Personally I have my guitar tuned to Eb. This means whenever I play an "C major" scale, it's actually a B major scale.

When I write a song in the key of "E minor", I'm actually writing a song in the key of Eb minor. This means that after I record the guitars and want to add piano... I'm playing in the key of Eb minor on the piano (or any other concert pitch instrument).

When notating the guitar for my Eb minor song, I write the key signature as E minor, with a small bit of text saying "Eb guitar". All the other instruments (with the exception of bass - which is tuned like my guitar), have key signatures of Eb minor.

This means I don't have to re-learn the notes on the fretboard. The compromise is recognising the pitch of a note by ear, so to compensate I pitch shift the guitar back up to E standard tuning (only for when practicing).

Since there's more than one way, how do you guys do it?
I just play what sounds and feels good to me. I play in Drop C and D Standard.

You never know unless you experiement.
In terms of playing I either:
  • Retune the guitar.
  • Use a different guitar that's already in the tuning I need.

Job done.

In terms of writing stuff down and how I think about what I'm playing, I always write/think as if I'm in E Standard or Drop D, depending on whether the guitar is in a Standard tuning, a Drop tuning or a Double Drop tuning. E.g. even if I pick up my guitar that is kept in D Standard tuning, whenever I play the 5th string at the 5th fret I think of that as being D, even though it's actually a C note on that guitar. It makes everything a lot easier than trying to "convert" everything in my head while I'm playing.
Although nine times out of ten I tend to not even go that far, once I've written something once or once I've learnt something once I tend to think from then on only in terms of fret numbers rather than notes, or I don't think about it at all. I mean I've played certain pieces so many times that I do so completely absent-mindedly and if someone asked me how they're actually played I would have to really stop and think hard because it's just become instinct for me.

Edit: Also I might be buying a Gibson Robot unit soon so... well, that solves everything.
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Last edited by MrFlibble at Sep 13, 2010,
I do basically what flibble does. I don't use a lot of keys, so...
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You CAN play anything with anything....but some guitars sound right for some things, and not for others. Single coils sound retarded for metal, though those who are apeshit about harpsichord probably beg to differ.
idk if i understand the queston. if you're asking what do we do when we play songs that are in different tunings than what our guitars are tuned to then the answer for me is nothing. if a song's in drop d but i'm tuned drop c i'll just play it on the original fret numbers, or use a capo. if you're talking about using different tunings for songwriting purposes than my answer is it isn't a bad idea. its a good way to get a different sound than what you usually would play without having to change how you're playing too much. for acoustic i'll find a chord i like and tune the guitar to the chord and see what i can come up with. i don't think i even have an acoustic song in standard or drop d tuning written.
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I don't view my guitar as being in any key. It has notes, and sometimes they shift positions on the neck when I change the tuning. If I play C major in Eb tuning, I'll play the notes of C major, not B major. If I go to D standard, I'll still play C major, not Bb.

Bugger transposition. If I write something in Eb minor, it's meant to be in Eb major regardless of what tuning my guitar is in.
If i tune my guitar in another way im supposed to know where to play stuff like if it were standard tuned... IT´S EASY, just practice for a bit and you will get the hang of it hehehe.

You don´t need to be thinking ¨oh i was playing C but i was actually playing B¨ because you are supposed to know you are one pitch below.
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I have 3 guitars all differently tuned to the top 3 tunings I use. 2 with a floyd rose though, so if I want to switch to another different tuning I always have to tune the same guitar, the hardtail.
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I either,

change my current tuning
grab a different guitar
or use a program to pitchshift (at most i do 2 semitones otherwise the voice either gets really low of too high,)

Also my main keys are B (b standard) or G (drop C w/ low G)

i rarely go outside these.
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Last edited by Deadlock Riff at Sep 13, 2010,
each of my guitars are tuned differently.
ltd: standard
v: c
prs: whole step down
explorer: half step
telecoustic: c
strat: dadadd

so its whatever for me. i tend to write on my telecoustic and try each guitar till i find what i like.
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If I just want to learn the song and it's in a different standard tuning than E, I change the tuning in Guitar Pro and learn it there.
When I write a song in Eb tuning that needs keys, I'll use the transpose function on the keyboard. Bam.
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Knowing the notes position in standard doesn't really makes it that much harder for different tunings, in my opinion.

So I just think a bit more about what I'm doing, than if I play in standard.

- Or just re-learn my notes. Takes a few days to get the hang of it, but it's worth it.
I am always in standard or drop d

if I need to play something else I transpose it
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