#1
Is there a reason why so many famous fast guitarists play a half step down? Why a half? Why not whole? And does Buckethead usually play half step down?
#3
Sometimes its a vocal thing (slightly lower for the overall range), sometimes a color thing (the flat keys create slightly different reactions in us/humans) and sometimes it could work well with horn players because they use the flat keys often, although with many band/players this is less common.

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#4
Quote by vince1991
personal preference?


Yep.

Although one could argue that Black Sabbath started it all. Toni Iommi suffered an injury to his hand which required him to detune the strings by a half step so that he could fret them easier. Black Sabbath is now regarded as one of the first (if not the first) metal bands. Other bands started copying the tuning, and it's still prevalent today.
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#5
Quote by AlanHB
Yep.

Although one could argue that Black Sabbath started it all. Toni Iommi suffered an injury to his hand which required him to detune the strings by a half step so that he could fret them easier. Black Sabbath is now regarded as one of the first (if not the first) metal bands. Other bands started copying the tuning, and it's still prevalent today.

well hendrix was doing it before that. his first album had a bunch of songs in standard, or somewhere between. but some were in Eb and then after that, they all were and some like voodoo chile were in D standard. maybe they made it popular though.

anyways, its probably because its a lower tuning but doesnt sound too much different than standard. D standard starts to sound pretty low. Eb still sounds not that low but its easier to sing. for example, if my top of my range is around a G, then singing a Gb is just a bit easier night after night. plus obviously its easier to play because the strings arent as tight.
#6
Quote by Nottachance
Is there a reason why so many famous fast guitarists play a half step down? Why a half? Why not whole? And does Buckethead usually play half step down?


The Vocal range of singers in many guitarists bands, is easier to hit high notes in Eb than it is in E Standard on a lot of songs. That half step at the high end of the vocal range would be murder on them otherwise.

Notable examples of this: Van Halen, Guns N Roses.

To answer your question about Buckethead - he experiments with a lot of tunings...I think for him its a textural thing in how other notes he uses resonate with his open strings, as to what drives his tuning choices.

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Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Sep 9, 2011,
#7
Check these out.

- Tone.
- Playability [looser strings]
- Vocal range. Makes it easier for the singer, who may not have a big vocal range.
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#9
Even with the singer situation, wouldn't "tone" still be the correct answer as you can still change the key of a song without changing the tuning?
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#10
Quote by AlanHB
Even with the singer situation, wouldn't "tone" still be the correct answer as you can still change the key of a song without changing the tuning?


Eh.

Depends what you mean by tone.

To accommodate the singer, you're talking about a change in pitch. Some people use the words pitch and tone interchangeably, but most guitarists (especially on this forum) talk about "tone" meaning timbre - the qualities of a sound other than pitch or duration.

I would suggest that the change in timbre from tuning a half-step down is miniscule - inaudible to most listeners, even when those listeners are educated musicians. The difference in pitch, however, doesn't provide any advantages except in reference to helping a singer sing in his sweet spot. So I find it hard to believe that many guitarists would choose to tune down for reasons of sound not related to synching up with a singer.
#11
Quote by HotspurJr
To accommodate the singer, you're talking about a change in pitch.


I'm not sure exactly what your post was trying to say in regards to this, but you can play in the key of Eb in standard tuning. I believe "Dream On" by Aerosmith is in Eb. If a guitarist has to tune down to play effectively in Eb, it sounds like his problem, not the singer's.
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Last edited by soviet_ska at Sep 9, 2011,
#12
Quote by HotspurJr
Eh.

Depends what you mean by tone.


I'm talking about the sound the guitar makes.


Quote by HotspurJr
To accommodate the singer, you're talking about a change in pitch. Some people use the words pitch and tone interchangeably, but most guitarists (especially on this forum) talk about "tone" meaning timbre - the qualities of a sound other than pitch or duration.

I would suggest that the change in timbre from tuning a half-step down is miniscule - inaudible to most listeners, even when those listeners are educated musicians. The difference in pitch, however, doesn't provide any advantages except in reference to helping a singer sing in his sweet spot. So I find it hard to believe that many guitarists would choose to tune down for reasons of sound not related to synching up with a singer.


As stated above, you can still play in any key regardless of tuning. The only difference is the sound the guitar makes. If people are ONLY tuning down to accommodate for the singer, then the logic follows that all bands with drop tuned guitars (think metal) have deep bass singers. They don't. It's just the guitar sound which has changed.

Quote by SovietSka
If a guitarist has to tune down to play effectively in Eb, it sounds like his problem, not the singer's.


Looks like we're thinking along the same lines.
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#14
Quote by soviet_ska
I'm not sure exactly what your post was trying to say in regards to this, but you can play in the key of Eb in standard tuning. I believe "Dream On" by Aerosmith is in Eb. If a guitarist has to tune down to play effectively in Eb, it sounds like his problem, not the singer's.


A couple of years ago Metallica started playing live in Eb because Hetfield's voice has changed. I think that's what he was referring to.
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#15
Of course you can play in any key in standard tuning, but you can utilise open strings more when playing in Eb 1/2 step down than you could in standard. Hence it's easier and/or there are more possibilities of what you can play. Also you would be able to play an Eb note in 5 different octaves rather than 4. I thought that was the point for artists such as GNR and Hendrix who tuned down to help the singer.

