Tunings of the Guitar Family
The following information has been gathered to help sort out options for instrument tuning. It is intended to serve the following purposes:
1. To determine what the normal - standard tuning is for a variety of instruments.
2. To provide options for alternate tunings for various instruments.
3. To provide a reference for some odd tunings used on recordings from various artists
The list is cataloged as follows:
- Guitar Family Tunings
- Classical Guitar Tuning
- Harp Guitar Tuning
- Open Tuning
- Taro Patch Tuning
- Slack-Key Tuning
- Major Tunings
- Crossnote Tuning
- Modal Tuning
- Extended Chord Tuning
- Steel Guitar Tuning
- Dobro (Slide) Tuning
- Miscellaneous Artist's Tunings
- Terz Guitar Tuning
- Requinto Tuning
- Vihuelita Tuning
- Tenor Guitar Tuning
- Plectrum Guitar Tuning
- Mandolin Tuning
- Bouzouki Tuning
- Ukulele Tuning
- Tiple Tuning
- Dulcimer Tuning
- Lute Tuning
- Other Guitar Family Instruments
6 String Guitar Standard Tuning: E-A-D-G-B-E, Low to high.
12 String Guitar Standard Tuning: EE-AA-DD-GG-BB-EE, Low to high - strings tuned in octaves.
Dropped D: D-A-D-G-B-E
This tuning is not only used by metal and rock bands, but also folk musicians. It allows power chords (also known as bare fifth chords) to be played with a single finger on the lowest three strings. It is also used extensively in classical guitar music and transcriptions since it allows open strings to sound the tonic and dominant as part of the bassline in the keys of D and D minor. Some guitarists choose to use a capo on the second fret with this tuning so that they can retain the ease of playing power chords without the darker sound created by the D tuning.
Dropped C: C-G-C-F-A-D
This tuning is the same as dropped D, but each string is lowered an additional whole step, or two semitones. Technically a "drop C" tuning would be C-A-D-G-B-E'. However, the tuning technically known as "Dropped D tuned down one whole step" is commonly referred to as "Dropped C" tuning, as very few people drop only the sixth string. This gives the guitar a very low and heavy sound, and usually requires extra-thick strings to maintain tension. This tuning is frequently used by hardcore and metalcore bands as well to achieve a lower sound. Tuning a standard, non-baritone guitar any lower than this is difficult.
Dropped B: B-F#-B-E-G#-C# or
This tuning is the same as dropped D and C, but lowered from dropped C an additional semitone, or half step. This tuning is very popular with alternative metal/post-grunge bands. It has also become popular with doom metal/post-metal bands. Heavier gauge strings are required for this tuning, which may also require widening the string grooves in the nut of the guitar as well as re-adjusting the tension in the neck.
Dropped A: A-E-A-D-F#-B or
A very low drop tuning used in metal and death metal bands. As with the Dropped B tuning, heavy gauge strings are required, and even minor modifications to some guitars.
Eb tuning: Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb
This tuning is achieved when all the strings are flattened by a half step. This can be combined with other tuning techniques such as dropped D tuning and makes no difference to fingering. Often the key will be considered by the players as if played in standard tuning. This tuning can be used for a number of reasons: to make larger strings bend more easily, to make the tone heavier, to better suit the vocalist's range, to play with saxophone family more easily, or to play in Eb pentatonic minor formed by the black keys of a keyboard. Guns N' Roses favoured E flat tuning because it allowed Axl Rose's voice to be accentuated on the high notes. It is also used by Metallica to compliment James Hetfield's voice.
D tuning: D-G-C-F-A-D
Also known as "One Step Lower" and "Whole Step Down", this tuning is basically E Standard with all six strings tuned one whole step down. Although mostly utilized in heavy metal, one sometimes find this tuning in Blues, where guitarists use it to accommodate string bending.
Db tuning: Db-Gb-Cb-Fb-Ab-Db
Black Sabbath used this tuning on many of their earlier albums.
