List of Alternate Guitar Tunings | Tuning Outside the Box

list of alternate guitar tunings

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If you’ve been searching for an inspiring list of alternate guitar tunings, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve experimented with MANY alternate tunings throughout my life, so I thought it was time to start sharing my discoveries!

One of the best ways to jumpstart your creative process is to experiment with alternate guitar tunings. You’ll be coming up with amazing ideas you never would’ve been capable of otherwise. I’ll be updating this URL on a regular basis to include all kinds of interesting ways to tune your guitar. I’ll even be providing useful information on accommodating your string gauge for each one of these guitar tunings.

Architects Tuning [No. 1]

If you haven’t heard of Architects (UK), I highly recommend checking them out. They’re one of my favourite rock/metal bands, but there’s something brilliant about their music that distinguishes them from the rest.

The first variation of one of their guitar tuning is basically “C# Standard Tuning”. Some of their tracks also drop the low C#2 to B2, resulting in “Drop B Tuning”.

C#2 F#2 B3 E3 G#3 C#4

String gauge

Since this tuning is relatively similar to typical standard tuning, you’ll simply need to provide yourself with heavier strings.

If you’re accustomed to using .010 gauge, you may want to go with .012 or .013 gauge. There are plenty of options to choose from, but I recommend getting as close to this profile as possible…

1st.012
2nd.016
3rd.024
4th.032
5th.042
6th.052

Architects Tuning [No. 2]

Some of Architects’ (UK) tracks are actually quite heavy! They’ll sometimes tune their guitars quite low compared to what we’re used to.

The second variation of their previous guitar tuning is simply to “replace the 6th string with a 7th string”. Make sense? Everything stays the same except the C#2 (the 6th string), which becomes G#1 (the theoretical 7th string).

G#1 F#2 B3 E3 G#3 C#4

String gauge

Due to the similarities to the previous tuning, you’ll only need to swap the 6th string for something heavier.

These are the specifications I recommend adhering to…

1st.012
2nd.016
3rd.024
4th.032
5th.042
6th.070

Ethereal Tuning

I was on YouTube the other day and stumbled on ichika Nito’s “Play in Ethereal Tuning” viral video. It’s one of the most original tunings I’ve ever heard, but the way he spelled it makes it seem more complicated than it truly is.

In essence, Ethereal Tuning is somewhat of an open tuning that takes on the tonality of a “D major 7th” chord.

D2 A2 C#3 F#3 C#4 D4

String gauge

Ethereal tuning is actually pretty close to the common “Drop D Tuning”, so it won’t require as much planning.

If you want to get specific though, I recommend using this particular string gauge profile…

1st.011
2nd.011
3rd.017
4th.026
5th.036
6th.049

Lionel Loueke Tuning

Lionel Loueke has proven himself to be quite an innovative guitarist. I suggest listening to some of his work if you’re into jazz/world music.

His tuning is like “Drop D Tuning”, but not exactly because there is a rupture in the conventional ascending/descending structure of guitar tunings. The proper term for these types of tunings is “reentrant” (like the ukulele).

D2 A3 D3 G3 B3 E4

String gauge

The one thing Lionel Loueke mentions about his tuning is that he used an additional 3rd string for that high A3, so it’s not as complicated as you think.

You can simply keep your current strings, but you’ll need to replace your 5th string with a 3rd string. Here are the specific string gauges that I recommend though…

1st.010
2nd.013
3rd.017
4th.026
5th.016
6th.049

New Standard Tuning (NST)

I hope you’ve heard of the legendary King Crimson, but it’s their guitarist who re-invented standard tuning. Robert Fripp wanted to compensate for the unjust intonation of equal temperament by adopting an “all fifths” type tuning.

If all of this sounds complex, it is, but don’t worry about it! The way I like to think of this tuning is like standard tuning for cello, but with an added E4 and G4.

C2 G2 D3 A3 E4 G4

String gauge

New Standard Tuning is one of the more complicated tunings on the list, so preparing your guitar will require more work.

The typical “heavy bottom” guitar strings may get the job done, but I recommend going custom using these specifications…

1st.009
2nd.010
3rd.016
4th.026
5th.032
6th.052

“Ostrich” Tuning

The classic Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed was known for his experimental tendencies. This tuning’s name comes from one of their songs known as “The Ostrich”, but has also been used in others, such as “Venus in Furs”.

There are many variations of Reed’s original tuning, but the general rule is to assign one pitch to each string. However, the octave of each string may vary. Your guitar will take on the qualities of a “drone-like” instrument such as the tanpura.

D2 D3 D3 D3 D4 D4

String gauge

Lou Reed’s guitar tuning is probably the weirdest tuning on the list, so I can almost guarantee you’ll need to go custom for this one.

I would not attempt tuning your guitar this way without the proper strings. For the best performance, try this string gauge profile…

1st.011
2nd.011
3rd.026
4th.026
5th.026
6th.049

Tom Quayle Tuning

If you’re an aspiring guitarist, you need to check out the legato maestro, Tom Quayle. In the hopes of making his fretboard more symmetrical, he adopted an “all 4ths” type tuning.

Tom Quayle’s guitar tuning isn’t that difficult to get into. You’ll simply need to tune your high B3 and E4 up by one semitone to C4 and F4.

E2 A2 D3 G3 C4 F4

String gauge

Although tuning your guitar using an “all 4ths” type tuning will radically change your playing style, it’s actually a relatively small change.

I recommend using these string gauges for the best results, but you may not need to change your strings if you use lighter gauges by default…

1st.009
2nd.012
3rd.017
4th.026
5th.036
6th.046

An inspiring list of alternate guitar tunings

As I mentioned earlier, this list of alternate guitar tunings is ever-evolving. I’ll be adding new tunings regularly, so make sure to keep this page bookmarked. You can even sign-up to my email list to receive all the latest updates and more! 

I hope you’ll find some inspiration trying out some of these alternate guitar tunings. Sometimes, little changes in our creative process can result in some pretty big changes! It’s also an excellent approach to dealing with writer’s block.

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    I’m also open to suggestions and feedback, so let me know if you’ve tried any of the tunings. How were the string gauges for your particular guitar? What are some of your favourite alternate tunings? You can let everyone know by leaving us a comment!

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    2 Responses

    1. I feel kind of foolish, but i never knew there were variations to guitar tuning. And the sad part is I’ve played the acoustic gutair for over 5 years. I learned quite a few things today that im going to go youtube and try to figure out! Thank you for expanding my knowledge about something i love!

      1. Hey Denton!

        There are actually many more alternate guitar tunings out there. It’s kind of amazing how the guitar allows us this kind of freedom. It’s like being able to see the world from multiple different perspectives. 

        Have fun experimenting, if you need any advice feel free to reach out.

        Thanks for stopping by!

        – Stefan 

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