SONGWRITING: Altered tunings

Some people out there get tired of playing the same old chord shapes, when they write songs with guitars. Even with a capo, things can get old if you have an arguably cursory knowledge of chords and chord shapes (C, G, D, Am, Bm, Em, F, etc).

So why not try out altered tunings?

Some common altered tunings include:

DADGAD (pronounced “Dad Gad”)

Low E tuned down to D, B string tuned down to A, and high E tuned down to D. Used on Third Eye Blind’s “The Background” (I think… but also, the song could be played in the following tuning..)

open D (DADF#AD)

Closely-related to DADGAD. Totally useful tuning. I believe Johnny Marr of The Smiths has used this tuning (with a capo) on many Smiths songs.

double drop D (DADGBD)

Kind of like a Dsus4add13… I can’t think of many songs that use this tuning, but it’s completely cool.

drop high D (EADGBD)

The only song from my current memory that uses this tuning is Coldplay’s “Sparks”, with a capo at the 6th fret (I love that damn song)

And…. the inspiration for this post….

open G (DBDGBD)

Alan Sparhawk of Low mentions in this live KEXP performance that he has played his guitar in open G tuning since he was 19 (in the last 4 minutes or so of the video). I knew Low used altered tunings (possibly open D or DADGAD, to my ears), but I didn’t really know exactly which tuning until I saw this video just now. Awesome, gorgeous tones from his guitar and chord shapes… that’s one huge advantage of altered tunings… the harmonic richness that you can’t simply achieve from playing in standard tuning.



About chriscaulder

Posted on May 8, 2013, in altered tunings, chord progressions, Low (the band). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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