Alternative Guitar Tunings – Why Are They Used?

In standard guitar tuning, the strings are tuned to E A D G B E, but sometimes it is necessary to tune the strings to an alternate tuning.  Most of the time alternative guitar tunings are used either to make a song easier to play, to be able to play certain chords, or to be able to produce lower notes than are available in standard tuning.  Alternate tunings can be also be used when playing covers, to tune the music down, so that a vocalist can sing within their range.

What Are Some Alternate Guitar Tunings?

Drop Tunings

Probably the most common tuning other than standard tuning is drop D tuning.  In drop D, the guitar is tuned to standard except for the low E string which is dropped a whole step or two frets, making the tuning look like: D A D G B E.  Usually the reason for using this tuning, at least in rock and metal is to be able to play power chords (a fifth dyad) by just barring across the upper two or three strings.  Being able to play power chords with just one finger enables a guitarist to switch chords much faster.

Another common tuning is drop C.  Drop C is often used generally used by metal and hard rock bands.  Drop C tuning is just like drop D tuning, except that all the strings are tuned down one whole step from the drop D tuning.  It would look like this C G C F A D.

Another  alternate tuning are Eb tuning, in which the whole guitar is dropped half a step.  Eb was used a lot by artists like Guns and Roses, Jimmi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Eb tuning looks like this: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb

Some bands have been famous for tuning their guitars to quarter pitches, like Machine Head or Pantera.

Open Tuning

There is also open tuning.  In this tuning, all the strings are tuned to form a chord that can be played just by playing open, or by barring across all the strings, for this reason this tuning is popular with slide guitar players.

Open D -  D A D F# A D

Open CC G C G C E

Open D Minor – D A D F A D

Open G – D G D G B D

Open G Minor – D G D G A# D

Open A – E A C# E A E


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