How to Achieve Half Step Down Guitar Tuning

Have you been looking for some new ways to tune 12 string guitar models half a step down but aren’t sure how to do it? Half step down guitar tuning is an amazing way of adding flavor and a new sound to your playing. One of the best things about this is that you don’t need any sort of fancy guitar tuner to achieve it. In this guide we are going to go through everything you could ever need and want to know about half step down guitar tuning. Let’s get started.

What is Half Step Down Tuning?

The half step down tuning, as the name says, means that each string of your guitar is tuned down by half a step. If you’re unsure of what a half step is, it’s the smallest distance between two notes that exists on a fretboard. An example of this is that the distance between the G and A frets is one whole step. So, the half step tuning would be between them at A# (or Gb).

As you more than likely are already aware of, the standard tuning of a guitar is EADGBE when you start at the lowest tuning pegs for E and go to the highest E. So to achieve half step down tuning you will need to lower your E by a half step to a Eb or D#. Typically this type of tuning will be written using the flat forms of each note which is Eb Ab Db Gb Bb and Eb. You can write it the other way though, using sharps instead so that it reads D# G# C# F# A# and D#.

There are a lot of alternate tunings out there that means you have to remember a lot of different chord shapes. With half step down tuning this is not the case. This is because all of the strings are tuned in relation to one another, the same way that they would be when you use standard tuning. All of the intervals between them are exactly the same, meaning that the chord shapes and scale patterns stay the same as well.

Why Should You Use Half Step Down Tuning?

A song that is played using half step down tuning will sound different to one that is played using standard tuning. While it can be applied to any genre of songs, it’s most commonly used in both hard rock and metal music. This is because these genres learn more towards a heavy sound and tuning by a half step gives you that grittier feeling. It also lends itself to the distinctive distortion techniques that are often used in these genres.

Half step down tuning is also lower in tones so that it is easier to play music with heavier gauge strings which then go on to achieve that heavy sound. Lower tunings release tension on the strings, so string bending can be done easily with less hand, wrist and finger fatigue.

How to Tune Your Guitar Half Step Down

There’s no sort of special guitar tuner you need to get your guitar half step down in tuning. All you have to do is take your regular chromatic tuner and then tune each string of the guitar to the right pitch. You may have a guitar tuner that uses the sharp versions or the flat versions, so make sure you take a look at what the notes are for these which we gave you at the beginning of the guide.

We have also got an alternate method to start tuning your guitar half a step down. If you are playing and have completely forgotten the names of the pitches, we’ve got you covered. What you need to do, if there are no guitar tuners around and you want to do some drop tuning, is reach for your capo. Place this capo on the first fret of the guitar and then tune it to standard tuning (EADGBE in case you’ve forgotten). This goes from the sixth and thickest string to the first and thinnest string. It’s a quick and easy way to turn your guitar a half step down if you are in a pinch.

What Guitarists Use Half Step Down Tuning?

There are a lot of iconic guitarists out there that use half step down tuning. We’ve listed some of the best-known for you below, either in some of their music or exclusively.

  • Slash
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Jackson Browne
  • Tony Iommi
  • Neil Young
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • BB King

There are also a lot of bands out there that use half step down tuning as well. It’s more common in punk, rock and metal bands like the ones we’ve listed for you below.

  • Nirvana
  • Black Sabbath
  • Slayer
  • Green Day
  • Guns N’Roses
  • Journey

Conclusion

You should now have a very solid idea of how half step down tuning works and how you can achieve it on your guitar. Do away with standard tuning and experiment with this one to find out how much it can offer you. It’s only a short moment to use your guitar tuner and then turning your tuning pegs to get your G string, D string, E string and B string all in line to achieve the half step down. All the notes you need are included at the beginning of this guide, from the low E string to the high E string, so use this and get playing!

FAQs

How do I tune my guitar a half step down?

It’s a very simple process to tune your guitar a half step down. All you have to do is take each note and then tune your string down by one semitone. So instead of using the standard tuning of EADGBE, you tune the strings to Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb instead. The flat note is the same as the sharp one that comes before it, so using sharps it would go D# G# C# F# A# D#.

What pitch is half step down tuning in?

Here you will need your guitar tuner. Look in the corner and you will more than likely see 440hz written there. This pitch is what is considered to be the standard and it makes sure that multiple instruments can be in tune with one another. 440hz is also in the frequency of A. So with half step tuning you will be in the pitch of Ab, with your pitch being at 415.3047hz specifically on your guitar tuner.

Why do people tune their guitar a half step down?

Tuning down by half a step gives your music a heavier and lower sound but there are other benefits that go along with that. Tuning down in this way can lower your string tension but makes achieving string bends a lot easier. It also reduces the stress on your wrists, hands and fingers so you don’t fatigue as quickly. You can play a lot easier with heavy gauge strings in half step down tuning and it will be easier to play along with a band that uses horns in this tuning as well. Anyone who experiences vocal fatigue and has some trouble hitting the higher notes will find it’s easier to sing along to a guitar that has been tuned half a step down.

Could drop tuning be bad for my guitar?

Most guitar players want to make sure that anything they do with their instrument will keep it in top condition. The good news here is that using drop tuning won’t have any detrimental effects to your instrument. In fact, some people who own older and vintage guitars actually prefer it because it places less stress and tension on the neck of the guitar. However, if you keep your guitar in drop tuning for most of the time then you will more than likely need to make a slight adjustment to your intonation at some point.

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