For most metal bands who downtune though, it is indeed a question of tone.
#16
Quote by AlanHB
Even with the singer situation, wouldn't "tone" still be the correct answer as you can still change the key of a song without changing the tuning?

well no because maybe you want to use certain voicings that can only be done in a certain key. but if you want it a half step down, then you need to change the tuning. same with if you learn a song a certain way but wanted a key change. you could use a capo, to raise it but keep the same voicings or tune lower to keep the same voicings.
#17
Tuning a half step down (aka slack tuning) as others have explained, may be done for lower key vocal range, but for some guitarists it is mainly done to facilitate the bending of notes, especially when using heavy gauge strings, SRV being a prime example.
#18
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
well no because maybe you want to use certain voicings that can only be done in a certain key. but if you want it a half step down, then you need to change the tuning. same with if you learn a song a certain way but wanted a key change. you could use a capo, to raise it but keep the same voicings or tune lower to keep the same voicings.


That's still the guitarists problem, not the singers.
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#19
Quote by AlanHB
That's still the guitarists problem, not the singers.


Who said it was anyone's problem?

"I want to use these voicings, but the only way to do so and fit the singer's range is to tune down" is the guitarist's "problem?"

In any event, I don't see how you can dispute that Eb is the most limited key on a guitar, unless you tune down. Yes, you can play in it anyway. However, you are far more limited in timbre and chord voicing choices than you are with any other key. Tuning down a half step gives you a much greater amount of flexibility in how you can approach chord progressions.
#20
I started doing it several years ago after reading that Nuno Bettencourt said he does it because it sounds heavier. To my ears, there's a vibe you get by tuning down 1/2 a step, that you don't get when tuned to standard.
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#21
Quote by AlanHB
That's still the guitarists problem, not the singers.

well no, it could still be the singers "problem" because perhaps they want a certain voicing too because it sounds better. also, i was assuming we are talking about people who play and sing.

are you actually saying its not easier to play in flat keys by tuning down? because im pretty sure it is. the obvious thing being that you can play all the open chords a half step down. same reason people use capos, its just easier to do. again, if you are covering a song for example and know how to play it a certain way but it doesnt suit your range or the singers range, then a capo or down tuning are good options. "yesterday" by the beatles is played in G but the guitar is a full step down so that paul could play the G major voicings and open strings but in F.

if you actually think you can do anything in any key, then you are just plain wrong. if you wanted to use open strings for a pedal lick, or a drone note, or open voiced chords, sometimes you NEED to tune down in order to do it in a certain key. tuning to Eb is the same thing as tuning to any other alternate tuning. you do it to do something you can do in standard. even if its as simple as playing standard open chords but a half step down.
#22
If you change the tuning on the guitar but keep the song in the same key, the vocals have not changed at all. Only the guitar has changed. For this reason the only purpose the tuning changed was so the guitarist made the guitar the way he wanted it to sound. The singer did not change anything.
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#23
Quote by AlanHB
If you change the tuning on the guitar but keep the song in the same key, the vocals have not changed at all. Only the guitar has changed. For this reason the only purpose the tuning changed was so the guitarist made the guitar the way he wanted it to sound. The singer did not change anything.


Well, if you're playing in a way that you need the open strings, for instance, then what you would do is have the singer sing a half step higher, which affects where he is in his range.

The whole point is that you don't "keep the song in the same key." The whole idea is that this allows you to play in a key one-half-step flatter than you normally would while giving you the advantages of having open strings in your key.
#24
Open strings...not the singers problem.

I think I've already stated my viewpoint on this, and we'll just keep running around in circles if it continues so I'm going to pull out now.
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#25
I don't get what's so hard to understand. I can't sing quite that high. Drop guitars a half step. My throat feels better. Need pictures too?
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#26
In any event, I don't see how you can dispute that Eb is the most limited key on a guitar, unless you tune down. Yes, you can play in it anyway. However, you are far more limited in timbre and chord voicing choices than you are with any other key.


Wat.

Funny, because I was just thinking I wanted a voicing b9 as my open 1st string... oh wait, I can only do that in the key of E flat!

Just because we habitually play open chords and don't often play in Eb (...as rock guitarists anyway) doesn't mean it's a limiting key for guitar. It's just that the notes of the open strings have different functions...

I don't get what's so hard to understand. I can't sing quite that high. Drop guitars a half step. My throat feels better. Need pictures too?


Why not just play one or two keys down?
#27
Quote by Freepower
Why not just play one or two keys down?


Basically the crux of the argument.

For the Metallica example, that makes sense, since the songs are already written and rearranging them to fit the new flattened keys would confuse and disappoint some fans. If you're haven't written anything and the singer needs a lower key, you can write in any key on guitar, no problem.

And I don't see why a 4th or 5th octave for the tonic is absolutely necessary. Hell, you can write a perfectly good song within the span of a major 6th.
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#28
Quote by soviet_ska
Basically the crux of the argument.

For the Metallica example, that makes sense, since the songs are already written and rearranging them to fit the new flattened keys would confuse and disappoint some fans. If you're haven't written anything and the singer needs a lower key, you can write in any key on guitar, no problem.

And I don't see why a 4th or 5th octave for the tonic is absolutely necessary. Hell, you can write a perfectly good song within the span of a major 6th.


I'd say that most songs written in Eb are either for ease of playing or because the song is already written in open E, and the vocalist can't quite get that high anymore.
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