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  • The standard open-string tuning of a six-string guitar was developed to enable the simplest fingering positions for the left hand for the greatest number of playable chords, while also minimizing the changing of fingers when switching between different chords. The traditional tuning of E, A, D, G, B, and E (from the lowest to highest strings) can be changed to give unique sonic sounds for specific musical pieces.

    "Drop D" Tuning

    The most common and frequently used alternate guitar tunings is called "Drop D" tuning. This setup is used in rock, metal, folk and country music. With this different tuning arrangement, only the low E string is re-tuned, lowering it to a D. This simple change enables it to be used while playing live on stage, as the tuning change can be done fairly quickly. Drop D tuning makes playing some chords fuller. For example, when a D chord is played at the first position, the low E string is usually not played. With Drop D tuning, all six strings can be played which enhances the bass and fills out the chord. Drop D tunings enable metal music musicians to easily play "power chords" by simply placing one finger over the lowest three strings at any fret ("bar" D, A, and D strings). To set your guitar to a Drop D tuning, turn the tuning peg on the low E (6th string) counter-clockwise until it is one octave lower than the 4th string (D). This can be done by ear or with a guitar tuner. When done by ear on an electric guitar, using a distortion pedal can help, as you will hear a clash between the two strings which diminishes and becomes more melodic as the two tunings approach each other, though an octave apart. You will also hear a "beat frequency" slow to a stop the closer you get to a match.

    Nashville Tuning

    Another popular tuning, especially with country music, is called "Nashville tuning." This tuning arrangement is done to make a six-string guitar sound more like a 12-string guitar. To set up this tuning, however, you must replace the lowest four strings on your guitar (E, A, D, G) with the high octave strings from a 12-string guitar set. This will mean that all of the strings on the guitar will be "unwound," except for the low E string. The high E and B strings on your guitar remain untouched. Replace the lowest four strings on your guitar with the four high octave strings from a 12-string set and tune them to the same notes as a standard guitar (E, A, D, and G) only one octave higher than usual. Use a guitar tuner to aid in tuning, or use your ear and a fixed-instrument, such as a piano or synthesizer for note reference.

    Other Different Tunings

    Dozens of other different tunings have been used by musicians in all genres of music, from Celtic to classical, many of which are done by simply lowering or raising the pitch of individual strings. Lower the pitch of strings by turning the tuning pegs counter-clockwise, and raise their pitch by turning clockwise. However, if strings are tuned too low, intonation will suffer (that is, the open string will be in tune but fretted notes may be slightly out of tune), strings may wear out quicker, and strings that are loose may "buzz" against frets. Tuning strings too high causes stress on the guitar's neck, and also causes strings to break. Slide guitarists (using steel, brass or glass slides) sometimes tune their strings so that the open strings form a major chord, such as D major (D, A, D, G, A, D) or A major (E, A, E, A, C#, E).

    Source:

    Alternate guitar tuning guide

    Guitar tuning tips

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