Tuning - How low can I go?

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cnev
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Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by cnev » April 1st, 2013, 10:58 am

Ok can anyone give a general rule of thumb as to how low I can tune without making vast adjustments to my strings/guitar.

Right now most of the stuff we play is in standard tuning but we have several that are a half step and a few Drop D songs. None of those are an issue.

But we have a new singer who likes lowered tunings cuz it's easier for him to sing. I don't have a probelm with it but i am afraid I won't be able to tune that low with what I have.

He wants to play Figured you out bu Nickleback which is Drop C and then all the rest are tuned down a whole step.

But now he wants to play Bad Company by Five Finger Death Punch which is Drop B. I don't think my guitar can go that low without the strings hanging off like limp noodles. I think they play these with a 7 string or baritone guitar (maybe thats what 7 strings are)

So is possible without changing strings etc to tune to Drop B?
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by NoteBoat » April 1st, 2013, 5:56 pm

My general rule of thumb is if you're going more than a minor third up or a whole step down, change strings.

The tension a string is under depends on its gauge, your scale length, and the pitch it's tuned to. The relationship between pitch and tension is pretty straightforward: tension changes at the square of the frequency change. If you could tune up an octave, you'd double the frequency, so the tension would be 2 squared times your originaal tension, or an increase of 300%.

Let's say with the gauges you're using your low E string is under 15 pounds of tension. Here's what it is for each successive step down:

Eb = 13.36 pounds
D = 11.91 pounds
C# = 10.61 pounds
C = 9.45 pounds
B = 8.42 pounds

So if you were in standard with the same tension on each string, going to drop B means dropping the 6th string tension by not quite seven pounds. The relationships stay the same regardless of starting pitch or gauge, so your other strings drop by not quite 4-1/.2 pounds each. You guitar goes from having 90 pounds of total tension to having a bit over 61.

That's a big change. And unless you're using really beefy strings to start with, that low E will be pretty darn floppy. Coupled with the lower tension on the neck, I can't imagine a decent guitar not buzzing.
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cnev
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by cnev » April 2nd, 2013, 4:29 am

Thanks Note that's what I was afraid of. I'm not liking the sound of the Drop C and down a whole step either. Not sure I can pull it off without changing strings
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by Crow » April 2nd, 2013, 11:08 am

NoteBoat wrote:My general rule of thumb is if you're going more than a minor third up or a whole step down, change strings.
I use .012s on all my guitars but one, and they all tune down to C standard or open C (Sebastopol) just fine -- except the one that's wearing .009s. Down to B, and things get floppy.
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by Moonrider » April 3rd, 2013, 9:52 am

cnev wrote: But we have a new singer who likes lowered tunings cuz it's easier for him to sing. I don't have a probelm with it but i am afraid I won't be able to tune that low with what I have.

He wants to play Figured you out bu Nickleback which is Drop C and then all the rest are tuned down a whole step.

But now he wants to play Bad Company by Five Finger Death Punch which is Drop B. I don't think my guitar can go that low without the strings hanging off like limp noodles. I think they play these with a 7 string or baritone guitar (maybe thats what 7 strings are)
Heavier strings for lower tunings. Sounds like you need to buy a baritone, a 7 string, or string a guitar with piano wire for the drop tune stuff.

Which brings me to a minor general rant ( not directed at you cnev ) . . .

Dropped and altered tunings are for getting chord voicings that you can't get with standard tuning.
They are NOT to make the singer's life easier.
If the singer can't sing the song in the key it is written, then CHANGE THE FRACKIN' KEY to one he CAN sing in!
If you can't figure out how to do that without re-tuning the guitar for a three chord song, you don't need to be in a band, you need to be in the WOODSHED, learning how to play your instrument!
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by Crow » April 3rd, 2013, 10:12 am

Nice rant. :twisted:

I adjust tunings 1) for my own vocal range, and 2) to allow open strings to play their most effective role. Mostly I adjust tunings on acoustic guitar. My spouse and I, as a vocal/guitar duet, wind up in C and F and related keys all the time, so C standard is a logical place to wind up, for me at least. Open-string drones are a big part of my guitar language, and with C standard I have a good selection of them. For solo acoustic/vocal stuff, open C plus slide is the most fun I can have with all my clothes on. There's no loss of pride, for me, in using tunings or capo to get what I need to get. Whatever works.
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by cnev » April 3rd, 2013, 10:53 am

moon transposing songs isn't the problem (although personally I think some songs just don't cut it in other keys) in this particular song this is the way the original is played and it suits his voice fine just not my guitar and yes these guys use 7 string guitars which I don't have, but in this song they are playing harmonincs on the low C so that would change everything if you changed keys.


