You can find tons of different guitar tunings nowadays; all the way many musicians who are experimenting with tuning achieved incredible results in their work. In its turn, new styles such as heavy metal or rock and roll required a new sound, which led to the popularization of alternative tunings for electric and bass guitars. We’ve put together all the information about tunings and how they differ from each other. Let’s start.
If you play the guitar and think you are not using any tuning at all, we’re sorry to disappoint you, you definitely use tuning and most likely it is the standard one: E, A, D, G, B, and E. Guitar tunings assign pitches to the open strings of guitars, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars, and classical guitars. By convention, the notes are ordered from lowest (low E2 - the deepest bass note) to highest (high E4- thickest string to thinnest).
Guitar communities that share a musical tradition often use the same or similar settings.
In addition to standard tunings, there are nonstandard, alternative, or alternate settings. Some of these tunings may be mentioned by the name of the song. Let’s take for example the Rolling Stones “Honky Tonk Women” classic. You can even create your own tuning if it allows you to be the best guitar player and make better music.
Let’s consider the most common tunings that are used today by rock musicians and pop music artists:
Standard guitar tuning, also known as E-tuning, is the most versatile and common option for tuning your guitar to sound just perfect.
Standard tuning is used in most popular songs written for acoustic and electric guitars. Read more about standard tunings here.
Drop tuning means any tuning other than standard if notes used are lower than in the standard one, that’s why it’s actually called the Drop tuning. Usually, you can hear it in the songs where a heavier sound is needed or if instruments with low sound are needed to be accompanied.
Everything about Drop tunings is here.
Open tuning is a tuning that provides the ability to play a major (or minor) chord while holding all the strings on only one fret. Particularly, it is popular in compositions where a slide play is required and among singer/songwriters, country music loves using it too.
Learn more about Open tunings and their varieties here.
The process of tuning the guitar for all tunings is exactly the same. To tune your guitar, you just need to follow these steps:
For acoustic, electric guitars, and baritones, you can use the same tunings if the string gauge allows you to get high-quality sound on each string; it concerns drop tunings in particular.
It is almost the rule that if the entire composition is written using a specific tuning for the rhythm of the guitar, then the bass guitar tuning will repeat one. However, there are always exclusions, and sometimes you don’t need to change the tuning of the bass guitar, but just to transpose the notes to the tuning your bass is tuned for.
Ukulele, for example, has the strings arranged in a certain order, that’s why a unique tuning for ukulele is used.