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#1
Hey so I've been really enjoying playing some John Mayer lately and have noticed that on a number of his songs (and many other bands I've seen) he tunes all the strings a half step down. My question is why? I understand it would be beneficial if you were playing open strings but he doesn't in, for instance, "heart of life" which I'm playing right now.

Why can't I just play everything a half-step down instead of tuning it that way? Am I missing something obvious here? I feel like I must be. Thanks
#3
that halfstep makes a difference on some vocals and it makes the strings more bendy
#4
Also the strings feel softer and they are easier to bend when you tune them a half step down, many blues players like Hendrix or SRV have done that
#6
Tuning a half step lower reduces the overall tension on the strings giving it a different feel and sound then simply playing the notes a half step down.
#7
Also, try playing the chords Eb Ab Bb7 Eb ... good luck doing that in standard.
#8
I tune half step down because there is less tensions thus making bends easier and nicer.
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#10
Quote by pwrmax
The same reason capos were invented.



but capos are rarely used on first fret. there usually 2nd fret or higher, because otherwise there isnt enough different for it to matter, which makes his question once again very much a good one, the answer, to make the strings easier to bend as previously stated.
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#11
my playing is split half n half between jazz and metal and from a jazz side of things it makes more sense, i play in the key of Eb and lot more then E and and open strings can be utilized a lot more.
#12
If you only tune down a half step because "it makes the strings easier to bend"....then you're possibly not the sharpest tool in the shed...

You can accomplish the same thing by reducing your string guage by one numerical value (from .10's to .09's etc)

SRV and Hendrix didn't tune down because it made bends easier. They tuned down mostly because of their vocal range.

SRV actually did the opposite - he played on .13's because he wanted to keep a higher string tension - he didn't tune down because he wanted to make bending easier, he increased his string guage to make bending harder despite his lowered tuning which allowed him to play "harder" and gave him his awesome tone.

Quote by bananahammock
but capos are rarely used on first fret. there usually 2nd fret or higher, because otherwise there isnt enough different for it to matter, which makes his question once again very much a good one, the answer, to make the strings easier to bend as previously stated.


I'm going to venture out on a limb here and guess that you don't know what the hell you're talking about...

A capo is just as usefull and serves the same purpose at the first fret as it does at any other fret.
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Last edited by Guitartist at Oct 19, 2009,
#13
Quote by pwrmax
Also, try playing the chords Eb Ab Bb7 Eb ... good luck doing that in standard.

...What?
#14
Quote by Forkman
...What?


Yeah....you could still play them - just an octave higher....
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#18
Quote by branny1982
All of those chords can easily be played in either tuning.
More notably Bb7!

In my opinion the whole 1/2 step tuning thing is just annoying.... i have to retune to play along to SWeet Child Of Mine


thats nothing to brag about, I bet mostly everyone on this site knows how to play along to that.

And different tunings are mainly for the singers range, if you notice one band always plays in a certain tuning, it's cause it helps the singer match the key of the song easier. For me, when I try to sing (I said try), I like to be a half step down, and play songs in standard tuning on a lower key, cause my voice has a better range half step down.
#19
when i write my music i tune a half step down from D A D G B E to Db Ab Db Gb Bb Eb honestly i really couldnt tell you why, i just did it because i thought it gave my music a little bit of a darker tone, i guess it just feels like it gave the sound a little bit of a harder edge but thats just me.
#20
usually its just because of the singer, but i do beleive it gives certain songs darker tones.
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#22
I typically tune down to give me more lower sounding notes to play, and when you down tune, weather it be half step or 2 steps down it completly changes the tone of the guitar. The lower tuning you have the easier it is to get a growl sound, and the more bass you have. Also sometimes, with acoustic guitarist, they down tune half step to get them a different sound, becuase everybody plays in standard, and it all sound similar, and down tuning just a little bit changes your tone, and allows you to play chord progressions that you might not be able to do in standard. Also like others said, it helps with the artists voice.
#23
Quote by ethan_hanus
I typically tune down to give me more lower sounding notes to play, and when you down tune, weather it be half step or 2 steps down it completly changes the tone of the guitar. The lower tuning you have the easier it is to get a growl sound, and the more bass you have. Also sometimes, with acoustic guitarist, they down tune half step to get them a different sound, becuase everybody plays in standard, and it all sound similar, and down tuning just a little bit changes your tone, and allows you to play chord progressions that you might not be able to do in standard. Also like others said, it helps with the artists voice.


i agree with everything you said i tune down mostly because it feels better with my voice and i don't have to strain really. and i just like playing a half-step lower too lol.
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#24
Tuning down a 1/2 step has become a cliche. In the 90's it was hard to find a band that tuned standard. Similar to Drop D, and other Drop tunings..... it's become "the thing to do".

