6

There are a few songs I play where Drop D tuning is required to get some nice, bass-heavy, open 6th string notes. It also facilitates many of the chords in the song in addition to adding a full tone. The rest of my playing mainly stays in the Standard tuning realm.

My question:

Is tuning down to Drop D for a few songs, and then back up to Standard, bad for my guitar?

I do this at most ~2 times a week, usually when I play through my entire "setlist" of the songs that I can self-accompany to, to practice. It will stay in Drop D for ~10 minutes, maybe less.

I will occasionally check the tuning of other strings when going back (by checking the 6th string E against a tuner and using that as a reference), and a few other times a week if I find the tone sounds off or if I haven't done it in a while.

At the moment I play on a solid-top Fender (DG14S), beginner guitar. At some point I will be upgrading, and I don't want to ruin a new guitar by repeatedly changing the tuning.

As an aside (I know I shouldn't ask two questions in one), does the same hold true for an Electric guitar?

  • There are even devices that serve this particular purpose (Hipshot D-Tuner and EVH D-Tuna). – el.pescado Aug 14 '15 at 19:22
11

You will have a very small amount of extra wear and tear on that machine head and the groove in the nut that string passes through, but aside from that this should cause no damage to an acoustic or electric guitar.

The change in tension on the neck from that one shift is not significant, in fact you can get a greater change from atmospheric conditions.

So don't worry about it.

  • Thanks for the confirmation that I won't be doing too much harm. I didn't know that atmospheric conditions could cause such a severe change. Appreciate the advice. – maccartm Aug 14 '15 at 15:55
  • Humidity changes can cause a lot of problems - tension in the strings, especially on an acoustic, can be dramatically affected by humidity – Doktor Mayhem Aug 14 '15 at 15:59
  • I'll have to do some research on maintaining proper humidity as I live in Canada. Harsh, dry winters coupled with hot, humid summers likely wreaks havoc on my guitars, and it isn't something I've paid much consideration to in the past. Thanks again – maccartm Aug 14 '15 at 16:02
4

This will not hurt the guitar, especially since you're only adjusting one string.

Even with more general tuning changes, e.g. changes to open D, you won't hurt the guitar; the worst side-effect might be sub-optimal neck relief.

Re-tuning will tend to wear the strings more; causing them to break more easily, but I've noticed this more on the thinner strings.

  • +1 for wearing the strings, useful consideration. Also thanks for the affirmation about more general tuning changes as well, I've been thinking of trying to get into some folky-open D stuff at some point. – maccartm Aug 14 '15 at 15:53
4

Since you're only loosening one string, and for a short while, no harm in that. The other strings may change their tuning slightly in the process, but that's o.k. Those DGs are good guitars, but consider keeping it, and having two when you upgrade - one standard, one D-tuned. Yes, on electrics, it's the same, except those vibrato-equipped will probably have the other 5 strings affected slightly more.

  • +1 for the consideration about vibrato-equipped electrics and the tip about using a second guitar – maccartm Aug 14 '15 at 15:54
2

I change my tuning all the time, including using DADGBE as you do and have had the same guitar for a decade, with no problems as a result. Especially since you are just slightly changing the tuning of the low E string, which is your strongest, I doubt it will even have an impact on the strength of the string. It is NEVER my first to pop!

  • I've never had issues with it breaking as I only ever tune it down, thanks for the input though, glad to hear that even over the long term there is no effect – maccartm Aug 15 '15 at 17:23
  • I break my high E all the time! – gracey209 Aug 15 '15 at 19:29
1

Lowering and raising the 6th string tone regularly will wear the nut slut to different degrees depending on whether the nut is bone or some sort of plastic, especially if it is a steel string guitar. Too much wear and the string will develop fret buzz. A lead pencil rubbed into the nut slots makes for a great lube for the stings to slide across the nut easier.

I play classical guitar mostly and the simplest way I get to dropped D tuning (often) without touching the 6th string, is to put a capo on the lower 5 strings at the 2nd fret. Instant dropped D tuning!

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