I had a tune in my head I was trying to play and it had a G followed by a C then Em but the tune goes lower than that. I am pretty new to guitars and music in general so I am trying to keep everything as simple as I can.

  • 1
    As it stands, the question isn't clear to me at least. G, C and Em are chords, but you talk about notes (the tune). The lowest sounding note on standard guitar must be E, and the lowest sounding chord, Em. But a D chord can accompany lower notes even though the chord itself sounds higher.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 5:10
  • An effective answer to this question needs to address the OP's misunderstanding that a chord can be "lower" than another. Notes (and by extension chord voicings) can be higher and lower than each other, but the fact that certain commonly used chord voicings on the guitar are higher or lower is only incidental to how the fretboard is laid out.
    – Max
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 5:09
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    I think this is a perfect beginner's question, therefore I wouldn't rate it down. Many of us questioned themselves this at some point. Also, of course, the question itself shows the lack of knowledge at levels, but: newbies gonna question themselves the same and then these answers should be shown to them. Perfect!
    – johnwinchy
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 16:03

5 Answers 5


The lowest note in standard tuning is an E. However there is an open D tuning that is common called DADGAD (that's the notes the open strings are tuned too) which will get you an E flat on the first fret and a D on the open 6th string (lowest string). But now you will have to change the way you play all your chords.

You can play chords such as D in standard tuning but the root note (d) would be up an octave (on the open 4th string) Or C with the root on the 3rd fret of the 5th string. This may let you play your song but the bass line in your head might not be exactly as you hear it.

Another option is to transpose the whole song up to a new key. Meaning the lowest note you're hearing becomes E which is the lowest note you can play in standard tuning, and all the other notes (chords) get shifted up. Example: you are hearing d major and then e minor, change that e major and f# (f sharp) minor. It will have the same harmonic properties but now will be easier to play on the guitar.

  • 1
    Drop D tuning is also quite common.
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 6:51
  • Could you tune all strings down a tone? Then you could get a low D chord and use all of your familiar fingerings. You would need to either remember that your familiar chords, e.g. G7, would come out a tone lower, F7, or rewrite your music and pretend it was normal. You would have a Bb transposing guitar.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 12:04
  • @badjohn you could do that, but i am not sure how common or advisable it is. I do know that it would decrease the amount of tension on all six strings which would cause the neck to move away from the strings a bit. this will increase your action (meaning, the strings will be further way from the fret board) making it harder to play. if you are going to do this long term you may want to get the guitar set up like this. not sure how many people will see this comment, you may want to ask this as a separate question to get more opinions.
    – b3ko
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 13:43
  • @b3ko Thanks. I am not interested for myself. I just wondered whether it might be another option for the OP.
    – badjohn
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 15:59
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    @b3ko: A heavy-gauge string set tuned down a couple frets, or a light-gauge string set tuned up a couple frets, will have similar tension to a medium set tuned to normal pitch.
    – supercat
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 18:48

One option to get a chord that sounds like it has a root note that's lower than the low E is to use a second inversion voicing. If you put the fifth of the chord on the bottom, it implies a root note below that. Eg. D/A, C/G, Bb/F, A/E.

See this question for more detail: Is it possible to create the illusion of a sub-harmonic?


The question has some ambiguity in it. What do you mean by E and what do you mean by "lowest"? If by lowest you mean that the lowest note in the chord is E but the others can be "high", then there are several options, Emaj, Emin, E7 etc. If you assume standard tuning (and I see many answers have mentioned other tuning) and if I assume you mean that all notes need to be the lowest pitch possible I would vote for the "lowest chord" as being E-11 in the following voicing (E, A, D, G, B, E) = (1, 11 (4), b7, b3, 5, 1). But I think you may be referring to something else. Since your question title did state "standard tuning" I am sticking to this answer.


I know this would not be the right answer from an expert's eye of view. But this is maybe the right answer for the questioner.

Chords can be played in many variations, because if you use only those notes found in your chord, you're technically playing the same chord, even if each note is an octave higher or lower. So you're playing a C if you're using only the notes C, E and G.

You won't find this in too many books, but I had this problem myself years ago and I do the following. I play the "lower" chord a perfect 4th deeper than the original barre chord. I don't play the original bass note and I don't play the higher notes either, because they should then be shifted and that makes it hard or impossible to play it.

So, just play the lowest 3 strings everything one string lower and miss out the lowest note. So this would be the technical description for it:

E |--n1--    E |------
B |--n2--    B |------
G |--n3-- => G |------
D |--n4--    D |--n3--
A |--n5--    A |--n4--
E |--n6--    E |--n5--

The D is a perfect 4th under the G. So I play a "lower" D for example like a G, but one string lower like this:

     G       "lower" D
E |--3--    E |-----
B |--3--    B |-----
G |--4-- => G |-----
D |--5--    D |--4--
A |--5--    A |--5--
E |--3--    E |--5--

Try playing an F# on low E string,open A,open D and an A on G string only play top 4 strings not sure what you call it, but it sounds lower than E chord, I use it all the time, if you like you can finish off the D chord for a fuller sound but then it gets a different feel Standard tuning PS I know nothing about theory, just like this chord

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