shapes and well-worn paths for a while, and get those creative juices
flowing. The possibilities are endless when it comes to alternate
tunings for guitar but one of the things I find most intriguing about
them is the renewed perspective they can give you on standard tuning. So
here are 5 altered tuning well-worth checking out.
is probably a good first port of call for anyone new to dabbling in
alternate tunings. Simply tune your low E string down to D, your B
string down to A, and your high E string down to D. If you strum the
open strings you have a Dsus2 chord which is nice in itself, and neither
minor nor major, which gives this tuning a modal air and a very broad
canvas with which to work. DADGAD is also open string heaven as anything
you play in the key of D will sound fantastic, though as DADGAD master Pierre Bensusan points out in this video, the tuning lends itself well to playing in other keys once you get the hang of it.
2. Open G Tuning (D, G, D, G, B, D)
Open G Tuning is another great one for incorporating open strings. If
you strum the open strings you’ll hear a familiar G major chord and a
one finger barre will also give you an easy major chord anywhere on the
neck. Open G is tuning of choice for Stone’s guitarist Keith Richards
(with the low E string removed) and features in many Stones songs
including, ‘Honky Tonk Woman’, ‘Start Me Up’, ‘Brown Sugar’ and ‘Gimme
Shelter’, among others. Open G is also heavily used in Blues with Robert
Johnson pioneering the tuning during his prolific recording spree the
1930s. Check out this tutorial for an in depth look at his use of Open G tuning.
3. P4 Tuning (E, A, D, G, C, F)
P4 tuning, or all fourths tuning, has seen a rise in popularity of
late; simply tune your B string up to C and your high E string up to F,
or if you don’t like the added string tension tune the other four
strings down a semitone (Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, B, E). What you get is a
perfectly symmetrical fretboard as the distance between each string is a
consistent 4th. Fourths tuning basically means that any chords shape or
scale pattern you know on the
first four strings of the guitar in standard tuning (E, A, D, G) can now
be repeated on any set of strings, thereby reducing the amount of stuff
to learn by about 75%. This huge time-saver is not without its
shortcomings though as open position chords go out the window. What you
gain, however, is greater access to scales and chords all over the
fretboard which is great for jazz and fusion. In fact, you could learn
any of the scales from our Scale Trainer in record time simply by getting both patterns down as there’s no major 3rd interval to warp the patterns.
I’m a big fan of this tuning and have been using it for a couple of
years. While you can still adapt a lot of material from standard tuning,
if you’re playing covers it’s probably not worth the time investment.
4. New Standard Tuning (C, G, D, A, E, G)
I have to admit, this one is still on my to-do list but is very
intriguing. New Standard Tuning (NST) was developed by King Crimson
guitarist Robert Fripp in the early 80s; the first five strings are
tuned in fifths with the top two strings a minor third apart. It’s
probably worth having a look at this tuning in theory before you tune
your high E string up a whole string-snapping two tones (or simply
replace it with a G string), which you can do here, simply dial up New Standard Tuning on the drop down menu and judge for yourself whether it’s worth the trouble.
5. 3rds Tuning (E, Ab, C, E, Ab C)
The theory behind this tuning is incredibly logical as what you end up
with is a chromatic fretboard where every note is contained within the
span of four frets, meaning you can play any scale or chord in any key
in one four-fret position. Sounds good, right? The interesting thing
about this tuning is that there’s really nothing you can translate from
standard tuning so it’s like a whole new beginning on the instrument,
only with a head-start technique-wise. 3rds tuning is the weapon of
choice for jazz guitarist Ralph Patt, and his website has a ton of resources if you’re intrigued.
Altered tunings on guitar can be a welcome creative outlet, especially if you’re stuck in a rut; one thing is for sure though, you’ll go back to standard tuning with a whole new perspective.
Matt Tippett (1977-) studied literature, music and languages in the UK before making a permanent move to Mexico in 2005. It was there he began to explore and research methods of improvisation on the guitar and published the ‘2 Positon Scale System’ series of instruction books in 2014, which are the fruit of that research. He is also well-known for his love of languages and music, drawing parallels between the two art forms as he continues to write and research on the subjects of language learning and improvisation