Anyway, if you like the way it sounds, or music by bands that tune that way..... that's a good enough reason.
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Last edited by GuitarMunky at Oct 19, 2009,
#25
i think john mayer does it because SRV and hendrix did it. hendrix did it probably for vocal reasons. he also tuned down to D standard sometimes like on machine gun and voodoo chile( the long blues one, not slight return). but people like me who use heavy strings usually tune down a bit to help with some of the tension. that way you can still have thick strings for tone, but not have them too tight to play normally. i do it for vocal reasons and tension reasons.
#26
The reason that a lot of bands now tune to Eb is largely because of Black Sabbath, in particular Tony Iommi (the guitarist).

Tony was in an accident in his late teens where he lost the tips of his fingers. He considered giving up but worked around the injury by stringing his guitars with light strings and tuning a half-step down. This made them easier to play.

Black Sabbath became big, people copied the tuning because it sounded a little darker (seriously, half a step isn't that much), the rest is history.
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#27
I think John mayer played Heart of Life down half a step because on the album it transitions better into the next song - Vultures.
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#29
TBH, from a writing stand point, to me it sounds a little more relaxed. It doesn't really have to do with the tension of the strings because I play .11's anyway.

A few of my songs I can't even play in standard tuning because it just doesn't sound right, but I guess Eb suits my writing style.
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#30
I think tuning to Eb standard gives you a more 'usuable' range. Usually when you tune in standard you don't use notes at the 22-24th fret, so I'd give that away for some lower notes I'd use all the time.
Last edited by Dregen at Oct 20, 2009,
#32
besides the use for tuning down for vocalists, are the notes being played move down half a step when playing as well?

like on Low E string, to play a A note, 5th fret, but if you tune half a step down, A becomes the 6th fret. wouldn't both notes sound the same because they are both A notes?
#33
Quote by iampeter
besides the use for tuning down for vocalists, are the notes being played move down half a step when playing as well?

like on Low E string, to play a A note, 5th fret, but if you tune half a step down, A becomes the 6th fret. wouldn't both notes sound the same because they are both A notes?
Nope. The timbre of the note changes, and the tension is a lot lower. Yes, it's still A2 (110Hz) either way, but its tone and feel are different.
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#35
Quote by Plexi81
Play an E major in standard

Now play it a half step down.

See? Way better.
Do you mean play an E major in standard, then play an E major in Eb, or do you mean play an Eb major in Eb?

If you mean the second one, then by better, do you mean a half-step lower? Because comparing an E major and an Eb major in the same octave is a completely subjective comparison.
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Last edited by food1010 at Oct 20, 2009,
#36
Quote by food1010
Do you mean play an E major in standard, then play an E major in Eb, or do you mean play an Eb major in Eb?

If you mean the second one, then by better, do you mean a half-step lower? Because comparing an E major and an Eb major in the same octave is a completely subjective comparison.


I think he means tuning down makes it easier to play in certain keys.

You can probably play in E major half a step down a lot easier than in standard, mainly because if you're in standard, you can't make use of open chords because almost none of your open notes will be in key.

If your half a step down, you can play many open chords, C#m, C#madd9, G#m, etc.

(I love playing in E major...)
Last edited by Dregen at Oct 21, 2009,
#37
Man....there are some confused s.o.b.'s in this thread. lol
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#38
I play everything tuned down a step, I tried it one day for something different and preferred the sound.

That's my reason.
#40
Quote by Dregen
I think tuning to Eb standard gives you a more 'usuable' range. Usually when you tune in standard you don't use notes at the 22-24th fret, so I'd give that away for some lower notes I'd use all the time.

i agree. there are actually a lot of songs which are in a flat key. when i was in my schools show band, there were a bunch of songs that were in flat keys. lots in Eb and Ab and it allowed me to play lower open strings and different voicings than the other guitar player. so with him in standard and me in Eb, it gave a nice rounded sound. plus we had one song that kept a low Eb pedal tone in the intro. it was supposed to be played by the bass but i could play it as well due to my tuning while the other guitarist couldnt.

also i find with walking lines into chords i have more options with Eb tuning.
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