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Alternate Guitar Tuning

Contributor: TC Staff    Rating: 0/5    Views: 6124

Instead of tuning your guitar to standard tuning: EADGBe (low to high), you can tune your guitar into an alternate tuning and this will permit you to finger new chord forms (inversions) that have unique sounds. Many artists use this strategy to write new sounding songs.

Many artists use this strategy to write new sounding songs. Artists like: Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell, Sarah Mclachlan, Ani Difranco, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Leo Kottke, and even Keith Richards have written many memorable songs in alternate tunings. This little article is a collection of songs and information about alternate tunings.

One way to become familiar with using these alternate tunings is just to memorize certain songs. Then after awhile you start to experiment in the tuning and find new ideas. I think alternate tunings are one big advantage the guitar has over the piano (if it were a competition that is).

So I collected a little list of songs (far below) in alternate tunings. I haven't played them all so there may be some disagreements. (understatement).

The simplest alternate tuning is drop-D. Just retune the low E string down a full step to D and you will have drop-D tuning. This enables a person to use the D bass string against chords and get a some nice harmony in D.

Usually, you lower a string to reach the desired pitch. In a few cases, you raise a string higher (B string up to C for example). Extra lightweight strings tend to rattle plenty when the pitch is lowered. Your choice of string weight may affect how satisfied you are with your alternate tunings. Here is a list of some alternate tunings:

Alternate Tunings
Name Notes
Standard EADGBe
Drop-D DADGBe <- just drop low E down to D
Double drop-D DADGBd <- drop both E's down to D's
Cross-Note DADFAd
D-Modals: DADGAd <- very common, Irish fingerstyle
or DADF#Ab
G Modal DGDGCd
G sus4 DGCGCe
E minor EBEGBe
E major EBEG#Be
"Slack-Key" DGDGBd <- open G very popular
A Major AC#EAC#e
A 7th AEGAC#e
A minor ACEACe
E Major G#BEG#Be
E 7th EDEG#Be

Nashville Tuning
Nashville tuning refers to replacing the wound strings with strings tuned to the same note, one octave higher. One way to accomplish this is to use only the high strings that come in a set of strings for a 12 string guitar. It is popular in Nashville studios to double acoustic guitar parts with this tuning, hence the name.

One advantage to open tuning is that you can use a lot of two-finger chords. Another is that you use a simple, full six string barre (or a slide) to change chords. If open C is used, for example, covering up all the strings on the fifth fret gives you an automatic F, the seventh a G (etc.). The same idea can be used with partial bars playing only the barred notes (or, if the open notes belong in the barred chord, playing them too). I even like to play fills/mini- riffs while strumming open or simple barre, mixing chord and riff in one, but maybe that's just my taste. (Of course, the usual boxes/patterns for scales don't apply any more; you have to learn new ones.) There is a whole new world to explore with open/alternate tunings.

It is really best to have a second guitar tuned to your favorite/most used open tuning. Re-tuning strings wears them out quickly due to metal fatigue. Frequent retuning will diminish the brightness of strings quickly and increase the likelihood of strings breaking. Buy several sets of extra strings before you begin learning alternate tunings.

This is a list of some popular songs which use alternate/open tunings. There are many more, especially Celtic traditional DADGAD songs.

Song (artist) tuning (654321)

Drop-D songs
Can't Find My Way Home (Blind Faith) DADGBe
Wondering Where the Lions Are (B.Cockburn) DADGBe
Dear Prudence (Beatles) DADGBe
Mobile (Who)

Double Drop-D songs
Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young) DADGBd
Ride My Llama (Neil Young) DADGBd
War Of Man (Neil Young) DADGBd
Black Water (Doobie Brothers) DADGBd
Ohio (Crosby, Stills, Nash) DADGBd
You Don't Have to Cry (Stills) DADGBd

DADGAD D-modal songs
Kashmir (Led Zeppelin) DADGAD
Black Mountain Side (Led Zeppelin) DADGAD
Song For George (Eric Johnson) DADGAD

"SLACK KEY" open G songs
In My Time of Dyin' (Led Zeppelin) DGDGBd (open G)
Start Me Up (Rolling Stones) DGDGBd
Honky Tonk Women (Rolling Stones) xGDGBd
Brown Sugar (Rolling Stones) DGDGBd
Can't You Hear Me Knockin' (Rolling Stones) DGDGBd
Spanish Flangdang (Elizabeth Cotton) DGDGBd
Walking Blues (R.Johnson, see EC "Unplugged") DGDGBd
Rolling and tumbling (Clapton) "
Running on faith (Clapton) "
Motherless Child (Clapton "From the cradle") "
Bad to the Bone "
All Down the Line (Stones) "
Can't You Hear Me knockin' (Stones) "
Tumblin' Dice (Stones) "
Sweet Virginia (Stones) "
Easy to Slip (Little Feat) "
Jesus Just Left Chicago (ZZ Top) "
Squeezebox (the Who) "
Fearless (Pink Floyd) "
Love At The Five And Dime (Nanci Griffith) " capo 3
The Circle Game (Joni Mitchell) "
Little Green (Joni Mitchell) "
Marcie (Joni Mitchell) "


Big Yellow Taxi (Joni Mitchell) EBEG#Be
She Talks To Angels - (The Black Crowes) EBEG#Be

Nathan LaFraneer (Joni Mitchell) CGDGBd
Morning Morgantown (Joni Mitchell) CGDGBd
Cold Blue Steel (Joni Mitchell) CGDGBd
Sweet Fire (Joni Mitchell) CGDGBd
Don't Interrupt the Sorrow (Joni Mitchell) CGDGBd

Wonderwall (Third Eye Blind) use partial capo F#BEAC#e

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (Stephen Stills) EEEEBe
Carry On (Stephen Stills) or 1/2 step flat EEEEBe Love the One Your With (Stephen Stills) CGCEGc
Deja Vu (Crosby, Stills, Nash) EBDGAd
Guinnevere (Crosby) EBDGAd

Rain Song (Led Zeppelin) DGCGCd (open Gsus4)
Seen All Good People (Yes) EGCGCe (open C, capo 4)

Vincent Black Lightning (Richard Thompson) CGDGBe
Come On In My Kitchen (Robert Johnson) EAEAC#e (open A)

Unverified/Unknown alternate tuning songs
First Girl I loved (the Incredible String Band)
Sailor's Grave on the Prairie (Leo Kottke or Tinsley Ellis)
Water Song (Hot Tuna)
All Apologies (Nirvana)
Midnight Rider (Allman Bros.)
The Poet Game (Greg Brown)
Dancin' Days (Led Zeppelin) -maybe double drop D ?
Bad Motor Scooter (Montrose) -probably open G ?

Contributor: TC Staff    Rating: 0/5    Views: 6124

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