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Original chords are: E C#m B A
But they have it tabbed as: G Em D C

What do I tune my guitar to instead of standard?

Capo 9 is a bit difficult...

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    Just curious - why do you want to do this? – Strawberry Dec 5 '20 at 16:37
  • Gillian Welch / David Rawlings do this a surprising amount, and point it out by saying, "look at all this guitar I'm not using!" – brnlmrry Dec 6 '20 at 6:43
  • I found an example - youtu.be/WR1BUVFToSE?t=1027 - in this video you can see that Dave is playing with capo 9 (G shapes), while Gillian is using capo 4 (C shapes, as described in @Tim's answer below). – brnlmrry Dec 6 '20 at 6:55
  • For Future reference, click the link to find a very useful chart that allows you to determine where to put a capo to play any key using any set of Chord Shapes. music.stackexchange.com/a/30935/16897 – Rockin Cowboy Dec 6 '20 at 8:10
  • Would you consider buying a 7-string guitar? Capo 3 works there. Otherwise, you're buying big strings or playing up high. – J... Dec 6 '20 at 18:49
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John's is the only answer - if you need to stick to G. I guess for the shape(s).

Other options are available. With capo on fret 4, there's C Am G F.

Capo on fret 2, there's D Bm A G.

Both of which coincidentally contain the 'G shape'. You ask about 'using G shapes', which will be practically impossible in any key - after all, there's a minor shape in there! But I'm sure that's not exactly what you meant. But with the last two options, at least you get to play a 'G shape' chord !

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    Good point, I thought of other options too but decided not to mention them. I figured it was either a TAB chart he wants to play or no barre chords allowed. It could even be played in E for that matter. – John Belzaguy Dec 5 '20 at 17:25
  • @JohnBelzaguy - yes, you could get away with E, E6 (open), B7 and A, although E6 is not a perfect sub for C#m. – Tim Dec 5 '20 at 17:33
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    For that matter, as mentioned in a recent question about a B chord with no barre, both chords can be played without a barre, B as x2444x and C#m as x4665x, fingered 1234 and 1243 respectively. My money is on the OP wanting to play a specific TAB arrangement. – John Belzaguy Dec 5 '20 at 17:47
  • Yes, there are a couple of voicings/fingerings for those chords. B as xx4442, C#m as x466x0, although there are those out there who must have root positions! – Tim Dec 5 '20 at 18:13
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The only other option I can think of if you want to play the song in E with G shapes is to tune down 3 semitones to C#, F#, B, E, G#, C# from low to high. That is a pretty large interval to detune so unless you use heavy strings the strings would probably be too loose and floppy.

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  • Yes. Not only will the strings be very floppy, the chords themselves will sound a bit questionable – Specifically the low E-G♯ in the G-shape E-chord is dangerously close to the lower interval limit. For a piece with only acoustic guitar and vocals it's probably ok, but for anything else I'd have my doubts. – leftaroundabout Dec 5 '20 at 14:52
  • @leftaroundabout I thought of the low interval limit myself so I lowered my nylon string to hear what it would sound like and it actually sounded ok, pretty beefy. The low 3rd interval is a potential problem with the G shape though. – John Belzaguy Dec 5 '20 at 17:16
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    @leftaroundabout - there's always the option of using heavier strings, but that won't work for just this one song. Time to buy another guitar! Or - learn to play barre chords, maybe? – Tim Dec 5 '20 at 19:19
  • I know of an artist who tunes a Strat-style guitar BEADF#B, and with careful attention to string tension and_much_ larger nut slots, it plays like any other guitar. It's the setup and having another guitar that make it an issue; I want a guitar like that but don't have a spare ATM. But yeah, much much much easier to just learn barre chords. – Dave Jacoby Dec 5 '20 at 23:31
  • @DaveJacoby so he turned it into a baritone guitar, interesting, wonder how it plays. – John Belzaguy Dec 6 '20 at 1:21

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