Alternate guitar tunings are both interesting and useful. You can create a whole different sound just by tuning the guitar Differently. Most often alternate tunings are used in folk, bluegrass, traditional blues and slide and sometimes rock guitar
To achieve an alternate tuning you just tune the guitar differenty, as its name implies. Most often the guitar is tuned to a full chord, usually major. However in more ecletic guitar styles the guitar is often tuned to suspended or 7th chords, most commonly major 7th, to give it a new age kind of sound.
In the modern rock / nu metal context alternate tunings take the form of the lower guitar strings or sometimes the whole guitar being tuned down dramatically. This gives the guitar a low pitched growl when used with distortion.
Here are a few cool alternate tunings to experiment with. I recommend that you use a chromatic tuner to tune up so that all of the pitches are accurate.
Common alternate tunings
Drop D: d a d g b e
Drop C: c g c f a d
Open D: d a d f# a d
Open G: d g d g b d
Open C: c g c g c e
Open E: e b e g# b e
Open A: e a c# e a e
Some that sound like other instruments
All Fourths: e a d g c f
Dobro: g b d g b d
Mandoguitar: c g d a e b
Some that sound elclectic or “new age”
D A D G A D
D A D D D D
C G D G B D
C G D G B E
D A D E A D
D G D G A D
Have fun with these tunings! They should keep you busy for a while.
Saw the Q/A for Dave on tuning to/from alternate tunings: would like to add my 2 cents;
Using a chromatic tuner and lower the strings is no problem. When tuning back up to standard I find it’s safer for me to tune each string to 5-10 Cents below to intended goal first, (1 cent is 1/100th of a semitone-there are 1,200 semitones in an octave.). A human can generally hear when a string is 5 cents out of tune. With all the strings set within the 5-10 cent range, I go back and fine tune each string. Sounds complicated and maybe I’m over cautious, but I don’t want to tighten one enough to break a string.
Been using the Snark Supertight ST-8HZ…takes me a little longer because once the green light is displayed on all strings using the initial ON button, the HZ button is activated to fi e tune each string. Instructions do come with the Snark ST-8HZ, and I keep them clipped to my music stand. It’s good for Guitars and 4-5 String Bass. I never thought of the variations in string frequencies before until I saw it printed on the instructions:
For 6 String Guitar tune each string in ASCENDING order. target HZ
First, Low E String 82.4
Second, A String. 110.0
Third, D String. 146.8
Fourth, G String. 196.0
Fifth, B String. 246.9
Sixth, Hi E String. 329.6
For 4-5 String BASS Guitar tune strings in a DESCENDING order.
First, G String. 98.0
Second, D String. 73.4
Third, A String. 55.0
Fourth. E String. 41.2
Fifth, B String. (If 5 String). 30.95
Hope it helps someone further down the line.
Other bits of trivia from the past: if you’re going to play anywhere the light is bad-pack a flashlight, most cell phones got that covered nowadays anyhow. If you’re counting on using a glass slide-bring a back up metal on because glass slides don’t do well when dropped on cement floors.
Thanks for the info Len… This is definitely more geared towards someone who has a lot of experience with playing and tuning already so I wouldn’t say it’s beneficial for a beginner player to try and understand. But certainly good to come back to after they get the hang of things
How do you even get started in tuning like this I’m a beginner and really don’t understand
Thanks for your question… Alternate Tunings is more of an Advanced beginner to intermediate topic so I can understand how this might seem a little over your head if you’re a beginner.
I have some other lessons/resources for you to check out to help you with the basics. Because Super Guitar Licks is a little more advanced in general, there isn’t a basic tuning video. However.. we do have one on our other guitar site RockGuitarPower.com that you can check out here: https://www.rockguitarpower.com/guitarlessons/tune-up/
Here’s some other lessons/posts on SGL that will help you with Tuning. Please check all these out and let us know if you have more questions or need more help:
How to Get In Tune With A Recording:
Using A Chromatic Tuner To Practice:
Keeping Your Guitar In Tune Keeps Your Ears In Tune:
Where would one use Open C, & Drop C. I have a Slide Course by Vinnie D, that uses Open E Turning, but I’ve never heard of anybody actually using it. Any Examples of those Alternate Tunings in songs that I might know ?
Hey Len! Drop C is used a lot in heavy rock and metal… The low tunings sound great with thick distortion. Open tunings are used a lot in finger style and dobro/slide playing. The different tunings give you access to different types of bar chords and capo’d shapes that are not accessible in standard tuning.
Excellant , Thank You
Works very well