In order for the singer to hit the high notes on the Hollies hit song 'Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress' I’m considering detuning my entire guitar down one whole step, in other words, bottom E string to a D, high E string to a D etc. etc. How does this fit with the experience of this group to accommodate a singer for the song? Also this tuning could accommodate the singer to hit the high notes in Rock ‘n’ Roll by Led Zeppelin.

2 Answers 2


I'd normally say 'learn the chords in the lower key!' But that particular song does have a characteristic riff that uses the bottom string, and tuning down would be a reasonable option.

Whether you'd want to do the whole gig on a detuned guitar is another matter. Have a second instrument set up, or accept the hiatus while you re-tune.


It's one way to do it. Especially if you need the guitar to play open E or A chords or strings. Like guitars often do in rock songs.

The problem is then tuning down/up between songs, or leaving the guitar low tuned. Which means other songs that need the open strings/chords don't get them. If you keep your guitar tuned down a step, you could capo on 2nd fret for the other songs, although it's not the best way. Or, change the chords for the rest of the stuff you do! A lot of effort for little gain, although the singer may or may not appreciate it. Or, merely change the key and use the appropriate guitar parts in lower keys. A barred D chord isn't going to sound much different in context than a barred C (to most people...).

There is now a magic box on the market which changes key for you, with no perceivable delay, so you can play whatever you like, and tell it what key it needs to produce.

Another problem that I used to come across, especially with Hollies and other vocal harmony numbers, back in the '60s, was that when the key of something was changed to accommodate the highest voice, the others, particularly the lowest, would sometimes suffer, as that harmony became too low.

  • Putting the capo on the 2nd fret would put the key in F, making the song even higher.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 12:47
  • 1
    @HeatherS. - in standard tuning, capo on 2nd fret actually means F#! But I meant down tune a tone, and then put capo on 2nd fret: back to standard E.
    – Tim
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 13:15
  • You are right. Was thinking 1st.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 17:34
  • I edited your answer to make it more clear that you were suggesting capoing the 2nd fret for the other songs that were to remain in their original keys.
    – Heather S.
    Commented Sep 28, 2019 at 17:38
  • Thanks for all tour ideas guys and gals. I intend to have a guitar just for two songs. I already have one in e flat for van halen and SRV songs, and a tele in open G for the Stones. I took my LP and tuned it down a whole step and it did the trick for us. Stings are kinda loose though. But since i posted this i kept digging into it and found evn players who are running super slinkys tuned down a whole step. Mine ar hybrid slinkys, so far, so good! Kind of a hassle having four guitars at a gig tho! Thanks again.
    – Rocket
    Commented Oct 3, 2019 at 2:58

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