Capos heighten the pitch of the guitar. Is there a thing that lowers the pitch of the guitar? I've been having problems playing a song on guitar and also singing it.

For example, a song's chord progression is B♭sus - Fsus - Gm7 - Fsus. These chords sound beautiful when played in standard tuning, starting on the 1st fret.

But for my vocals to sound more relaxed, everythin has to be 1 tone down, starting from A♭sus ...

Yet when I play the same progression in standard tuning starting from Absus - it doesn't sound as beautiful to me although the progression is correct. I figured out - maybe because of the change of chord position and fingering (starting from not from 1st but from 4th fret)

So I tune it to D Standard (whole step down) - I have the same fingering position as in standard tuning playing from B♭sus.

But.... tadaaaam... it also won't sound as beautiful as in standard tuning starting from B♭sus... I don't know - maybe because the strings are more relaxed the sound is different and not as beautiful to me...

It feels like it's the same song, but the vibe and color is totally different.

So here I have a dilemma.

Can it be that some songs sound beautiful only in one specific key? Only in one they were written?

Sorry if this is a weird or complicated question to you guys.

  • I thought drop D was just re-tuning the fat string down. Do you mean dropping all the strings one tone? That's quite a usual thing to do. Also, playing it starting on Asus might help, with open strings, or tuned down a semitone. – Tim Nov 2 '18 at 7:40

One option is to use a digital polyphonic pitch shifter. In fact one such pedal is explicitly advertised as a “downwards capo”. Whether this works for you better than tuning down I can't say – personally I dislike such pitch shifters because of the kind of... squishy (for want of a better word) latency response – not so good for rythmic strumming but the sound of ringing notes is actually quite good in the newer models.

A baritone guitar would be more “honest” alternative, but obviously it's more of an investment.

Even more honest, if you like the chord progression as it is in F, would be to keep it as-is and work on the vocals instead. Try a different line, or at least changing some notes. Or maybe the song just isn't for your voice, but you know somebody who can do it better...

  • If the transposition is only a full step down as the OP describes - but not changing the guitar range is important for timbre - I think your advice to work on the vocals is the best way to go. – Michael Curtis Nov 2 '18 at 20:07

There's nothing like "negative capo" I know about. Well, if you thing how capo and tuning of guitar works it's easy to answer. However, you can tune your guitar down a couple of steps and then use capo when you need to play in E standard. It's quite common practice to play with every string down half or full step tuning. Then use capo for other songs that need to be played in E standard if needed ;-).

The key and beauty of a song is very subjective thing. Every instrument has its specific sound, so for example something played on piano won't sound as full on guitar and sometimes viceversa. If some chords seem to be sounding not quite good experiment with different chord fingerings (positions on fretboard). You can also experiment with string sets - every string material and thickness will sound different. If you like really low tunings, you can think about buying baritone guitar which is usually tuned to B (5 semitones lower than E standard).


"...maybe because the strings are more relaxed the sound is different and not as beautiful to me..."


String tension is probably the most overlooked factor when it comes to tone, on both electric and acoustic guitars.

Take two instruments with distinctly different tonal characteristics - a Gibson and a Fender. How is it you can tell their tones apart within the first few notes? Everyone will point to the pickups, the the type of wood, the method used to join the neck to the body - and sure, these all play a part.

But then, tune the Fender down to D standard, and you'll be amazed how it warms up! Sure, it may not sound exactly like the Gibson, but you'll fool a lot of people. (As a case in point: that classic Les Paul tone on the 'Stairway to Heaven' solo is actually a Telecaster! Seriously!) This is because almost all Gibsons use a shorter scale length than Fenders, therefore their strings are slacker when tuned to concert pitch, hence that trademark tone.

So if tuning your instrument to your voice has caused it to lose its sparkle, it's likely because the strings are no longer singing. What can you do? Swap the strings for a set one or two gauges heavier, from the same brand. The thicker strings will give you the extra tension you need when downtuned - you may not be able to perfectly recapture that magic tone, but it will be a good deal closer.

As mentioned, you can then capo@2 to play in standard for other songs. Or, have you considered that if this key suits your voice best, you might want to play more songs in the same tuning? Some of the worlds biggest bands play their entire set in slack tuning to match the singer's voice.

I read a great article a while ago which went into this issue in depth, I'll edit in a link when I find it again.


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