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"I've used maybe 50 different tunings throughout our recording history...  You'll stumble on a tuning by accident, completely uncalled for and completely right there...  Usually I just fool around until something happens that sounds right."     -Billy Gibbons

DADGBD "puts a partial D chord on the bottom and a G chord on the top 3.  It's used on a lot of slide cuts we do."    
-Billy Gibbons

"Another is the 'cheaters 12.'  Use a little string in place of the big E and tune it to E.  Replace the A string with another smaller string.  Use the same size string for your D string,  tuned to high D.  You've got standard tuning, but strange octaves"  It's good for rhythm.       -Billy Gibbons

Are you sick of your sound and stuck in a rut?   Are you stumped on a song?  Are you sick of sounding like everybody else?
Retune your guitar.  It's a cliche killer!

It's better than the first day you started playing.  Your guitar will be mysterious all over again!  You have all your technique, but the notes are completely different.
Your cliche licks and lines will dissapear.

"If I'm getting into some sort of rut, I do something really radical like change the tuning of the guitar."    -The Edge


Standard Tuning:     E  A  D  G  B  E
     It's not easy.  It's convenient.
     You can play 12 key signatures in a span of 5 frets.

Drop D:        D  A  D  G  B  E
      The 3 low strings D A D make a chord.  
      Play them with one finger and slide it up and down.  

Open tunings:
       The open strings make any chord you want.
       Each fret is the same type of chord.  

                            The open strings play Em7,
                            The 1st fret is Fm7
                            The 2nd fret is F#m7
                            The 3rd fret is Gm7    etc.

Choose any chord. 
Tune your guitar to those intervals. 

One thing I like to do "is tune the A string down an octave.  It's good to use when you don't have a bass player."       
-Tal Farlow

Randomly tune your guitar.

Use whatever notes sound good.

Some of my best ideas have just been accidents or peculiarities of one tuning or another…It's confusing to keep all the tunings straight, but I've settled on four or five I practice a lot."          -Ry Cooder

Use de-tuned notes (out of tune notes).  Break all the rules.

   Slide 5, 7 or 12 frets.
        They sound good together.
         Add any notes.
         Do you like them?

         Document the tuning.
         If you like it.

     Tuning example:  

           major barre chordMajor chord alternative tuning
         Red dots the chord shape
         White numbers = the intervals      1  3  5  is a Major chord, see theory
         Black numbers = the tuning          (+5) that string is the same note as, the 5th fret of the string below it. 

         Both sound like a major chord.  

         Standard tuning takes a year to learn.
         The alternate tuning lets you play right now.

The possibilities are endless.

Modal tuning

key tuning, play now
 This tuning helps you play in key right now.

Black numbers = the tuning.
White numbers = intervals in the chord.  See theory.

Learn two shapes and play rhythm guitar.
Slide the patterns up and down the neck.
You'll get good at sliding using this tuning.

Patterns of right notes

octave tuning pattern
Tunings can make infinite open chord variations.
but each string has internal note relationships.

There's always a "half step" between notes.
The octave is always 12 frets up.

Each open string note is a root note.
If you want to play a major chord, play 1-3-5 on that string.  (etc.)

Some alternate tunings don't play chords across all 6 strings.  
You need to create fingerings.

Imagine each string is a separate chord system.
This helps when you're using crazy tunings or "notes that aren't notes."
It happens.
            Green strings sound good together
           Purple strings sound good together
   Black dots =  the root note, 4th 5th and octave on each string. 
       Blue dots = minor chord distance from the root
       Red dots = major chord distance from the root

      A bar across green and purple doesn't sound good in this example.
      Treat the green and purple as two separate systems
      Use one for the verse, one for the chorus...  whatever.

For explanations of why these intervals were chosen
See Theory,  Overtones

If you're playing minor or Major, adjust your interval and note choices.

