There are so many ways to tune a guitar. This is what makes them such a versatile instrument. Just a few tweaks of the tuning pegs can change the whole dynamic of a guitar’s sound. Changing it from standard tuning to something more unique opens up almost boundless opportunities for unique pieces of music.
However, if you’re an inexperienced guitarist, having to tune your guitar half a step down can be quite a daunting task. Once players learn to tune their guitars in the standard way, they feel relieved. This process is difficult enough but tuning the strings half a step down can become something many dread.
The good news is that there is no need to feel intimidated! Tuning your guitar from its standard E-A-D-G-B-E to Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb is not as difficult as you might think. Just see it as a great way to experiment with your guitar’s sound.
You may be surprised by the deeper tone of your guitar afterward and decide you like the tuning enough to stick with it. Some of the world’s most famous guitarists, such as Keith Richards, play half a step down. If it works for them, it will surely work for you.
Today, we will guide you through the process of tuning your guitar half a step down so you can enjoy the richer, deeper tones and take your guitar playing to the next level.
Tuning a guitar half a step down
As we mentioned, tuning your guitar half a step down means it is changing from E-A-D-G-B-E to Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb. The only issue with this is that most digital tuners do not show flat pitches.
Therefore, when using a tuner, you will need to tune the strings to D#-G#-C#-F#-A#-D#. These will still be the same notes but they are the only way your digital tuner can accurately tune the strings.
You will generally achieve a more precise tuning if you tune down below a correct pitch and then tune the string up to its correct pitch.
Tuning down just half a step can be very useful for many reasons. For singers, this change in tuning can be very welcome as it can change the key and make the song more desirable and easier to sing. It can also adjust the tension of your guitar strings and the overall tone of your instrument.
Ever tried playing along to a famous recording only to find your guitar sounds out of tune with the track but only just? This is probably because the guitar is tuned down half a step. If you tune to the same as these tracks, you can play along with the original songs such as Sweet Child O’ MIne by Guns ‘N’ Roses.
So, let’s find out how to tune your guitar down half a step:
Using a chromatic tuner
Instead of splashing out and buying an expensive tuning pedal, consider using a cheaper chromatic tuner. You can even download apps on your smartphone that allow you to tune your guitar with ease.
- To begin, you need to tune your low E string down until the screen of your tuner reads Eb or D#. Don’t worry if the E is out of tune at this point as it needs to be changed.
- Now, onto the A strong, turn your tuning peg down so the A string reads either Ab or G# on the tuner’s screen. Do this slowly because it can be easy to pass the Ab too quickly and become lost.
- Once the A string is detuned, it’s time to work on the D string. Tune this down till the tuner’s screen reads Db or C#. Again, do this at a relaxed and easy-going pace. If you turn the tuning pegs too hard, it can damage them and you could weaken the string until it breaks.
- G string time! Tune this fourth string down until the display shows Gb or F#.
- Tune your B string lower until the tuner screen shows Bb or A#.
- To tune down the high E string, you need to very slowly adjust the tuning peg until the tuner shows Eb or D#. This string is very thin so you must be extra careful as it is prone to snapping. However, this is more likely when you tighten the tuning peg and string as more tension is created.
- Once you have detuned each string, you may find the strings are not perfectly tuned to the desired notes. Therefore, you need to recheck each string again. Go through each one individually and ensure they are tuned to the sequence of either Eb-Ab-Db-Gb-Bb-Eb or D#-G#-C#-F#-A#-D#. You may need to repeat this a few times.
- Once the tuner shows the right note for each string, you can test them by strumming a chord. Pluck each string in this chord to make sure they all sound in tune.
Tuning down half a step by ear
You can also tune by ear if no tuner is available.
- Check that your guitar is in standard tuning. Whatever tuning you are in, you need to detune half a step from those notes.
- Play the fourth fret on the low E string to play an Ab. Tune the A string down until it equals this Ab sound. The A string will now be an Ab.
- Play the seventh fret on the A string (Eb). Now, play an open low E string along with the seventh fret of the A. Tune up the E string until the sound matches the seventh fret of the A string.
- Tune the rest of the strings as you normally would (tune 4th string to 5th fret of 5th string, 3rd string to 5th fret of 4th string, 2nd string to 4th fret of 3rd string & 1st string to 5th fret of 2nd string)
- Recheck all the strings
As you can, de-tuning your guitar half a step is quite simple. With a little practice, you should be able to do it by ear and start playing along to your favorite records with ease.