Alternate Tunings for Guitar

A Killingworth, CT, resident and licensed CT arborist, John Sulzbach owns and operates Proper Tree. In his free time at home in Killingworth, John Sulzbach enjoys practicing guitar, an instrument he played in bands throughout his high school and college years.

When tuned in standard style, a six-string guitar has E as both its lowest note and highest note. The guitar’s second-lowest string sounds an A, while the next three sound D, G, and B in order of increasing pitch. However, a guitarist has the option of tuning his or her guitar into one of dozens of alternate tunings. These fall into four categories, one common type being open tunings.

On an open-tuned guitar, all of the strings together sound a simple chord. Open C tuning, for example, has strings tuned to C, G, C, G, C, and E. One can also tune a guitar in an instrumental style, which musicians have developed based on the tunings of the banjo, the cittern, and other related musical instruments. Regular alternate tunings feature equally spaced pitches between strings, allowing players to use the same fingering for multiple chords. In addition, musicians have created a series of miscellaneous tunings known as “special” tunings, which primarily come from the imaginations of contemporary songwriters and players.