Half-step down tuning is a popular alternative tuning that involves lowering the pitch of each string on a guitar by a half step (a semitone). This results in the following tuning:
Eb (E♭) – Ab (A♭) – Db (D♭) – Gb (G♭) – Bb (B♭) – Eb (E♭)
Half-step down tuning is a versatile tuning that can be used for a variety of musical styles. It is particularly popular in rock, metal, and blues music
Benefits of half-step down tuning
Heavier sound: Lowering the tension of the strings produces a heavier, more powerful sound. This can be especially beneficial for genres such as rock and metal.
Easier to sing along with: Half-step down tuning can make it easier to sing along with songs that are in a higher key.
More accessible chords: Some chords can be easier to play in half-step down tuning. For example, the power chord shape (5-7-2) can be played with just one finger on the fretboard.
Different tonal possibilities: Half-step down tuning can produce a different tonal quality than standard tuning. This can be used to create a more unique or atmospheric sound.
Examples of songs in half-step down tuning
“Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses
“Enter Sandman” by Metallica
“Black Hole Sun” by Soundgarden
“Whole Lotta Rosie” by AC/DC
“Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin
How to tune your guitar to half-step down tuning
There are two main ways to tune your guitar to half-step down tuning:
Tune each string down a half step: Using a tuner, tune each string down a half step from its standard tuning pitch. For example, the E string would be tuned down to Eb, the A string would be tuned down to Ab, and so on.
Use a capo on the first fret: Place a capo on the first fret of your guitar and then tune your strings to standard tuning. This will effectively lower the pitch of each string by a half step.
Tips for using half-step down tuning
If you are new to half-step down tuning, it is a good idea to start by using it for a few songs that you are already familiar with. This will help you to get used to the different sound and feel of the tuning.
If you are finding it difficult to play certain chords in half-step down tuning, try using different fingerings. For example, you can try using a barre chord instead of an open chord.
If you are using a capo to achieve half-step down tuning, be sure to adjust the capo’s position if you are changing to a song that is in a different key.
Half-step down tuning is a great way to add variety to your playing. By experimenting with different tunings, you can discover new sounds and textures that you can use to create your own unique musical style.
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Drew is Hodis Learning & Music’s Founder and President. He has been tutoring and teaching music for more than 10 years. Drew earned his B.A. in Psychology from the University of Southern California and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Adelphi University.