C tuning (guitar): C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C
C standard tunes the strings of the guitar to produce a low tone. This tuning is commonly used by metal and hard rock artists as it is two whole steps below standard tuning. This tuning can also be written as C-F-A♯-d♯-g-c. It allows for a low, heavy sound, while still maintaining the intervals present in standard tuning.
B tuning: B-E-A-D-G-B-E
Also known as "B Standard" or "Baritone" tuning, this tuning is a common tuning of seven-string guitars, which are tuned B,E,A,D,G,B,E (however this is just an extended version of E standard tuning). On a six string guitar, the tuning is modified to B,E,A,D,F#,Bb tuning takes B Standard on either a six or seven string guitar down a semitone (or half step). For example, guitarists such as Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel fame has utilized this on seven string guitars. The tuning result is (from low to high) Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Bb, Eb. However, on a six string guitar (from low to high) it would be Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, F, Bb.
The classical guitar developed over a period of 500 years and a number of guitar tunings are commonly used, some based upon historical practice. Unlike other musical styles where alternative tunings are used by artists largely as a matter of individual preference, in classical guitar styles, the decision to employ alternative tunings comes from composers and arrangers of musical transcriptions. Classical guitarists performing known transcriptions are assumed to be using predetermined and carefully defined tunings.
The 10 additional strings of the Gibson Style U Harp guitar tuning listed above is noted as standard harp guitar tuning from the Gibson 1921 catalog - credited to Walter A. Boehm, "one of the most competent Harp-Guitarists in America".
An open tuning has the strings tuned for an open chord without fretting. Other chords may be played by simply barring a fret or by using a slide.
Notable players who have made extensive or exclusive use of open tunings include Kim Thayil, Robert Johnson, Mark Tremonti, Bukka White, Skip James, Nick Drake, Jack White, Nic Jones, John Fahey, Bob Dylan, Alexander Rosenbaum, Keith Richards, Duane Allman, Lowell George, Mick Taylor, Ry Cooder, Richard Thompson, Martin Carthy, John Martyn, Blind Blake, Leo Kottke, Richie Havens, Joni Mitchell, Jonatha Brooke, Mark Kozelek, Michael Hedges, Ted Hawkins, Jimmy Page, Rod Price, Alan Sparhawk, Barry Gibb, Joe Walsh, John Butler, Derek Trucks, Kevin Shields, Sonic Youth, Ricky Wilson, Keith Strickland, Devin Townsend, Dan Auerbach, Ani DiFranco, Don Ross, Johnny Marr, Rich Robinson, John5, Jimmie Spheeris, John Rzeznik and John Butler.
Open tunings are common in blues music and some rock and folk music. They are particularly used in steel guitar and bottleneck guitar playing. The names of some tunings vary between genres, for example in Hawaiian Music, for slack-key guitar, an example would be the taro patch, or open G tuning, with strings low-high D-G-D-G-B-D. But in bluegrass music, open G can mean G B D G B D.
Open G: G B D G B D
Major open tunings (giving a major chord with the open strings) include:
Open A: low-high; E-A-C#-E-A-E
Alternatively: low-high; E-A-C#-E-A-C#
"Slide" Open A: low-high; E-A-E-A-C#-E (note that this tuning is identical to Open G tuning but with every string raised one step or two frets)
Open C: low-high; C-G-C-G-C-E
Open D: low-high; D-A-D-F#-A-D
Alternatively: low-high; D-A-D'-A'-D-D
Open Dm: low-high; D-A-D-F-A-D (Used on Opeth's Ghost of Perdition)
Open E: low-high; E-B-E-G#-B-E (use light gauge strings because three strings must be raised)
Open F: low-high; F-A-C-F-C-F (rare)
F-Sharp Tuning low-high; F#-A#-C#-F#-C#-F# (Used only by Curtis Mayfield)
Open G: low-high; D-G-D-G-B-D
Dobro Open G: low-high; G-B-D-G-B-D (occasionally adopted for ordinary guitar, but requires lighter fifth and sixth strings; Only square-necked resonator guitars can hold this tuning with standard gauges).
Russian Open G: low-high; D-G-B-D-G-B-D (the standard tuning for the Russian seven string guitar).
