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I'm new to guitar. I don’t really understand the tuning and its relationship with music notes. Can someone explain how I can get my guitar tuning to

F, Bb, D, F, Bb, F (Capo on 1).

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    I assume you have a tuner, so why not just hold your finger on the first bar on the strings and tune. Then you can verify that @john belzaguy is correct at the same time :) Dec 20, 2022 at 11:49
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    If you're brand-new to guitar and working on understanding how tuning relates to pitches, it might be best to spend some time with the standard tuning before experimenting with other tunings. It might be smart to watch some videos, too; much of this is easier to explain in audio-visual than in print (like how the highest and lowest string have the same letter name, but one is a "higher version" of that pitch, an "octave" above). Dec 20, 2022 at 14:15
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    @Tim from what I've understood it's not recommended to have the capo on while tuning (since it might build up tension above the capo ?) Dec 21, 2022 at 10:28
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    Can you explain to us where that tuning came from, and what you want to do with it, please?
    – Tim
    Dec 21, 2022 at 12:27
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    I've been playing that instrument since 1984, and have never used anything but EADGBE, in A = 440 concert pitch. Why do you need a weird tuning with a capo, if you're a complete beginner?
    – Kaz
    Dec 23, 2022 at 1:53

5 Answers 5

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I am going on the assumption that your notes are in order of low to high pitch. Standard tuning on guitar low to high is E,A,D,G,B,E. With the capo off the tuning you want is E,A,C#,E,A,E. This means from standard tuning the 2 lowest strings and the high string need no change. The D string must be tuned down a semitone to C#, the G string must be tuned down 3 semitones to E and the B string must be tuned down 2 semitones to A. Once you have done that putting the capo on the first fret will give you the notes you want, F,Bb,D,F,Bb,F.

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Frame challenge: As a beginner, you definitely shouldn't

Using altered tunings is a common technique for advanced guitar players. When you've been playing several years and you're used to finding different chord forms all round the neck, you're probably ready to think about trying alternate tunings.

As a beginner, you simply aren't. You have no intuitive understanding of where to find notes around the fretboard. You don't understand the basics of how the instrument works. You haven't owned your instrument long enough to have any basic motor control in your fingers to play chords consistently and clearly.

As a beginner, work with beginner-level material and build your skills up. You didn't think up this tuning on your own (for reference, it's open A tuning with capo 1) so you must be working from some more advanced book or song and sheet. You need to drop this for now and go back to stuff which is in your ability range.

In a couple of years, if you put in plenty of practise, maybe you'll be ready to pick this up again. If you throw yourself against stuff like this right now, I guarantee you won't get anywhere with it, and I'll give good odds you won't still be playing in a couple of years because you've got frustrated with it. Don't set yourself up to fail.

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    Maybe, just maybe, OP wants to play slide guitar only, ever This tuning will suffice for a great many tunes, and the need to delve further into the other magic parts of music may never be needed. Whilst I agree with your sentiment, there's no compunction to do as you suggest, and even if OP ended up merely playing barre chords for ever, so what?
    – Tim
    Dec 21, 2022 at 8:00
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    @Tim Thing is, if that was all they were doing then they wouldn't be also adding a capo. For me that's the giveaway that they're following a transcription, and from that it's clearly more advanced than their abilities. In principle I agree with you, especially if there's some reason (like lack of fingers or dexterity) which would affect the fretting hand. In practice I feel like there are too many red flags of a beginner butting heads with something that's miles out of what they could achieve.
    – Graham
    Dec 21, 2022 at 11:33
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    @Tim It sucks, because I'm always, always positive and encouraging when people are challenging themselves with cool stuff. But there's a point where I think it's better to be honest that they need to get some ground work in before they go there, and the OP has hit that point for me.
    – Graham
    Dec 21, 2022 at 11:39
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John's answer is spot on. But I question why one would want to tune down a bit only to use a capo to bring it all up a semitone. That difference won't particularly affect the tension of the strings, so why not simply tune open to what is effectively B♭ open tuning? Maybe this doesn't answer the question directly, but - it does solve OP's problem!

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    It's probably a matter of having fewer strings to retune? 5 strings in your answer, 3 in John's.
    – Jos
    Dec 20, 2022 at 11:24
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    @Jos - if OP ('I'm new to this') knew about that, would the question be posed?
    – Tim
    Dec 20, 2022 at 11:30
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    No, OP almost certainly didn't know about there being multiple ways to achieve this specific tuning. There is also the mysterious "capo on 1" instruction in the question - is that before tuning, or after? Will we effectively be playing in Bb or B? John interpreted it as "after" and suggested an open A major tuning, or Bb after putting the capo on, which I think makes sense.
    – Jos
    Dec 20, 2022 at 11:38
  • I'd guess it's after capo just because I can't think of any reasons to use open Bb tuning with capo on fret 1 instead of open A with capo on fret 2.
    – ojs
    Dec 20, 2022 at 14:15
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    No, you'll most likely have to retune all 6 strings, whether you follow John's method or Tim's. Changing the tuning of one or more of the strings by a semitone or more is going to affect the overall tension on the instrument enough that you'll need a complete retune. Dec 22, 2022 at 1:58
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This is less me answering your question than figuring out your context.

