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I know that there are devices to quickly lower a guitar’s E string into drop tuning. Are there also devices or effects pedals to lower the entire guitar? There’s a lot of rock music in E-flat tuning (or lower), and it’s inconvenient to retune the whole guitar down a half step or more.

Is there a convenient electronic or mechanical gadget I can use for this instead? Essentially I’m looking for the opposite of a capo. I’ve heard that octave pedals might be able to accomplish this, but I’m not sure whether they are useful for smaller pitch shifts.

Ideally, I’d like a gadget that could also easily let me retune to A435 or A450 or whatever, and that would work well with an electric guitar or bass.

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I realize that buying a second guitar is an effective way to do this, but I would like a more affordable solution. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 1:09
    
I understand the idea behind using a device like this, but in my mind just transposing a song would fix the problem. Just because a song is recorded in a certain key does not mean it has to be preformed in that key. I use to have to put my guitar in D standard tuning for my last band and it really screwed up me being able to name chords and notes that I could easily name in the E standard tuning . –  Dom Jul 5 at 1:16
    
True, but transposing isn't always an option when working with other musicians or pre-recorded tracks. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 1:19
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1/2 step lower than standard tuning is A=415. 1 whole step lower is A=392. You would not want to re-tune to A=435 or A=450. –  Wheat Williams Jul 5 at 4:44
    
@Wheat Recordings aren't always in A440 or A415. Lots of rock bands (and orchestras) tune to other standards. Sometimes they're just tuned to the piano in the studio. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 5:03

6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Pitch shift pedals usually do not give a natural detuned sound. There are pedals dedicated for getting a natural detuned sound, like the Digitech Whammy DT or Morpheus DropTune. I haven't used one, so I can't back up their claims.

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Wow, thanks! That's exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for. The DropTune is unavailable but according to its Amazon reviews, there's a whammy pedal from Digitech (Whammy DT, $300) that does the same thing better. These have some disadvantages, but they do avoid problems with tension and intonation that you'd get from manually detuning. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 8:38
    
It looks like the Digitech Whammy 5 can also do drop tuning via its whammy mode. It's not as straightforward to use, but it's $100 cheaper and smaller too. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 9:45
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@Bradd: My experience of the Digitech whammy is that is quite artificial sounding. That's what the DropTune was supposed to fix. It was earlier versions of the Digitech though, so it's possible they've fixed it. Be sure to try before you buy though! –  Meaningful Username Jul 5 at 12:24
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The Whammy DT is specifically designed for drop tuning like the Morpheus – that's what the DT stands for in the model name. The current Whammy generation uses different algorithms allowing for more natural polyphonic sound. Of course trying before you buy is important! Thinking of going to check them out at GC this weekend. But anyway, I recommend adding the DT to your answer as it appears to be a superior successor to the Morpheus. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 18:37
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Unfortunately the local Guitar Center only had the older Whammy 4, so I couldn't test drive the new models. I ended up getting a new piano instead. This is probably the solution I'll go with eventually, though (unless I just end up getting a backup guitar). All of the answers have been very helpful though! Thank you everyone! –  Bradd Szonye Jul 6 at 4:20

Tronical. You can buy one directly from the Tronical company to install on your existing guitar, or you can buy certain models of Epiphone and Gibson guitars with a Tronical tuner already installed. Gibson and Epiphone market them under the trade-name "Min-ETune".

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Wow, that's really cool! Unfortunately at over $300 it costs almost as much as a new Stratocaster, and they don't appear to have bass guitar models, so it's not a practical solution for me. Good to know this is out there though! –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 5:10

I hope this may sort of answer your question. Faced with the same sort of problem, on bass, a 5 string came to the rescue. It had a low B, thus could play a fourth lower than standard. It covered most of the lower notes that would be needed.A guy I work with sometimes uses an 8 string bass - this goes down to a low F# - nearly an octave lower than standard. It also goes up to an F on top, which means there, he's trespassing in guitar territory, but that's not the point for you.

If, however, you're after a bass that will re-tune to particular frequencies automatically, this answer won't help. It shouldn't take more than half a minute to re-tune a bass manually that is already ,say, at concert, with or without an electronic tuner.

On guitar, the previous answer gives good advice, but it's not cheap.

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Good point, that's another way to do it if I don't mind buying another bass (which is also not cheap). By the way, a B string is only a perfect 4th lower than the E string, not a 5th. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 6:40
    
Oh and you're right that retuning isn't too bad, although I'm not a big fan of the floppy strings you end up with that way, which is another reason I was curious if there was an electronic method. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 6:41
    
Corrected - B is the fifth of E,and it's early here...A fiver will do everything a four string will - and more ! Ebay, less than £!00 last week. A cracking 5 string ! Money back off your old one. What's not to like? Think with the Gibson thing, the strings will go floppy with lowering the tuning.Even if you could get one for bass. In the pipeline, maybe.There could well be a MIDI method, but that'd involve another pick-up... –  Tim Jul 5 at 6:49
    
Ah, I like my 4-string P-Bass, just wish alternate tunings were less of a hassle. Thanks for the solid advice though! –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 6:52
    
One other thought well, two. I'm working on a 4 string bass, tuned to BEAD. With the right strings, it works well. Other - the lower you go, the better the amp. and speakers you'll need. –  Tim Jul 5 at 7:12

There doesn't appear to be a bass version, but Hipshot make a "Trilogy" bridge that allows you to pick one of three tunings for each string individually.

Alternatively, you could just use a capo - down-tune the guitar a whole step then use the capo to bring it back up.

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Have a look at this video:

Apparently he installed 4 drop-tuners, I had never seen it before but it does provide a cool effect and a quick dropped tuning.

It is not as versatile as a second/third/fourth bass, but it is less to carry.

As for price, a drop-tuner can be quite expensive (70-100 USD) but you might find some second-hand ones.

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Huh, that's a clever idea! Looks like another way to get the effect of the Hipshot full bridge on a bass. –  Bradd Szonye Jul 5 at 18:40
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Solo bassist Michael Manring pioneered the idea of putting Hipshot detuners on every string, on his signature model Zon Hyperbass. –  Wheat Williams Jul 5 at 20:01

Any solution you choose is going to cost a significant amount of money, such as in buying a new instrument.

There are many models and brands of pitch-shifter effects pedals and rack-mount multi-effects devices that can transpose everything you play down a half-step, whole-step or further, but they all sound artificial, especially if you are playing chords.

If you are talking about bass guitar, you are much better off getting a 5-string bass with a low B, tuning it in standard tuning, and learning to transpose all your fingerings and to avoid playing the open strings. You will get the real natural sound of your instrument, and not something de-tuned or artificially pitch-shifted.

Similarly, you can buy a longer-scale baritone guitar (six-string and tuned to B or C) or 7-string guitar with a low B string, and either use a capo or learn to transpose your fingerings and to avoid open strings. There are many affordable, entry-level baritone and 7-string guitars on the market these days.

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