Open tunings versus altered tunings
Generally, Open Tunings refer to the changing of string pitches to reproduce common Major and Minor chords. One might consider broadening this definition to include more obscure or less used tonalities / chords such as the ones listed below. But these are in kind of a "middle ground" between standard Open Tunings and Altered Tunings. Altered tunings are tunings that don't really reflect any specific chord name. An example would be the tuning Jimmy Page uses on Led Zeppelin's Rain Song (D,G,C,G,C,D). Even though some tunings could be named by "theory" they might lack the gravity or musical cohesion to really represent that chord.
The above open tunings all give a major chord with open strings. Since it is highly likely guitarists will need to play minor chords as well, open tunings must be adapted to allow this by lowering the pitch of one of the strings forming the open chord by half a step. To avoid the relatively cumbersome designation "open D minor", "open C minor", such tunings are sometimes called "crossnote tunings". The term also expresses the fact that, by fretting the lowered string at the first fret, it is possible to produce a major chord very easily.
Crossnote tunings include
Crossnote A: low-high; E-A-E-A-C-E
Alternative: E-A-C-E-A-E (rare)
Crossnote C: low-high; C-G-C-G-C-Eb
Open D: low-high; D-A-D-F-A-D
Crossnote E: low-high; E-B-E-G-B-E
Crossnote F: low-high; F-Ab-C-F-C-F (extremely rare)
Alternative: low-high; F-C-F-Ab-C-F (used by Albert Collins; requires extremely light gauges
Crossnote G: low-high; D-G-D-G-Bb-D
Sometimes a guitarist will want a tuning that will permit very easy chords but not be definitively minor or major. In this case, modal tunings can be used. They can be especially effective with droning open strings, and give "suspended" second or fourth chords:
Modal tunings include:
Asus2: low-high; E-A-B-E-A-E (very rare)
Asus4: low-high; E-A-D-E-A-E
C6: low-high; C-A-C-G-C-E (used in " Bron-Yr-Aur " & " Friends" by English rock group Led Zeppelin)
Csus2: low-high; C-G-C-G-C-D
Csus4: low-high; C-G-C-G-C-F
Dsus2: low-high; D-A-D-E-A-D
Dsus4: low-high; D-A-D-G-A-D (very popular in Celtic music and referred to as "Dad Gad")
Esus2: low-high; E-A-E-F#-B-E
Esus4: low-high; E-A-E-A-B-E
G6: low-high; D-G-D-G-B-E (Used by Billy Gibbons in "Tush")
Gsus2: low-high; D-G-D-G-A-D
Gsus4: low-high; D-G-D-G-C-D
Extended Chord Tunings
These tunings allow a guitarist to play an open seventh, ninth, eleventh or thirteenth chord. One or more of the strings is retuned to the appropriate note of the required scale. Such tunings may be either minor or major.
Open Dmaj7: low-high; D-A-D-F#-A-C#
Open Dmin7: low-high; D-A-D-F-A-C
Open Emin7: low-high; E-B-D-G-B-E (same as standard except raised 5th string which needs lighter gauge)
Open G6: low-high; D-G-D-G-B-E
Dobro open G6: low-high; G-B-D-G-B-E (two lowest strings tuned up and require lighter gauges)
Open Gmaj7: low-high; D-G-D-G-B-F
D-G-D-F-B-D (both very rare presumably because of tritone between adjacent strings)
Open Gmaj7: low-high D-G-D-F#-B-D (see slack key)
Modal G7: low-high; F-G-D-G-C-D
Open G6min7: low-high; F-G-D-G-B-E
Open Cmin7: low-high; C-G-C-G-Bb-Eb
Open Cmaj7: low-high; C-G-C-G-B-E
Nearly infinite. These open tunings offer much room for experiment, but can only be used in a few keys.
On table steel guitar and pedal steel guitar, the most common tunings are the extended-chord C6 tuning and E9 tuning, sometimes known as the Texas and Nashville tunings respectively. On a multiple-neck instrument, the near neck will normally be some form of C6, and the next closest neck E9.
