When you first pick up a guitar, you learn standard E tuning. The chords are built off of this tuning, and so are the scale patterns. Standard guitar tuning is E – A – D – G – B – E tuned to a frequency of 440Hz. The first string is the bottom string and tuned to E. After jamming on some popular tunes, it’s fun to explore the broad soundscape the guitar can offer.
Dropped tunings are used a lot in popular rock and heavy rock music, while slide guitarists use open tunings frequently. If you intend to drop to lower tunings, you may need heavier gauge strings to prevent them from being too loose to play. All the strings need to be tuned to the same frequency, which is typically 440Hz. If they are not all the same frequency, the chordal ring will sound dissonant, even if the notes are tonally accurate and in tune.
The Fret Zealot app has over 50 tunings and many songs to accompany them, with literally thousands of new song uploads monthly. Here are a few popular alternate tunings to get you started. All the tunings listed below are from the top string down, in 6 5 4 3 2 1 order. Remember the high, thinnest string on the bottom when holding a right-handed guitar is considered string 1.
1. Drop D (or C) Tuning – D A D G B E
Tune the 6th string down to D or C and keep the rest at standard tuning.
Alternative rock music and metal music often incorporates Drop D tuning, including songs by Metallica, KORN, Soundgarden, and so many others. It adds a bassy bottom end to standard tuning chords and progressions. All the formations stay the same. Just remember to omit the D string when D isn’t in the chord or in the key progression. For example: Don’t play the low D when you play a standard C chord. You shouldn’t be doing this in standard tuning either, but if D is included in a standard C chord, with the major triad, it will create dissonance because it is the second note in the C major scale.
2. C6 Tuning – C A C G C E
Tune the 6th and 4th strings down, and tune the 2nd string up.
This open tuning adds the sixth note of the scale right in the tuning. The C Major Scale is C D E F G A B, without sharps and flats. A is the sixth in the scale, G is the fifth, and E is the third. The three C’s add a chorus of octave support rounding out the sound. World famous rock bands Led Zeppelin and Mumford & Sons have used this tuning for some of their most popular hits, like “I Will Wait.” Check out this video with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page in a live performance of “Friends” using this tuning. That guitar rings out setting the tone for this unique tune. You can hear how loose the C string is on the original Led Zeppelin III album recording.
3. Drop C Tuning – C G C F A D
Tune every string down.
Drop C is popular in hard rock and many genres metal and prog metal music as it adds that heavy low end. Drop C is also great for power chords. You can use this guide for chords.
Slide guitarists typically play in open tunings because the key major triad is already in the tuning, which makes it easier to build other chords. In Open G tuning, all of the strings are tuned to the major triad notes: G, B, and D.Here are some chords for Open G Tuning. The chords and formations on strings 2, 3, and 4 are the same as standard tuning.
5. Open D Tuning – D A D F# A D
Tune your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th strings down for Open D.
This is a major chord tuning used frequently by classic blues guitarists. The major triad chord is D – F# – A.
6. Open E Tuning – E B E G# B E
Tune the 3rd, 4th and 5th the strings UP.
The major triad notes are E – G# – B. Justin suggests you capo the second fret in Open D tuning as an easier alternative.
There are a lot more tunings, including modal tunings, perfect fourths tunings, augmented fourth tunings, and on and on and on. Remember, if you are playing out at an open mic or jam, the more unique your tuning is, the harder it will be for other players to jump in and jam with you. Dropped tunings and open tunings are easier to adjust to if you are going to bring your new tunings out to play!
So head to the Fret Zealot app, tune up, tune down and learn some new songs. If you have a suggestion for a song, please send it to us here.