6 Alternate Guitar Tunings For Every Guitarist

The guitar is a pretty cool instrument and let’s face it, the standard tuning gets the job done. Whether you’re into heavy metal, blues, or acoustic folk music, there’s an endless selection of songs that you can play with the standard guitar tuning, both on electric and acoustic guitars. But if you’re feeling adventurous and want to expand your guitar playing possibilities, there are a couple of things you can try out.

One easy way to change things up is by using a guitar capo, but if you’re looking to make a more significant change to your sound, then alternate tunings are the way to go. There are plenty of guitarists out there who have used alternate tunings to great effect, including Joni Mitchell, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Tom Morello, and Nick Drake, just to name a few.

As you add more and more songs to your repertoire, you may come across alternate tunings like drop D, drop C, and open E that are necessary to play certain songs correctly. If you’re interested in learning more, keep reading because we’re about to take a deep dive into the world of alternate guitar tunings and share some of the most common ones you can try out.

Before you start experimenting with alternate guitar tunings, make sure you’re familiar with the strings of your instrument and can tune your guitar to the standard tuning. 

Once you’re comfortable with that, let’s explore some cool alternate tunings to spice up your playing!

What Are Alternate Guitar Tunings?

Are you tired of the same old sound your guitar produces in the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning? Well, you’re in luck because there’s a way to change things up! Alternate guitar tunings are a cool and easy way to tune your guitar differently and create a unique sound.

So, what exactly are alternate tunings? Basically, they’re just different ways of tuning your guitar’s strings than the standard way. The result? A distinct and different sound that you might just love!

Why would you want to try alternate guitar tunings? Well, for starters, it can help you create a different mood or feel for your music. For instance, if you’re in the mood for a darker and heavier sound, you can try a dropped tuning, where you tune your guitar strings lower than usual. This can help you achieve that moody and heavy tone you’re after.

Another thing to note is that playing the same song in a different tuning can completely change its sound. That’s right! You could end up with a completely new version of a song you already know and love, just by tweaking the tuning a bit. However, keep in mind that some alternate tunings are so different from the standard tuning that you may not like how the song sounds if you try to play it in the standard way.

Get Familiar with Standard Guitar Tuning Before Trying Alternate Tunings

If you’re interested in experimenting with alternate guitar tunings, it’s best to first get comfortable with the standard guitar tuning. When playing a song or learning a new tune, chances are you’ll be using the standard tuning. This involves tuning the strings as E-A-D-G-B-E, from the lowest (and thickest) string to the highest one. To remember the string names, you can use a helpful rhyme: “Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie.”

Before diving into alternate tunings, it’s important to know how to tune your guitar using the standard tuning. You can learn to do this by ear or with a tuner device. 

In our opinion, the easiest way to keep your guitar in tune is with a digital tuner app that you can download on your phone, such as GuitarTuna. 

Dropped tunings

Drop tuning, or dropped tuning, is a cool technique that involves tuning your guitar’s lowest E string lower than the standard tuning. It’s a popular method used in many rock and heavy metal genres, but drop tunings aren’t only limited to heavier music. Today we’ll go over two examples of drop tunings, but keep in mind that there are many other variations out there.

Some common drop tunings include drop D, drop C, drop B, and drop A. These tunings come in handy when playing power chords on the lowest two or three strings of the guitar. By tuning the low E string two frets lower than usual, it allows you to play chords with just one finger. This technique is called barring. For example, you can use your index finger to press down all three strings, creating a barre chord-like sound. This makes it easier and faster to transition between different chords on the guitar’s lowest strings.

Overall, drop tunings can add some unique and interesting sounds to your guitar playing. So, grab your guitar and give it a try!

Get Started with Alternate Tunings: Drop D Tuning

If you’re looking to explore alternate tunings and add some variety to your playing, Drop D tuning is a great place to start.

One of the coolest things about Drop D tuning is that it’s commonly used in rock music, which means you’ll be able to experiment with some of your favorite tunes right away. And the best part? You only need to change the tuning of one string – the low E string.

To get started, make sure your guitar is in standard tuning (EADGBE) and then simply tune down the low E string to a D note. When you strum the three lowest strings (D, A, D), you’ll produce a D5 power chord – pretty cool, right?

If you don’t have a special tuner for alternate guitar tunings, don’t worry! You can use the higher D string as a reference point to make sure you’re in tune.

So go ahead and give Drop D tuning a try – it’s a quick and easy way to add some new sounds to your playing!

Get Heavy with Drop C Tuning for Your Guitar

If you’re a fan of heavy metal music and want to make your guitar sound even heavier and lower than the drop D tuning, then you should give drop C tuning a try. Drop C is a popular tuning used by many bands in the heavy metal and metalcore genres to create that crushing guitar sound with lower notes.

To get into drop C tuning, start by tuning down your low E string to D just like in drop D tuning. But this time, you’ll tune all strings down a whole step. Once you’re done, your six guitar strings should be tuned to C, G, C, F, A, and D from low to high.

Many famous metal bands have used drop C tuning extensively in their music, such as System of a Down, Killswitch Engage, Bullet for My Valentine, Disturbed, and Children of Bodom. So, if you want to emulate their sound, give drop C tuning a try and see how it sounds on your guitar. Get ready to rock out and create some heavy music with this tuning!

