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How to Tune Your Guitar Down Half a Step

Why Some Guitar Players Tune Their Guitars Down Half A Step

Some guitar players tune their guitars down half a step. This is for a variety of reasons, the main one being that it's easier to sing for some guitar players when the guitar is tuned down half a step lower than when the guitar is in standard tuning. If you ever intend on playing in a band, you may even find that the singer has asked that the band to tune down half a step.

Tuning your guitar down half a step also gives you a different amount of tension on the strings, making it easier to play. Stevie Ray Vaughan used extremely heavy gauge strings. He had very strong hands but tuning down half a step would have made it easier to play the guitar with the heavy gauge strings.

If you find yourself wanting to play along with Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen or many other blues, rock, grunge guitar players and bands who tune down half a step, then you need to learn how to tune your guitar down.

How to tune your guitar down half a step

Standard guitar tuning in tablature (also called tab) notation is as follows:

E|-- <= 1st string
B|-- <= 2nd string
G|-- <= 3rd string
D|-- <= 4th string
A|-- <= 5th string
E|-- <= 6th string

The 6th string is the lowest string on the guitar. In standard tuning, both the 6th and the 1st strings are tuned to an E. The E on the 1st string is 2 Octaves higher than the E on the 6th string.

Guitar players also use the term 'low E' to refer to the 6th string and 'high E' to refer to the 1st string.

To tune your guitar down 1/2 a step you tune each string to the note 1/2 a step below what it is in standard tuning. In tab notation this is as follows:


Note the following:

Eb can also be called D#
Bb can also be called A#
Gb can also be called F#
Db can also be called C#
Ab can also be called G#
Eb can also be called D#

What note name should I use?

It doesn't matter when you are tuning your guitar. It matters when you start learning scales.

When you are naming the notes of a scale, you only use each letter of the alphabet once.

For example if you are playing a Bb scale you don't call the note A#. This is because in the Bb scale the note 'A' is part of the scale. So it wouldn't make sense to also call a note A# when there is already the note A.

The Bb scales reads: Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A.

Even though you are playing the exact same notes, it doesn't look as neat if you write out the above scale as: A#, C, D, Eb, F, G, A. Simply because you've already used the A.

On the Guitar Tuner

If you don't have a guitar tuner you should consider purchasing one, you don't need to spend a lot of money to get a good guitar tuner. This is the guitar tuner a lot of guitar players use, is a chromatic tuner. This means that it will allow you to tune your guitar chromatically - ie down (or up etc) half a step.

On a guitar tuner, when you tune down half a step the notes are stated on the tuner as follows:


Tuning your guitar down half a step will ease the amount of tension in your guitar strings and make your guitar easier to play. It is also easier to sing along with a guitar that is tuned down half a step. There are many recordings where the guitar player and band have tuned down half a step. If you want to play along with those songs then it is best to tune down half a step. Its not for everyone, but it may be something you wish to consider at some point when you are playing guitar.

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