#1
hi guys. I am very much into playing fingerstyle guitar and i want to take an old acoustic i have and make it more compatible for playing alternate tunings. I know i wont be able to get the guitar to tune down to crazy low tunings like having the low sting on a B or a C but im wondering what my limitations will be with a standard dreadnought acoustic.

Basically my goal is to be able to adjust and play alternate tunings of fingerstyle guitarist that i like (don ross, andy mckee, i could go on forever but these examples are probably the most extreme in terms of alt tunings). I know i wont be able to play many of these tunings in there orginal keys but i might be able to play some in different keys. for instance don ross uses the tuning CGCGBbC in one of his songs. i could probably get away with playing it in DADACD. Something along that line is my goal

So im thinking that i could increase my string gauge and and file the string slots in the nuts to accommodate thicker gauges but im worried that thicker strings will increase the overall neck tension too much and the guitar wont be able to handle it. Im comfortable making most adjustments on my guitar but im just unsure of the best way to go about this. Any ideas would be great.

As a note, i often find that my high strings snap when playing alt tunings cuz the tension on them is much greater once the low strings are tuned down. Im hoping maybe just changing the low strings gauges can compensate some but i dont want to push it too much as to stress the guitar. but i was also thinking that maybe overall thicker gauge strings will allow me to keep the whole guitar tuned lower to be kind of like halfway between a baritone and a normal guitar.

All the research i have done usually has naysayers saying its not worth it but im not looking to have a gig worthy type of setup just one that allows me to practice Alt tuning songs with some success. I will eventually get a baritone once i can afford a new guitar but at the moment im looking to experiment with this old guitar i have, im not to concerned if i end up permanently damaging it.... it pretty much has no monetary value anyways.

im just not sure if i need to change all my strings thickness or just a few of the low ones, and im not sure the best route to take or if there is any other tactics im not considering. I (im not willing to buy a new neck, but i dont mind modifying or replacing the bridge or Nut if i have too)
#2
Yes you can do it. I keep one acoustic permanently in standard D (DGCFAD - two semitones down from concert) and I often drop lower for open and altered tunings, eg tuning down the 1st and 6th strings another two semitones to C gives you CGCFAC which is double drop C. The guitar is fitted with 12 gauge strings and I'm quite happy with the slack feel even at lower tunings.

You could certainly fit heavier gauge strings if you want to but you may find that you have intonation problems on the basses.at low tunings with thicker strings. I once tried to make a baritone guitar from an old standard dreadnought using heavy strings (IIRC I used a set of 12s but threw away the 1st string, fitted the 6th to 2nd strings as 5th to 1st strings then used a 60 gauge string for the 6th). I tuned down to standard B but the intonation of the 5th and 6th strings was awful. You really do need a proper baritone guitar for such low tunings.
Last edited by Garthman at Feb 1, 2017,
#3
Garthman

thanks for your reply man. I think my issue is sometimes i get down to C1 or D1 on the bass strings and in some of these tunings the 1st and 2nd strings are still tuned up to E4 which is where i keep running string breakage. In your tuning examples you still drop the 1st and 2nd string down which i believe compensates in terms of overall string tension. I guess what i want is to be able to slightly increase the range from low strings to high strings without breaking the 1st or second strings. I used a string tension calculator but it wants me to use huge diameter strings up to .074 on the 6th string to keep the same tension which is never gonna happen obviously as you stated even if i did set the guitar up for that thickness the intonation would be terrible most likely.

So maybe i will have to deal with with a tuning that ranges from a 6th string D or C which is fine but how high up will i be able to tune the 1st and 2nd strings. Also im assuming you are using medium gauge strings .013-.056 or something like that?
#5
thanks garrett999 i ended up going with some D'addarios .013-.056 phosphorous bronze. Some medium gauge ones and i am able to tune to something as weird as (B F# C# F# B F#) which is the tuning Don ross uses in Klimbim. I cant quite seem to be brave enough to get that .013 high E string to tune up to F# tho so instead i just tune the whole thing down a half step. (Bb F C F Bb F) and i can put a capo on the first fret if i really want. the low strings are not too loose but the intonation is a little off especially when strumming hard. The 6th string doesnt stay in tune too well but im just trying to learn the song for fun and it seems to be working really well.