We are just a cover band there are a billion songs we can cover besides this one the easiest one is to just pick another song.
Last edited by cnev on April 4th, 2013, 9:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by jason brann » April 4th, 2013, 8:28 am

you don't have to detune. if the original's in e and he wants to sing in c, you can just play it regular in the key of c and that should be fine. he can always sing an octave down.
detuning's for playing in e flat and for people who only know barre chords.

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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by cnev » April 4th, 2013, 10:06 am

Jason I'm not sure what you are talking about. This isn't about changing the key for the singer the question was about can I play Drop C and everything else down a whole step with my regular guitar setup.

We are not tuning down for the singer he likes to sing it like thatand are trying to play it like the original.

What we do in our band and everyone does it their own way is if the song we are covering is down a half step then we go down a half step. If it's Drop D we play it in Drop D, if the singer can't sing a song in the original key we drop the singer...OK we drop the song. There a bizzillion songs to cover there is no reason to change the key to one more suitable for the singer we just pick a different song.
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by GrungeSunset » April 4th, 2013, 11:57 am

What about singing it in a different octave? A lot of the songs I do are usually too low for me to sing so I just sing them an octave or two higher and leave the tuning and keys as they are.

Alternatively, have you considered letting me sing for your band? Lol
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by Moonrider » April 4th, 2013, 5:21 pm

cnev wrote: But we have a new singer who likes lowered tunings cuz it's easier for him to sing.
Again - this is what set me off . . .

There's a dozen good reasons to use a dropped/open/ altered tuning, but the above isn't it. That was the focus of my rant - more aimed at your singer cnev.

See Crow's post for a bunch of good ones - almost all related to his styles of playing. Just like Keef tuning (a.k.a. "Taro Patch tuning") is the only way to cop the voicings Keith Richards uses.
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by cnev » April 5th, 2013, 6:42 am

I understand your rant and I might have not explained it correctly. He didn't ask us to tune or change keys for this song to make it easier for him the song is played in Drop B.

Grunge sure you can sing for us we have been talking about a female singer but most of the stuff we are doing now is a bit heavier.

Do you like Guns & Roses? Velvet Revolver?
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by jwmartin » April 5th, 2013, 4:09 pm

Moonrider wrote:
cnev wrote: But we have a new singer who likes lowered tunings cuz it's easier for him to sing.
Again - this is what set me off . . .

There's a dozen good reasons to use a dropped/open/ altered tuning, but the above isn't it. That was the focus of my rant - more aimed at your singer cnev.

See Crow's post for a bunch of good ones - almost all related to his styles of playing. Just like Keef tuning (a.k.a. "Taro Patch tuning") is the only way to cop the voicings Keith Richards uses.
But that's just, like your opinion, man. :D Jimi Hendrix tuned a half step down so it would be easier to sing. I have hundreds of songs in my library that are a whole or half step down. Most of the Drive By Trucker's stuff is a whole step down. He's talking about songs that are written in a lowered tuning, not playing songs written in standard in dropped tuning to make it easier.

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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by GrungeSunset » April 6th, 2013, 7:47 am

Cnev - sorry the iPad doesn't let me quote.

I like GnR but haven't tried any of their songs. I've done some Velvet Revolver and Stone Temple Pilots. I've also done Green Day, Evanescence, Godsmack (usually sung in a higher octave), Creed, Alter Bridge and Seether (also higher octave).
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Re: Tuning - How low can I go?

Post by Crow » April 6th, 2013, 9:54 am

jwmartin wrote:He's talking about songs that are written in a lowered tuning, not playing songs written in standard in dropped tuning to make it easier.
Which begs the question: Do we writes songs in tunings, or do we just write songs? Why is a song "written" in a particular tuning? Because it makes something easier, no? If you can play "Guinnevere" in standard tuning, you're a hero, but David Crosby's original tuning makes it simpler. I think of tunings in most cases as part of the arrangement, not part of the composition.

Learning John Denver songs for a church fundraiser, I noticed that JD often tuned down a whole step, then capoed up to E standard (or whatever). This shortens the scale length, maybe lowers string tension, & generally would seem to make the guitar easier to play for people with small/weak hands. Also reduces stress on delicate vintage instruments. Still more reasons to tune down. 8)
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