Noted country player Junior Brown plays his trademark Guit-Steel in a C13 tuning, which is a C6 Chord with an added 7th above the high A (the Steel has 5 strings instead of a pedal's 7)
Necks with 12 or more strings can be used with universal tunings which combine the features of C6 and E9. On a 12 string pedal steel guitar, all 12 strings are tuned and played individually, not as 6 double courses as on the 12 string guitar.
On lap steel guitar there is often only one six-string neck. C6 tuning is popular for these instruments, as are E6 and E7 tuning, there being an insufficient number of strings to represent the notes of an E9 chord.
EADGBE - standard guitar tuning for rhythm or fingerstyle
GBDGBD - for slide (many possible options here)
Miscellaneous Artist's Tunings
All fourths: E-A-D-G-C-F
This tuning is like that of the lowest four strings in standard tuning. It removes from standard tuning the irregularity of the interval of a third between the second and third strings. With regular tunings like this, chords can simply be moved down or across the fretboard, dramatically reducing the number of different finger positions that need to be memorized. The disadvantage is that not all major and minor chords can be played with all six strings at once.
Keven Chambers' Custom Open E: E-B-E-F#-B-E
Used by Guitarist Keven Chambers this is just an alternate version of the Open E Major tuning using an F# on the third string instead of a G#.
All fifths: C-G-D-A-E-B
This is a tuning in intervals of fifths like that of a mandolin or a violin. Has a remarkably wide range, though it is difficult to achieve (the high b" makes the first string very taut such that it will break easily), and may not play well on an acoustic guitar (the low C is too low to resonate properly in a standard guitar's body). Luthier Todd Keehn claims to have been the first guitarist to adopt an all-fifths tuning, his being arranged G-D-a-e-b'-f#', and he has made an all fifths tuned guitar. The guitar is able to intonate in this radical tuning by slanting all the frets and the nut, and allowing each string its own bridge; and thus its own scale length.
D modal tuning: D-A-D-G-A-D and D-A-D-A-D-D
Popularised by Davey Graham, who had been inspired by Arabic oud tuning while living in Morocco. D modal tuning D-A-D-G-A-D is now encountered in Celtic music and contemporary music.
Another similar modal tuning is D-A-D-A-D-D from low to high respectively. Used by guitarist Stephen Roy, it makes chords simpler to play. Having a "dropped D" effect in the bottom bass strings makes one finger chords easier. The top two treble strings can be slightly out of tune from each other, creating a chorus double guitar kind of effect.
Hardcore tuning: C-G-C-F-A-Bb
A rather uncommon tuning, "hardcore" tuning is used by bands of hardcore, grindcore, and even some metalcore. It much resembles dropped C tuning, except for the high strings, which, depending on what is most useful for the guitarist, are tuned one semitone (a minor second) apart. This allows the guitarist to easily create the very harsh dissonance of the minor second.
Robert Fripp's "New Standard Tuning": C-G-D-A-E-G
This is a tuning devised by Robert Fripp of King Crimson, used by most Guitar Craft students around the world. The tuning is similar to all fifths except the first string is dropped from b' to g'. Some guitarists maintain that the term 'New Standard Tuning' is a misnomer and consider it to be a source of controversy, but the name appears to have stuck due the absence of viable alternative designations. Time will tell whether the tuning is in fact accepted outside of GC as a viable all-purpose tuning.
Billy Corgan's "Mayonaise" tuning: Eb-Ab-Ab-Gb-Bb-D
Corgan utilizes this unique tuning on Mayonaise. The A is raised by a half step, while the D is lowered by 2 whole steps. This allows for Corgan to play the chord formations with all strings being played.
John Rzeznik's "Iris" tuning: B-D-D-D-D-D
John Rzeznik of the rock band Goo Goo Dolls uses this tuning on the studio recorded version of his song Iris, an international hit featured on the soundtrack of City Of Angels. It creates a very shimmer-like ringing sound similar to a twelve string guitar. To tune to this tuning on a standard six string guitar the low E string is lowered to a B; the A string is lowered to a D, the D string is left the same, the G string is lowered to a D, the B string is raised to a D, and the high E string is lowered to a D. On some guitars this may require obtaining a thicker low E string than is usual to obtain a full sound when tuned down to B, and avoid the string slapping the fret board. John Rzeznik uses a different tuning for an acoustic version of "Iris", tuned at D-A-d-g-b'-d'. This allows the above song to be played solo with an acoustic guitar and to retain a fuller sound than is achievable with the B-D-d-d-d-d tuning. Yet this tuning also retains a slight ringing sound due to three strings being tuned to D, the piece being in the key of D major.
