I'm pretty new to learning guitar music. I've heard some great songs that I would like to learn on my own, and mostly I've been able to read the tabs.

I just came upon a tab that looks like this:


I've never seen 'CGCGCE before. Aren't the strings supposed to be EADGBE?

  • 1
    Tons of metal bands play in drop D, C, alt / weird tunings just cause they can. Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 16:53

4 Answers 4


To answer the question directly - yes, strings are supposed to be EADGBE - in standard tuning. All tabs should have the tuning notes at the beginning. If there are none, assume it's standard. There are many different tunings that can be used for guitar, drop D, for example, where the fat E is tuned a tone lower, to D. This above is open C, as each note is part of the Cmaj. chord. Those strings being CGCGCE.

This open C leaves the bottom string quite slack, especially with light gauge strings, and it can rattle.

  • 1
    For this alternate tuning you can actually use a D string (4th string) in place of the 5th, just a tone lower; then a G string (3rd string) in place of the 4th and 2nd strings; a B string (2nd string) for the 1st and 3rd strings.
    – Chochos
    Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 18:51
  • Perhaps this answer would be improved by adding the explicit statement "this tab specifies an alternate tuning." This would address the question in the title, "why CGCGCE?"
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 12 at 8:42
  • @phoog - end of 1st para. - this above is open C, as each note is part of the Cmaj chord.'I'll do as requested, but thought that sentence pretty much covered iy.
    – Tim
    Commented Jan 12 at 9:15

I didn't know this before, but after doing research on other sites I found that this type of tuning is called Open C Tuning.

Here are some references on guitar tuning that I found to be useful:

  1. Electric tuner [Hear the notes]
  2. How to tune guitar to different modes.
  3. List of guitar tunings.

The modern name for tuning the strings to different pitches than the standard ones is called alternate tuning. The traditional, academic name for this in classical music is scordatura. In the Hawaiian tradition it is called slack key tuning.

There are several prominent guitarist/composers who have made extensive use of many different alternate tunings. Check out the music of Joni Mitchell, Michael Hedges, and David Wilcox.

A recent development in guitar technology is guitars equipped with motorized tuners controlled by electronics that can re-tune a guitar to many different alternate tunings at the push of a button. An example is Tronical.


Some songs have different tunings, such as Drop D, Open G (Some Rolling Stones songs). The tabs you showed us, as the others said is tuned in Open C.

As you get a hang of the thing you'll notice that this is a normal practice!

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