What open tuning for slide guitar would cause the least tension on my old guitar?

I got a really cool parlour guitar from the 1930's. I realize it is old and bridge is fragile. I am reinforcing some spots. I would like to do some fixing on it and tune it up, and actually play it. I thought I could tune it and use it like a slide guitar.

What open slide guitar tuning would cause the least tension on this old guitar?

  • 1
    Any tuning can be lowered as many steps as you want. Whether it's playable is another matter.
    – user28
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


There is no "least" tension that you could point to. As Matthew pointed out, you could just keep lowering the tension until the strings actually rest on the neck, so what you need to do is look at what will be practical.

In reality, dropping a whole tone dramatically reduces the tension - I did a quick calculation using stringtensionpro.com's tension calculator, and reducing an Open E major tuning to an open D major reduces the force on the bridge by about 20%. Dropping to open C major reduces tension by 60%.

Of course, you'll need to decide how you want to transpose melodies and chords, but that is relatively straightforward for slide guitar.

  • As an aside - my 12 string acoustic had suffered a major accident before I got it - the entire head was snapped off, and had to be reglued. I tend to now keep it in a standard D tuning, just in case the glue and pins fail. So far, so good :-)
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 17:11
  • Open A is a very common slide tuning. It wouldn't be as drastic a tension reduction as E to D, but an "Open G" where you drop the E strings to D's and drop the A string to G would work (is this "spanish tuning?)
    – Yorik
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 19:26
  • Yes, I just picked a tuning at random as an example
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 20:58

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