#1
I am trying to learn a song by Chris Tomlin called "Indescribable," but it's about a half step out of my current vocal range. I'm still working on reaching my full range. Is it practical for a guitarist to tune about a half step below the usual tuning? Thanks a bunch.
#4
Whether it's "practical" or not depends entirely on your situation. But yeah, it's very common, especially for exactly that situation you're in. Nothing wrong with it except that it'll make standard tuned songs difficult to play at correct pitch, if you care about that.
#5
The only thing "impractical" about tuning down specifically 1/2 step, is of a logistic nature.. If you use a capo to bring the guitar up to standard pitch for another song, it throws the position markers off in a big way. They're a bit closer to standard position were you you tune down 2 semitones, and place your capo on the 2nd fret for E-e standard.

Also, the top nut of the guitar enters into the capoing situation. Were you to tune down to D-d, then capo up for Eb, the height of the top nut throws the tuning off considerably. Depending on the setup of your guitar, it might be necessary to retune after the capo is affixed. But, going from the capo on the 1st fret, (for Eb), to the 2nd fret, (For E standard), should require far less fiddling with the tuning.

Then there are 2 "plan B's".

The 1st is obviously grab a 2nd guitar.

The 2nd is to capo on the 3rd fret, (while in standard tuning), and play in the key of C (*). This only works if the chord voices (or "shapes), are not critical to the character of the song.

(*) I'm am making the leap of assumption that Eb, (or Eb minor), is the tonic or "I" chord. If that's not the case, by all means link a tab or a video of the song , for other possible alternatives.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 4, 2014,
#6
Unless you play along with others who are in standard tuning or with studio recordings in standard then 'practical' doesn't matter so much. All my instruments (save the piano!!) are tuned down half step as of six months ago. Personally I've felt a real difference and I feel like my playing, tone and groove have improved. I am now a big fan So I would say it's more practical to tune down a semitone!

Just try it and see how you like it/how it works for your vocal range.
Last edited by mind_meld at Dec 5, 2014,
#7
while he does it for other reasons, my husband usually tunes down a full step, and he plays with people tuned to standard. i've met a number of guitarists who tune down a half step, but honestly i've never asked them why.
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I just looked in my Oxford English Dictionary and under "Acoustic Guitar", there was your Avatar and an email address!
#8
Quote by patticake
while he does it for other reasons, my husband usually tunes down a full step, and he plays with people tuned to standard. i've met a number of guitarists who tune down a half step, but honestly i've never asked them why.
It's actually easier to play with other musicians tuned down a whole step, rather than a half step.

The key of G becomes the key of F, C becomes Bb and so forth.

When you tune down a half step, you can no longer substitute open chord shapes to change key. Tuning down effectively turns the top nut into a capo, which is moving toward the tuning pegs.

Think about the "CAGED" system, which people often run on about Those are the only major chords which can be played open. So you capo up, or tune down, to use those chord shapes under different pitch names.

Yesterday is played in G, and the guitar is tuned to D-d.

(Sir Paul most likely can't hit the G-4 , ((G-4) DAY,(D-4) AY, (B-3) AY, (G-3) AY), without screeching a bit from a cold start). So he sings (descending), F, C, A, F.

Al Stewart's "Roads to Moscow", is tuned to Eb-eb, again to accommodate his vocal range, as it places the highest note in the melody @ Eb, instead of E natural. (As is the case with our TS). Besides, Eb minor is a dark, dark place, for this dark, dark, song.

I hope I was able to make sense of this for you, and the TS. And if you already had considered all of that, forgive me for stating the obvious.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 5, 2014,
#9
Quote by patticake
while he does it for other reasons, my husband usually tunes down a full step, and he plays with people tuned to standard. i've met a number of guitarists who tune down a half step, but honestly i've never asked them why.


A co worker of mine was in a cover band for like 30 years, mostly stuff that was considered classic rock toward the end of their career, but not in the early days. He says the whole band started tuning down half a step for all the songs once they got older, because their vocal ranges dropped. He also tunes down for all of his original songs, for the same reason.
#10
Quote by the_bi99man
A co worker of mine was in a cover band for like 30 years, mostly stuff that was considered classic rock toward the end of their career, but not in the early days. He says the whole band started tuning down half a step for all the songs once they got older, because their vocal ranges dropped. He also tunes down for all of his original songs, for the same reason.
The Who performed "Quadophenia", a year or so back at Wembley Arena.

Daltrey has had throat surgery, and Townshend is pushing 70. I bought the Concert Blu-Ray, but haven't had the opportunity to check the keys against the original studio album. A couple of reviews claimed it had all been re-keyed, and I'm not entirely sure if that was keyed higher and then being sung an octave down. Their voices do seem quite a bit deeper than in the "Tommy" when it was new days.

Which would be the standard approach for doing a song sung by a female vocalists also. (Teenage boys oftentimes have tenor/alto ranges). But, sometimes a full octave is too low. So, you sing sort of an octave down, but raise the key a bit, and wind up with a key down a 6th or 7th.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 5, 2014,
#11
Quote by patticake
while he does it for other reasons, my husband usually tunes down a full step, and he plays with people tuned to standard. . . . . .


Yes. I keep a couple of guitars (one steel string, one nylon string) tuned down a full tone to standard D and I too often play with people tuned to standard E. It's a technique which adds some nice "colour" to a song with different chords and notes being played. Eg. if the guy in standard E is playing in the key of C, I will play the corresponding chords in the key of D; if he's in G, I will play in A, etc - works well.
#12
I know some folk tune 12 strings down a semitone or tone to deal with the extra tension - John Denver springs to mind. I suppose that is a practical use, most folk who do it with 6 string guitars probably do it to suit a particular style of music or to help with their singing.
#13
Quote by derek8520
I know some folk tune 12 strings down a semitone or tone to deal with the extra tension - John Denver springs to mind. I suppose that is a practical use, most folk who do it with 6 string guitars probably do it to suit a particular style of music or to help with their singing.
Leo Kotke allegedly tunes his 12 strings down to C#. (3 semis). The necessity for that might depend on the string gauge though. A 12 string medium set has 300 Lbs of tension! The standard "12 string light" sets, (.010 to .047) ONLY have 250.

I keep all my twelves at D-d, then capo @ the 2nd fret and then tune with the capo in place. It's a big PITA trying to do it that way, but the tuning shifts are too unpredictable to tune without it, then slap it on afterwards.
Last edited by Captaincranky at Dec 5, 2014,
#14
It's very common for classic rock songs to be recorded tuned down one semitone. So that is a practical reason to tune down - so you can practice along with the recordings.

If you are just playing for yourself or performing solo, you can tune your guitar any way you want. You might have to use different chord shapes or capos, etc., but the only person it impacts is you. It might make some songs easier to sing or play -- that's a common reason to do it.

It helps if you have multiple guitars so you can keep one around for standard tuning songs.

If you are playing in a band, it gets complicated. You have the other people to deal with. Drummers don't care, but you might drive keyboard players and horns crazy.
Guitars: Carvin TL-60T, Carvin C750 Acoustic, Squier Strat w/Carvin C22B & AP11's, Alvarez-Yairi DY76 12-string, Eastman MD-605 Mandolin, Fender Mandocaster, Ibanez UKS-10 Ukulele