I'm learning the song 'let it be' by the beatles in the key of C however, It's just a tad to high for me (The highest note that is). The key of A, or even B work completley fine and I could capo that and change the chords very easily - But I've learned an extremely complicated fingerstyle piece/chord progression and a solo as well. I was wondering if I can use a drop tuning and capo placement to drop the key of the song down a tone or two so that they key of the song will change but not the chord shapes, (essentially a reverse capo) so all the practice I did on the guitar won't go to waste.

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    I'd say that you wouldn't have wasted all that time practicing if you were to relearn the song in a different key with different fingerings. My thought is that relearning with a different perspective can have a very positive effect on your abilities and general musicallity. It would force your brain to recognize that two different things that happen with your hands are representing the same thing, making a stronger neural connection for the understand of the music itself. Just a thought, I don't have any research to back that up but it seems like pretty sound reasoning to me. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:34

4 Answers 4


You can make use of drop tuning. This is a very popular method used by rock and metal bands to accomodate the vocal range of the singer.

This also accomodates the guitar player. By dropping your tuning of your guitar, you not just lowering the key, but you get to retain all the original chordshapes. What this means is, if a song is written the key of C, and you hold an C chord, in standard tuning, the sound will be that of a C chord. If you drop your guitar one half step down (Eb,Ab,Db,Gb,Bb,eb), you drop the key of the song to B, and if you hold and strum the C chord as before, you will now instead hear a B chord, and not a C.

So you see that, instead of having to play the dreaded B chord as a major barre chord in normal tuning in order to drop the key of the song one half step, you drop your guitar's tuning half a step and you still play the C major chord shape as before, which is more finger friendly


I just thought of this now, and is just a nice-to-know. If you need to tune down your guitar, and only have a cheap electronic tuner like me which can basically just tune standard tuning, make use of your capo.

What I always do is, say you need to tune down half a step, just place your capo on the first fret, then tune your guitar to standard tuning using your tuner. Once that is done, and you remove the capo, your guitar will be tuned down half a step. For a full step drop, place the capo on fret two, for one and a half step, use fret three and so on

  • While I like the concept of using the capo in conjunction with the limited tuner functionality, there are some concerns. Out of all of the frets on a guitar, the first fret usually has the hardest time with intonation. Due to its proximity to the nut, the string has to bend and tighten more to reach the fret. So once you remove the capo, it's fairly likely that the guitar won't be in great tuning. This might not be the case for your guitar but it's something to be aware of. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:30
  • A digital chromatic tuner will show all the tones so you just tune to the appropriate note. Perhaps yours will only register on a standard tuning E A D G B e . That is a good suggestion about using the capo if your tuner won't show an F# for and E flat (for example) but if you do use the capo method you will need to fine tune after removing the capo because the capo itself will cause some slight off tuning glitches. But starting as you suggests should get the strings close enough for the tuner to pick up on the correct notes and allow for fine tuning adjustments. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:30
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    @Basstickler We were typing at the same time basically saying the same thing. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:31
  • @RockinCowboy - I learned a good deal about that sort of stuff from recording with an incredible engineer (Jonathan Wyman, Halo Studios). He sent out a couple articles before we went into the studio about tuning and intonation. It was very interesting to get that info and realize a whole new aspect of my instrument, though it tends to affect guitar more than bass in most situations. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:37

You can also use a harmonizer pedal like a Digitech Richochet to drop everything you play a certain interval. It has a latch mode that you can simply always leave on.

  • It's not clear if OP is playing his finger-style arrangement on acoustic or electric as both are tagged. But you might want to note that pedals such as the one you mentioned work best with a solid body electric guitar because they only change the tone of the output (heard through the amp, or PA) - not the acoustical sound of the strings themselves - which can be heard by the guitarist on a hollow body electric or acoustic-electric. I suppose some tight fitting in ear monitors worn in both ears could compensate but those are expensive. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:37

As others have mentioned, drop tuning by up to one whole step is a viable solution. However if you only use the half to one step flat tuning for that particular song, it might not be convenient to re-tune the guitar after playing that one song.

If you drop the tuning one whole step flat from standard, you might benefit from some adjustments to the set up. The lower string tension may contribute to some fret buzz if your action is low. An adjustment to the truss rod and/or saddle height and corresponding tweaking of the intonation would compensate for the slack strings. Another solution is to use heavier strings which may tune flat with close to the same tension as the lighter strings on standard tuning.

For all these reasons, it might make sense to invest in a second guitar to leave tuned flat for the songs that require it. Then you can have the string set and set up optimized for the drop tuning.

But if you are going to spend the money on a second guitar, as long as you play a solid body electric guitar, you could just as easily use a pedal such as the one mentioned by Neil Meyer or the less expensive Digitech Drop pictured below. The DigiTech Drop provides anywhere from 1 to seven semitones of polyphonic down tuning plus a whole octave down.

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Finally, (not as an answer to your question but as an aside) I play Let It Be on guitar using the chord set from the key of G and have also found some nice licks and fills that are easy to play. By putting a capo on the second fret I am playing the G chord set but the tonality is in the key of A. If you want to try it with the G chord set the chords are G D Em and D. I use a D with F# bass in the chorus and at the end of the chorus I play a C (Bm Am G) walk down. Leave a comment if you want the chord progression for the prelude to the solo.

Good luck and have fun.


Just as you suggest, you could drop all the strings one tone to DGCFAD. Or if you can manage to fret that high, you could capo at the 10th fret to drop the tonality by one tone. The capo option will be easier with a cutaway.

  • Moving that far up the neck with a capo not only changes the sound to a thinner more trebley sound (which works well in some arrangements) - but the fret and string spacing are much different - with the frets much closer together and the strings farther apart. So the complicated finger-style pattern the OP has mastered on first position, might not easily translate ten frets higher up. But otherwise that is certainly a viable alternative to the other ideas mentioned. Good job for helping make sure all the bases are covered. Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 20:42

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