The Dances of Universal Peace
Some Guitar Tunings commonly used by DUP musicians:
Standard Guitar Tuning:
Standard guitar tuning was created to provide a very
versatile system of chords with rich textures and numerous
ways to finger the chords, allowing for easy transitioning
from chord to chord.
Standard tuning provides a good compromise between simple
fingering for many chords and the ability to play common
scales with minimal left hand movement. However, some modes,
such as those commonly used in Middle-Eastern and Indian
music can be rather difficult in standard tuning.
A major advantage of standard tuning is the wealth of chord
charts which are readily available to help you find the
sound you're looking for. And, many songbooks include chord
fingerings. All in all, good old standard tuning is hard to
6-string: E4 (high), B3, G3, D3, A2, E2 (low)
12-string: E4/E4, B3/B3, G3/G4, D3/D4, A2/A3, E2/E3
Open G Tuning (introduced to DUP by Daniel Lomax, who learned it from
Open tunings offer a much different sound than standard
tuning and can be very easy to adapt to unusual modes.
However, open tunings do not have the wealth of readily
available books full of chords such as are found for
standard tuning. For the adventuresome, open tunings can
offer great rewards.
This version of open G tuning has become very popular with DUP
musicians, and can be used with a standard set of strings,
thus making it possible to change back and forth between
standard tuning and open G tuning on the same guitar. (Which
can be very handy when traveling with only one guitar.)
This style of tuning is very versatile and can be easily
adapted to playing in any mode, including those commonly
used in Middle-Eastern and Indian music.
To shift from standard tuning to open G, follow these
string-by-string adjustment steps (the whole process needs
generally less retweaking if you begin with the low E string
a) raise the low E up three half-steps to G
b) lower the
A two half-steps to G
c) D is unchanged
d) G is
e) lower the B four half-steps to G
the high E two half-steps to D
If all has gone well, you'll end up with the strings tuned
to the following pitches :
6-string: D4 (high), G3, G3, D3, G2, G2 (low)
12-string: D4/D4, G3/G3, G3/G4, D3/D4, G2/G3, G2/G3
In this tuning, it's common to pick out melodies, and play
two-finger chords, primarily on the third, fourth and fifth strings (G3, D3
and G2) while strumming some or all of the open strings as
drones. There are other versions of open G tuning described
in folk music books,
but this version has a quite unique sound due to the drone
Although a set of standard string can be used, it's also
possible to further enhance the sound by using a custom set
of strings to avoid the somewhat uneven sound quality which
results from tightening some strings and loosening others.
Here are some custom string sets that I've enjoyed (although
you may find it useful to experiment and find what best
suits you and your guitar). These sets are designed to
provide consistent sound from string to string, and to
provide approximately the same total tension as a standard
0.013 (high), 0.020, 0.024,
0.032, 0.046, 0.046 (low)
0.018/0.018, 0.023/0.011, 0.030/0.014, 0.042/0.020,
Open C Tuning (introduced to DUP by Anahata Iradah):
In her booklet entitled "Guitars
of Universal Peace",
describes an open C tuning which utilizes a drone scheme
very similar to the open G tuning described above.
6-string: G4 (high), C4, C3, G3, C3, C2 (low)
12-string: G4/G4, C4/C4, C3/C4, G3/G4, C3/C4, C2/C3
While many musicians find this tuning quite delightful,
others say that C is a bit too high (which leads to the
B-flat tuning described later).
While the sound on a 6-string guitar is pleasant, this
tuning really comes alive on a 12-string guitar. However,
this open C tuning requires the use of a custom set of
strings, and may require slightly wider slots cut in the
nut. The string sizes suggested in Anahata's booklet are:
0.009 (high), 0.013, 0.030,
0.023, 0.030, 0.053 (low)
0.013/0.013, 0.030/0.013, 0.023/0.010, 0.030/0.013,
Open B-flat Tuning (introduced to DUP by Narayan Waldman):
For those who tend to favor a slightly lower pitch than can
be achieved with the open C tuning, open B-flat may be the
answer. Much like the open G and open C tunings described
above, this tuning also makes use of drone strings. For six
string guitars, you can tune the adjacent pairs of Bb
strings in unison much like Lomax's open G (see setup #1
or an octave apart much like Anahata's open C (see setup
6-string setup#1: F4 (high), Bb3, Bb3, F3, Bb2, Bb2 (low)
6-string setup#2: F4 (high), Bb3, Bb2, F3, Bb2, Bb1 (low)
12-string: F4/F4, Bb3/Bb3, Bb2/Bb3, F2/F3, Bb2/Bb3, Bb1/Bb2
The amazingly low bass sound of the Bb1 note gives this
tuning a quite unique character, and works particularly well
on jumbo body guitars such as the Guild 12-strings.
This tuning requires a custom set of strings, and will
probably require wider slots cut in the nut for some of the
strings (especially if you use Bb1). Here are sets
that I've used with good success:
6-string (setup #1):
0.011 (high), 0.017, 0.017,
0.024, 0.034, 0.034 (low)
6-string (setup #2):
0.011 (high), 0.017, 0.034,
0.024, 0.034, 0.058 (low)
0.017/0.017, 0.036/0.017, 0.046/0.023, 0.036/0.017,
For the 12-string, it might also be interesting to try changing the pair of
high F4 strings from unison to F3/F4 by using 0.010/0.023.
Also, the 0.058 string is a bit loose, and could be
increased to as large as 0.066 if you want more bass punch.
For best intonation in all of these custom string sets,
strings 0.020 or smaller are plain steel strings, and all
strings larger than 0.020 are phosphor bronze wound.
Although there are a variety of different systems for denoting
the pitch of a note, this web page uses a style of notation which is
variously called Scientific Pitch Notation, Note-Octave
Notation or American Standard Pitch Notation.
In this system of notation, each octave number begins on the C note,
and middle C on the piano is C4. Note that B3 is
one half-step below C4. And, as a
A4 is defined as 440 Hz.
For example, in this system of notation, the white keys on a
portion of a piano keyboard below middle C would be called:
C2 D2 E2 F2 G2 A2 B2 C3 D3 E3 F3 G3 A3 B3 C4
Windows PC Tuner:
There is a handy piece of Windows software called AP Tuner which
is available via the
internet. The AP Tuner software provides an easy to use
general purpose instrument
tuner and/or pitch indicator for use on Windows PCs.
One of the nice features of the AP Tuner is that it shows
the notes in the same pitch notation as has been used in
this article, so that it's easy to see if you're at F2, F3
or F4 rather than simply F as is shown on most tuners.
With the AP Tuner software, any Windows PC with a microphone can be used to measure the pitch
of any sound, which makes this both a very useful tool for
instrument tuning, and also a fun tool for learning to
accurately control one's vocal pitch.
Custom String Sets:
So, now you've seen how different sizes of strings can be
employed to create various open tunings, and perhaps you
would like to create your own custom string set, balance the
sound of your guitar with new strings sizes or even
create you own unique tuning.
If so, please see the String Size