fret of the
6th string can be used to produce the exact same pitch as the 4th string. Alternately, you
can use a tuner to match the 6th string to the note "D".
Dropped D is the most common alternate tuning, and is used in virtually every style to
make use of the lower, more resonant sound of the 6th string. Below are several pieces in
different styles that demonstrate how this tuning is commonly put to use:
Heavy Rock Rhythm Example
<http://guitarz.org/www/jscript/uploads/Dropped_D_Heavy_Rock.PDF>: One of the
great things about dropped D tuning is that it allows you to play power chords with only
one finger on the bottom 3 strings. This example demonstrates several applications of
power chords in this tuning, typical of very heavy rock groups. One of the heaviest
sounding examples on this website.
Solo Acoustic Fingerstyle With Repeating Ostinato Bass
<http://guitarz.org/www/jscript/uploads/Italiana.pdf>: This is a fingerstyle acoustic solo
that makes use of a repeated series of open bass strings as accompaniment to a simple
melody. It's much easier to play than it sounds!(Recordings)
"Open" Slide Tunings:
Open "G": D G D G B D
Open "E": E B E G# B E
Open "D": D A D F# A D
Open "C": C G C G C E
The above tunings all produce a full chord by strumming the open strings. They are used
most by slide guitarists so that the slide can produce a complete chord at every fret. Use a
tuner to adjust your stings to the specified pitches. In G and D, all of the altered strings
should be tuned down. In E, the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings should be tuned up. In D, the 6th,
5th, and 4th strings are tuned down, while the 2nd string is tuned up.
"D A D G A D"
Use a tuner to match each string to the above pitches. This tuning is most often used by
acoustic guitarists to play musical patterns that would otherwise be impossible to finger
on the instrument.
Guitarists often experiment with alternate tunings to come up with fresh harmonic ideas
and new melodic patterns. Learn the tunings above to become familiar with the
possibilities, and then have fun experimenting with your own approach!
Copyright © 2004-2013 Nick Antonaccio, all rights reserved.