So you’ve been playing guitar for a while; you’ve got your open chords, your barre chords, and your pentatonic scale down. Now you’re looking to break out of the rut and try something fresh. Try some alternate tunings.
Standard tuning is just one of many ways to approach playing the guitar, and trying out a few alternate tunings can provide a whole range of new possibilities and ideas.
For the uninitiated, alternate tuning involves tuning the strings of your guitar to pitches other than the standard E, A, D, G, B, and E.
Some of the most successful guitarists in the world are well known for using alternate tunings, and many popular songs have been written through this kind of experimentation.
D A D G B E
This is probably the most popular alternate tuning, and is particularly popular in Rock and Metal music. As the name suggests, it involves detuning the low-E string 2 semitones down to D. This allows you to achieve a basic power chord just by barring your finger across the lowest 3 strings. This also means playing the 3 lowest strings open creates a D power chord. The ease this method brings to playing barre chords opens worlds of creativity, allowing you to play more complex parts with ease.
D A D F# A D
This is somewhat similar to Drop D, but with Open D, all six strings are tuned to create a D major chord. In other words, a D major chord will be produced by an open strum. By extension, this also means you can produce any major chord by barring across an entire fret. This is incredibly popular in folk music. The tuning here, from low to high, is D, A, D, F#, A, D.
D G D G B D
Similar to Open D, Open G allows you to produce a G major chord with an open strum. It is worth noting that when playing open chords like this in Open G, it may be best to not strum the lowest string. While it won’t be technically wrong, your lowest note won’t be the root of the chord, so it may not sound ideal. But as always, experimentation is your friend!
Open G is also very popular among folk and blues players. The tuning for Open G, from low to high, is D, G, D, G, B, D.
Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb
Very Popular among rock guitarists, Eb Standard is simply tuning every string one semi-tone lower. The guitar is played exactly the same, as the ratios are the same, but the result is a slightly heavier sound, as it is lower in pitch. It also alters the feel of the guitar, as the strings are less taut than before. Many lead guitar players prefer this.
The greatest upside brought about by alternate tunings is the opportunity experimentation. We’ve just outlined some of the most common tunings here, but the options are endless!