John Rzeznik's song "Black Balloon" is tuned at Db-Ab-Db-Ab-Db-Db. The song can also be played as Db-Ab-Db-Db-Db-Db, although it won't sound the same.
Jars of Clay's tuning: E-A-B-E-B-E
Jars of Clay uses this unique tuning, especially on their older material, especially found on their self-titled album. Noted songs are "Worlds Apart," "Flood," "Love Song for a Savior," and "He." The tuning gives a shimmery 12-string sound, while limiting chords to mainly suspended type chords. To achieve this tuning, one should tune the D and G strings down until they are an octave below the B and E strings in standard tuning.
Tenor Guitar: G-D-A-E
(one octave lower than a mandolin)
D G B E (1st four strings of the modern guitar)
D G B E (same as above, with the 4th string tuned an octave high, in a re-entrant tuning)
To tune a guitar to "lute" tuning, use a Tenor Lute (see below) tuning from "E": E A D F# B E, for "old" tuning, or just leave it as it is, for "new" tuning.
CGBD - like a plectrum banjo
DGBE - like the top 4 strings of a guitar
The tunings below apply as instrument tunings for a Mandolin Orchestra:
Mandolin: G D A E (same as violin)
Piccolo Mandolin: A D G C (1/4 higher than a regular mandolin)
Soprano Mandolin: G D A E (Same as a regular mandolin & violin)
Tenor Mandolin: A D G C (1/5 lower than a regular mandolin)
Cello Mandolin: A D G C (1 octave lower than a Tenor Mandolin)
Mandola (tenor): C G D A
Octave Mandolin: G D A E (one octave lower than a Mandolin)
Mando-Cello: C G D A (one octave lower than a Mandola)
Mando-Bass: E A D G
Soprano standard tuning:
G C E A (4, 3, 2, 1) - 'G' is closest to you. (4th string, in higher octave, re-entrant tuning)
Soprano optional tunings:
F# B D# G# 1/2 step down
F A# D G Full step down
G# C# F A# 1/2 step up
A D F# B Full step up (4th string, "A", in higher octave, re-entrant tuning)
G C E A
G C E A (The 'G' can be an octave lower)
D G B E (Like the upper 4 strings on a guitar)
Tiple: (Pronounced TEE-play)
C E A D
(South American version. 4th string, "C", is octaved)
Tiple: (Pronounced TIPPLE)
A D F# B
(North American version. 2nd, 3rd and 4th, "A", "D", and "F#", are octaved)
The strings and tunings on a Martin tiple are as follows:
1: .010 tuned to B
2: .010 B
3: .013 F#
4: .027 F# (octave lower)
5: .013 F#
6: .015 D
7: .029 D (octave lower)
8: .015 D
9: .009 A
10: .025 A (octave lower)
All strings are unwound except for strings 4, 7, and 10, which are phosphor bronze wound. The tiple string tunings are a fifth above the corresponding guitar string (like a ukulele). When playing with a guitar in standard tuning, you can read the guitar chords and play the standard ukulele chord patterns. If you do not want to learn the ukulele patterns, transpose the guitar chords up a fourth and use standard guitar patterns on the tiple (i.e., the guitar plays C major, the tiple plays F major).
DAD & DAA
Common Lute Tuning: G-C-F-A-D-G
This tuning also matches standard vihuela tuning and is often employed in classical guitar transcriptions of music written for those instruments.
Renaissance Lute Tuning: E-A-D-F#-B-E
This tuning may also be used with a capo at the third fret to match the common lute pitch: G-C-F-A-D-G; see Common Lute Tuning above.