Open tunings

One of the popular ways to use alternate tunings is through open tunings. These tunings are named after the chord produced when all strings are played open. It’s like magic – you can play major chords like D, G, and E just by strumming all strings without pressing any frets! Although you can also use open tunings for playing minor chords, major chords are commonly played.

What’s more, open tunings allow you to play chords by barring all strings with a single finger. That’s why open tunings are great for playing slide guitar! Joni Mitchell, a guitar player, is known for her use of open tunings, and she didn’t limit herself to just one open tuning. She used a variety of different open tunings for different songs.

Here, we’ll be focusing on two possible open tunings: open E and open D. But for slide guitar, other popular open tunings include the open G and open A tunings. So, if you’re looking for a new way to spice up your guitar playing, try experimenting with open tunings!

Open D (D-A-D-F#-A-D)

If you want to try something new on your guitar, consider tuning it to open D. It’s easy to do – just lower the high and low E strings down a whole step, and the G string down half a step. You’ll also need to tune the B string down a whole step. Once you’ve got your guitar tuned to open D, you can play a variety of songs in this unique tuning.

Some great tunes to try include “Loser” by Beck, “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell, “Even Flow” by Pearl Jam, and “Dust My Broom” by Elmore James. But those aren’t the only ones – plenty of other bands have used open D tuning in their music. For example, folk rockers Mumford & Sons and shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine have both incorporated this tuning into their songs.

Get to Know the Open E Tuning for Slide Guitar

If you’re familiar with the open D tuning, then you might want to check out the open E tuning too. Unlike open D, this one requires you to tune three of the strings up from the standard guitar tuning. Don’t worry, it’s not too complicated!

To achieve the open E tuning, you need to tune both the A and D strings up a whole step, as well as the G string half a step. This tuning is popular among slide guitar players, just like Duane Allman. But it’s not just for slide playing, as many famous songs have been written using this tuning.

For instance, the classic song ‘Bo Diddley’ by Bo Diddley, ‘Just Got Paid’ by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and some songs by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, like ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’, all use the open E tuning.

Other alternate tunings

If you’re a guitar player looking to switch things up a bit, you might want to give these two alternate guitar tunings a try: the full step down and the half-step down tunings. They’re super easy to get started with – just tune all six strings either a full or half-step down from standard tuning, and you’re good to go!

Full-step down (D standard)

If you want to tune your guitar down to drop C, here’s a quick and easy way to do it.

First things first, let’s start by tuning your guitar to drop D. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to tune the rest of the strings down an entire step. Simply turn the tuning pegs until each string matches the pitch of the string below it, but down a whole step.

Now that your guitar is tuned down a full step, it’s time to get to the drop C tuning. All you have to do is tune your low E string down two more steps until it reaches C. And voila! Your guitar is now tuned to drop C and you’re ready to start rocking out.

Half-step down (E flat)

If you’re a guitarist looking for a heavier sound, you might want to try half-step down tuning, also known as E flat tuning. In this tuning, all six strings are tuned down by half a step to Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, and Eb (sometimes written as D#, G#, C#, F#, A#, D#).

Because the strings are looser than in standard tuning, the resulting sound is a bit weightier. Some legendary guitarists who have used this tuning include Jimi Hendrix, Slash of Guns ‘n’ Roses, Buddy Holly, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others.

So, if you’re looking for a way to add some heft to your playing and join the ranks of iconic guitarists, give half-step down tuning a try.

Picking the Right Guitar Strings Based on Tuning and Style

f you’re a guitar player, you know that there’s more to it than just picking up a guitar and playing. One of the key things to consider is which strings to use, based on the type of guitar you have, your playing style, and most importantly, the tuning you use.

When it comes to tuning, it’s important to note that the lower the tuning, the thicker your strings should be. This is especially true for dropped tunings, which can be easier to play with thicker strings. In fact, some guitar string manufacturers, like Ernie Ball, offer sets of strings that are specifically designed for particular guitar tunings.

For example, if you’re playing in drop C, you may want to consider using heavier gauge strings. Similarly, if you’re playing in drop D, you can opt for strings where only the lowest strings are thicker than usual.

So, when you’re looking for the right strings for your guitar, make sure you take into account the tuning you use, as well as your playing style and guitar type. With the right strings, you’ll be able to produce the sound you want and play your best.

How to Tune Your Guitar to Alternate Tunings

To get started, it’s best to begin by setting your guitar up to the standard tuning (EADGBE). This will provide you with a reference point for the other tunings. However, not all alternate tunings require you to change all of the strings from standard tuning. For example, drop D tuning only requires you to drop the low E string down to a D.

Using a guitar tuner is the most reliable way to tune your guitar to any tuning, both standard and alternate. However, many guitar tuners are only designed for standard tuning. Luckily, there are tools available like GuitarTuna, a free app with an accurate tuner for standard tuning, as well as tunings for a variety of other instruments. Plus, you can access additional alternate tuning options like drop D, drop C, and E flat tuning.

In this article, we’ve covered six essential alternate tunings. However, there are many more out there to explore, such as the open G tuning, the folky DADGAD tuning, and many lesser-known tunings. 

And if you really want to get wild, you can look to experimental bands like Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and The Velvet Underground for inspiration. So go ahead and give alternate tunings a try – who knows what amazing sounds you might discover!

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