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I'm probably stupid, but can I play a tab in that is in standard tuning, the same way with a guitar tuned down to C#? Will everything just sound lower? Or do I need to get a tab in that tuning?

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If all the strings are tuned down three half-steps then yes, you can play the tab exactly the same and it will just sound lower — specifically, the song will be transposed 3 half-steps lower. Naturally, any other instruments would need to play lower to accompany you as well.

If you're playing Drop C# (everything down 1 half-step except the low string which is down 3) then you would need to adjust the tab, most likely by playing everything on the lowest string 2 frets higher than the tab indicates. If that doesn't work you would probably need to rewrite the tab to fit some other possible way to play the song.

  • You could also add a capo if you need to use open strings. – Michael Cook Dec 11 '12 at 16:11
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    For the OP: to make explicit what cadmium's comment was pointing out: adjusting the tuning on all the strings the same (scenario 1 in Matthew Read's answer) is the exact same thing as a barre. A barre is conceptually moving the entire nut, and a capo is a tool to (temporarily) move it. – horatio Dec 11 '12 at 18:21

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