F Bb D F Bb F (Capo on 1)

Remove the capo and we get

E A C# E A E

That's likely high-to-low. Guitarists tend to talk tunings low-to-high, but this is fine. Then we get that C# on the G string, and that's awful sharp. You'd need a far smaller third string, and no.

So it is low-to-high. Down a half step on the fourth string. I would probably try to tune up to E but the this works. Then, on the third string, we're down a minor third instead of up a second. Then with the second string, we're down a major second instead of up, getting the A instead of the C#. The major chord across the second, third and fourth strings is kinda the core to guitar fingering, but if that's the tuning you need, the open Bb the song needs, there you go.

So, low-to-high, that would be standard, standard, down a half step, down three half steps, down two half steps, standard. Capo and recheck and there you go.

It would be more "normal" to get there by tuning to an open G like

D G D G B D

then capoing on the third fret.

F Bb F Bb D F

This would seem more natural to most guitarists. But I don't know the song and arrangement and fingering you're trying to get to. I could see that being some fingerstyle player's fave tuning, but I don't get it.

Best of luck.

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    Funny how we talk about strings low to high, but number them high to low. Something missing somewhere?
    – Tim
    Dec 21, 2022 at 8:03
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    @Tim it is odd about the numbering now I think about it. It's also confusing for beginners that we talk about high and low strings with regards to pitch (frequency) but the low strings are physically at the top and the high strings are physically at the bottom.
    – blueskiwi
    Dec 21, 2022 at 23:48
  • Historically, the D G and B world be 1,2 and 3 in some order, the high E the fourth, the A the fifth and finally the low E sixth. But that wouldn't help new players. Dec 22, 2022 at 21:53
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    I guess I should say that, when messing with alternate tunings, if you tune down from standard. You're less likely to break a string that way. So the alternate Open A tuning in the question gets us that, but by detuning the "wrong three" strings. Dec 22, 2022 at 22:16
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As I don't understand what your ultimate intention is, let me give you the basics so you can work it out yourself:

I don’t really understand the tuning and its relationship with music notes.

When you pluck each string individually, without pressing anywhere on the fretboard, and if your guitar is tuned in the usual fashion, then the following notes will play:

E - A - D - G - B - E

The frets (the little dividers on the fretboard) are distanced such that they are always exactly a half-tone apart. This means that if you press your finger within the space between the zeroth and the first fret, you get a half-tone higher than the empty string.

For example: pressing the first fret on the E string gives you an F.

And so on and so forth. Pressing the E string on the second fret sounds an F#, then G, and so on.

Playing the first fret on the A string gives you Bb, the second fret B, the third fret C, and so forth.

A way to tune your guitar in the standard is to tune the lowest (deepest, thickest, 6th) string first, for example by playing the E on another instrument, and then playing the 5th fret on the E string. The notes on E are E-F-F#-G-G#-A-... (from fret 0 to 5). So if you press the 5th fret on the E string, you will be playing an A. Then you can tune the 5th string by ear so it sounds exactly the same, and will have your A. This works the same for A -> D, D -> G, and B -> E. There is a difference to go from G to B since the notes on the G string are G-G#-A-A#/Bb-B, so on the G string you need to press the 4th fret to tune the B string.

To get an arbitrary tuning, like the one you mention in your question, you can do the same. You tune the deepest note first by whatever means - if you are playing with others, they can give you the proper note; if you play alone you can guesstimate it. Then you figure out which frets on each deeper string corresponds to the empty tuning of the next higher string. In your example:

F, Bb, D, F, Bb, F

This means:

  • Tune the 6th string to F
  • Press the 5th fret on the 6th string and tune the empty 5th string to that sound
  • Press the 4th fret on the 5th string and tune the empty 4th string to that sounds
  • ... 3th fret on the 4th string ...
  • ... 5th fret on the 3rd string ...
  • ... 6th fret on the 2nd string.

Also finally: the previous instructions interpret your question such that the tuning of the empty strings is as given in your question, and then you put the capo in the first fret, which would effectively give you a tuning of F#, B, D#, F#, B, F# - this is called "Open B" tuning, and if you simply play all strings without pressing anything, you will be playing a B major chord.

If instead your instructions mean that those notes (F, Bb, ...) should sound after you have put on the capo on 1, then this means that the empty strings must be tuned to E, A, C#, E, A, E, which would be the "Open A" tuning.

I'm new to guitar.

Then I would highly suggest to stick with the standard tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E). A very important part of learning the guitar is learning the locations of the most common notes on fret 1-3 (at first) on the fretboard, and later the locations of all notes. Changing tuning will make this unnecessarily hard.

Most songs and chords are presented with respect to standard tuning - i.e., the numbers in tabulature notation (or sometimes also in classical notes) directly tell you the fret, and the "pictures" of chords also only make sense if your strings are tuned at least relatively standard.

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