"Pseudo Russian" or G Tuning: D-G-D-G-B-E
A versatile tuning examples of which can be heard in Choro de Saudade by Agustín Barrios and also in well known transcriptions of La Maja de Goya by Enrique Granados and Sevilla by Isaac Albéniz.
New Lute Tunings: "new" tuning: 8-course E# B A D G C# E A (descant tuning: see below)
"new" tuning (Virdung ca. 1500): G C F A D G (the "viel accord")(alto)
"old" tuning: 8-course E# B A D G C# E# A (descant tuning: see below)
"Sharp" tuning: G C F A C E
"Flat" tuning: G C F Ab C Eb
"Accord Nouveau": A D F A D F (17th Cent.)
Small octave Lute: D or C
Small descant Lute: B
Descant Lute: A
Choir or alto Lute: G
Tenor Lute: E
Bass Lute: D
Large octave bass Lute: G
Arch Lute: same as Descant Lute, with extra bass strings tuned descending diatonically
Rajo (Madeira Island):
D G C E A (Re-entrant tuning: G is octave higher. True forerunner of the ukulele (G C E A, or on US mainland and England, A D F# B)
G G B D (Gs are in unison, same octave) This is the Portugese mainland version of the braguinha.
D E A D G C
Cümbus can also use any Oud tuning
Oud: (Turkish style):
D G A D G C
Standard Egyptian/Arab: D G A D G C
Old Turkish Classical: A D E A D G
New Turkish Classical: F# B E A D G
Turkish/Armenian: E A B E A D
Turkish/Armenian Variant: C# F# B E A D
F G A B C D E F G C F A D G (or the same intervals one tone higher)
C G C G C
C F C F C
C G C G C
C F C F C
G D G D
C D G C E A
G C D G C E A
G C F A D G (a seventh course was added to the bass after 1600; it may also be tuned like a Lute)
G D A E mandolin tuning: (same as Octave Mandolin)
D G B D (open "G", same as modern Plectrum banjo)
D G C D ("G Dorian mode")
G D G B D (open "G") five-course
G D G B D (open "G", with the 5th string as a re-entrant, the same as a modern 5-string banjo)
C D G B D
A D G A D
A D G B E (same as Gittern)
D G D G D
A D A D A
A E A E A
D G D A E
Lafranco (1533): A C B G D E
Adrian LeRoy (1565): A G D E
Virchi (1574): D F B G D E
Cetarone (bass cittern): Eb Bb F C G D A
E B G D E (a re-entrant tuning is also mentioned, but no intervals are given, by Agazzari in 1607)
A D G B E (same as modern guitar, but without the low E string)
A D G B E (re-entrant: 4th string an octave high)
4-Course Guitar: Probably similarly to the 5-Course Guitar, but without the 5th string(s) (see below)
5-Course Guitar: ca. Mid-1500's
D D G B E (4th and 5th, "D", tuned in same octave as 1st, "E," in a re-entrant tuning)
A D G B E (5th string one octave lower than 1st thru 4th)
A D G B E (same as first five of modern guitar)
Vihuela de Mano:
G C F A D G
C F Bb A D G
C F Bb A D G (note: tune to the same sound as a ukelele, with the 4th string, the Bb, in the next octave higher than the 5th and 3rd. This is known as a "re-entrant" tuning and is very period.)
You may also use any standard Lute tuning.
D G B E (re-entrant: 4th string (D) in higher octave similar to the ukelele. I dare say you could use a tenor ukelele, or even a tenor guitar, to stand-in for this instrument.)
G D G D (in bass range. A mando-cello will work here quite well)
I suggest tuning it like a Cittern, as the descriptions of it's sound from period Ms. would seem to indicate a "5th" relationship tuning.
Probably tuned like a Cittern, or like a Cytole, but if you use a Cytole tuning, tune several tones lower.
Eight wire-strung courses tuned like a Lute, plus about 15 diatonic bass strings on a harp frame, similar to the Harp-Guitar of the early 1900's in the USA.
Seven wire-strung courses tuned in "old" Lute tuning, plus 8 open bass strings on a harp frame.
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