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Guitar Tunings
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 beat.

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 Sandy Bull):

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 unusual version of open G tuning has become very popular with Dances of Universal Peace 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 quite versatile and can be easily adapted to playing in any mode, especially those commonly used in Middle-Eastern and Indian music where the drone effect of this dyad tuning is quite enjoyable. Also, this tuning is especially powerful when employed on a 12 string guitar.

To shift from standard tuning to this dyad-based open G tuning, follow these string-by-string adjustment steps (the whole process needs generally less retweaking if you begin with the low E string adjustment first):

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 unchanged
e) lower the B four half-steps to G
f) lower 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 unconventional dyad-based 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 dyad drone strings.

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 string set:

     0.013 (high), 0.020, 0.024, 0.032, 0.046, 0.046 (low)

     0.012/0.012, 0.018/0.018, 0.023/0.011, 0.030/0.014, 0.042/0.020, 0.042/0.020


Open C Tuning (introduced to DUP by Anahata Iradah):

In her booklet entitled "Guitars of Universal Peace", Anahata Iradah describes an open C tuning which utilizes a dyad 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)

     0.008/0.023, 0.013/0.013, 0.030/0.013, 0.023/0.010, 0.030/0.013, 0.053/0.030


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 dyad 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 below), or an octave apart much like Anahata's open C (see setup #2 below):

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)

     0.010/0.010, 0.017/0.017, 0.036/0.017, 0.046/0.023, 0.036/0.017, 0.058/0.036

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, but was chosen to avoid having to make extensive modifications to the nut. It could be increased to as large as 0.066 if you want more bass punch, and are willing to more heavily modify the width of the slot in the nut.

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.


Pitch Notation:

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 reference point, 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 Calculator.



Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,