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Whenever a guitarist wants to learn an alternate tuning, the practical details are easily addressed (string-guage, using a tuner). But the strategic aspect cannot be gained without many Saturday nights spent in the shed. Or can it?

What's the most useful alternate tuning and why? Please give a detailed explanation focused on one particular tuning. Example songs making use of the tuning would be great.

This is a POLL type question. Please read all the answers and do not add a new answer unless it is substantially different from the remainder. Otherwise just vote up and/or comment on and/or edit the answer(s) which most closely match your choice. If you have a substantially different answer, please add a new answer, and only add ONE choice to your answer. Source.

Some related questions on Alternate Tunings:
Why is the guitar tuned like it is?
Why tune the guitar other than standard?
What is an “open tuning”?
What do I need to learn before I can alternate tune my guitar?
Using alternative tunings
What is the true definition of Drop C tuning?
How can I easily manage different tunings?
What guitar tunings allow many chords without fretting between “live” strings
How many drop tunings can I use with one set of strings?

Note: This question is closed, but it is still Community Wiki. If you feel you can improve the existing question and answers (and hopefully achieve re-opening) please make those edits!

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closed as not constructive by Indrek, American Luke, Jason W, neilfein, slim Feb 5 '13 at 11:55

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Downvoters, Closevoters, anything to say for yourselves? –  luser droog Feb 5 '13 at 0:42
Hrm... just because something was a defining area51 question for guitars doesn't mean it's a good question on music.SE :-D -- I'm guessing they feel it's too subjective. I do like the idea of a CW question for alternate tunings, but perhaps it should be worded "Most useful" or something instead of "favorite"? –  NReilingh Feb 5 '13 at 2:56
Thank you. That's something I can work with/on. –  luser droog Feb 5 '13 at 2:59
"Not constructive" applies exactly: "We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion." –  slim Feb 5 '13 at 11:56
Migrated the debate to meta. –  luser droog Feb 5 '13 at 16:21

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

I rather like a tuning which I call "Flat-finger tuning": G-D-D-F-G#-B, with the lower two strings "flipped" versus ordinary tuning (so the sixth string is a perfect fourth above the fifth string, which is an octave below the 4th string, which is at standard pitch). This tuning makes five-string and six-string barre chords really easy.

Chord diagram

The five-string barre chords have the same notes as the "E"-shape barre chords in standard tuning except that the second-lowest-string is omitted (an E chord would be E-E-G#-B-E as opposed to E-B-E-G#-B-E in standard tuning). The six-string chords have the same notes as the "A"-shape barre chord in standard tuning except that there is an added fifth which is below the root but is strummed after it (so an A chord would be A-E-E-A-C#-E as opposed to A-E-A-C#-E). The fact that that the root is strummed first increases its prominence relative to the fifth, and the added low note often adds richness to the sound.

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What do you use to make those marvelous diagrams??!! –  luser droog Feb 8 '13 at 0:01
@luserdroog: I wrote a vb.net program to generate them, since I didn't know of any utilities that would show the fingerings without "scrolling", and I think it's helpful to see the whole fretboard (though the marks on frets 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12 should perhaps be more visible). I also wanted to call more attention to the fact that the fingers could "overhang" to the right without touching active strings. –  supercat Feb 8 '13 at 0:15
If you're interested, there's a meta post about software for making graphics for this site, where you could brag about your program. :) –  luser droog Feb 9 '13 at 7:21
@luserdroog: I'm happier with my tuning than with the program. Stuff like the placement of "Dm" were handled with explict "if chord is Dm then move it right xx pixels". The diagrams look nice, but are a bit specialized. The program could be adapted to make diagrams of chord sequences (which might use additional chord forms), but it would be difficult to adapt for convenient interactive use. –  supercat Feb 9 '13 at 22:28
@luserdroog: If you want to see my tuning in action, look at youtube.com/watch?v=aRwT3E9iRfA (simple example: Hotel California using seven chords). –  supercat Nov 21 '13 at 17:52

I try to play slide on occasion, and there are two main open tunings: Spanish (DGDGBD), named after a song where it's used, "Spanish Fandango", and Sebastopol (DADF#AD).

I find that there are two easy places to pay the blues scale in Sebastopol but just one in Spanish. When playing electric lead style, I like Sebastopol, but when I'm playing acoustic and self-accompanying, there is a lot to like about Spanish, especially the fact that you can slide up to the low root.

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Cool. Never knew them by those names. –  luser droog Feb 2 '13 at 22:17

Fairly standard, but I do like a drop D tuned guitar - it is really simple, doesn't take me too much to get into the groove when moving from a normally tuned guitar (I find some of them quite tricky) but it just sounds bigger, deeper and fatter - so for rock music it works really well.

Most of the songs I play on stage are on a drop D tuned guitar (or my 7 string with a ADADGBE) for that heavier sound.

Example songs showing the heavy Drop D:

(Apologies for the shameless plug)

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I suppose there is a D too many listed for the 7 string? –  Ulf Åkerstedt Feb 3 '13 at 0:47
@UlfÅkerstedt It's a wiki. You can fix it! –  luser droog Feb 5 '13 at 7:43
ahem - wups... fixed now :-) –  Dr Mayhem Feb 5 '13 at 9:34

While I like Drop-D (DADGBE) for its easy change to standard, and I really liked Open-D (DADF♯AD) for easy chords and melodies (considering it to be a flattened E-shape chord), I absolutely adore Open-G (DGDGBD) and its dropped variant Open-F (CFCFAC). I think of it as a flattened A-shape.

It's constructed from intervals directly from the harmonic series of G, the Pythagorean Gamut. The root chord of the Universe, btw (the lower two have been transposed up). D -fourth- G -fifth- D -fourth- G -maj. third- B -min. third- D. For slide playing this gives you lots of dyads all over the place.

It gives you the same 3 octaves that Open-D gives (in fact it's possible to fret the same note on the other three strings and play the same note across all 6). And the minor third at the top makes Bluesy solos really easy.

Of course the G chord becomes ridiculously easy.


But there's also this deep and satisfying D chord.


And of course the D, G, and B remain the same as standard giving you a good chunk of the melodic middle of the guitar exactly where standard has trained you to expect it. The dropped D and G shifts the fourth/fifth relationship as compared to Open D, but you still have power-chords on the A- (standard) -string, and the same "bottomless" power chords you get with E- and A- in standard.

Example songs (not yet released):

  • Ralph Raven, Teleology
  • Ralph Raven, Cassandra Syndrome
  • Ralph Raven, Someone Like You
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The D chord looks like it spells D-A-F#-A-D-F#; interesting spelling. Looks a little awkward, though. –  supercat Feb 5 '13 at 5:01
Yes. It's perhaps a little easier to play D at the top on the open string; but then you have to lift up the index-finger barre to let it ring. But the 2 thirds makes it sound very rich and full. –  luser droog Feb 5 '13 at 6:09
@luser - anywhere we can hear those songs, even if not released yet? –  Dr Mayhem Feb 5 '13 at 9:36

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