Tuning pondering

The right tuning for each style:

Country, Pop, Folk:     Major chords and extensions
Blues:                             Dom7th - (b7 Major chords).  Play minor blues scales over top.
Rock:                              Drop D tuning, or drop C, etc.
Dark instrumental:      Minor chords and extensions.

The things I play couldn't be played in standard tuning.     -Michael Hedges

Find chord patterns in your favorite style.
Create a tuning that makes a sound you like.

See chord progression styles,
look for patterns in the chord selection.

Songs often use chords with the same extensions (added notes)

A song might have a 2m chord* that has a b7**  (a minor 7th chord)
The 3m chord, and 6m chord also have b7's.  (also minor 7th's)

*The 2m chord (2nd minor chord) in a Major key
** A minor chord is made of intervals 1, b3, 5.  Add a b7       Theory

Tune your guitar to create a minor 7 that you can play with one finger.  
Slide your finger up and down, (5 or 7 frets)   (or whatever)

          Note:  Extended intervals, 9th, 11th and 13th are actually 2, 4 and 6 an octave higher.

Find chords you like

Keep part of the tuning standard

If you plan to jam.
If you instinctively know standard tuning.

It helps to have strings where "things are normal"
Balance the known with the unknown, it often gets good results.

Tune two strings to the same note

This gives you a droning sound.
It has a very full tone.

If i want a piece "to sound like a dulcimer, I'll tune two strings to the same pitch."     -Michael Hedges

Try de-tuning one string a 1/4 turn out of tune.
This can be very intense.  
The overtones will work with and against each other.

Let the song dictate the tuning.

Is the song angry?  Tune it low and dissonant...
Is it happy?   Sad?
What's it about?   What sound does it suggest?

"Sometimes I find a tuning that fits what I hear in my head, and sometimes a tuning will suggest a song."      -Michael Hedges

Listen to the sound interaction between the strings.
You'll hear something you like.

My telecaster has an odd tuning "F A D D G D.  I was having a little bit of difficulty coming out with something I was pleased with.  I decided as a radical change of approach to just tune the guitar up to the notes that seemed right. It was pure chance, but it does sound a beautiful chord in relation to the song"        -The Edge

"Tuning’s sometimes evolve.  I'll say 'Oh, I can do this and this, but I can't do that, that and that.  So I try to reduce the number of that’s, and that's the tuning"    -Michael Hedges

Buy another guitar for performances

You'll need a different guitar for each drastic tuning

You won't have time to retune.
Most sets are 30 minutes long.

Your guitar won't stay in tune if you retune it.  
Floating bridges won't allow drastic re-tuning.  Don't even try.

Keep them tuned and ready.  
Switching guitars looks professional anyways.

Harmonic tuning

Design a tuning that uses harmonics.


I started using open tunings "for rhythm, not for bottleneck.  I was trying to get a fatter sound."    -Ry Cooder

On Tell the truth "I wasn't playing slide, I was just making chords in open tuning. I got that from Kieth Richards, he just tunes it to an open chord and invents fingerings."        -Eric Clapton   

"A lot of players use the training finger to stop unwanted resonance in the strings behind the bottleneck.  I don't do that.  I control some of the problem with my picking hand, but I like the effect it gives, the sort of strange ambiance."      -The Edge

When I'm using a slide "I use the edge of my right hand to keep the other strings from ringing randomly.  I also dampen the stringsbehind the bar with the edge of my left hand.  It's all done in a sort of a lap fashion, not in an upright position."       -David Gilmore

For slide, I realized that "you jack the bridge up a bit and you put thicker strings on it, so it doesn't clatter around."    -David Gilmore

I can improvise in a odd tuning, but "only if I know that tuning real well."  Some say to "find your favorite tuning and stick with it, but I can't do that, because my compositions won't allow me to."      -Michael Hedges

For 'White Summer'   "I tuned my guitar to "B, A, D, G, A, D.  It's a modal tuning, a sitar tuning."     -Jimmy Page