Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Choice of classical guitar strings and technical issues connected with their use.
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Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by Contreras » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:31 pm

We often read of various reasons to tune down ... say, a semitone ... to make a guitar easier to play, to 'take it easy' on gut strings, for example.

My question is, does this not give a sub-optimal outcome in terms of sound production? I don't mean just volume.

I thought that the tops of fine hand-built guitars were tuned to pitch ... would tuning down not interfere with these intended resonances?


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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by Kent » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:37 pm

No downside.
Some guitars sound better a semitone down, and you can do older guitars a favor with lower tension.

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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by souldier » Fri Dec 16, 2016 7:30 pm

I personally don't like tuning down because strings begin to sound and feel looser with less energy. Buzzing becomes more of an issue. I also play with other instruments so being in standard pitch is necessary. I also want my ears to be trained to know what an EBGDAE sounds like. String companies also design their strings for 650 scale guitars in standard pitch. These are all personal preferences of course and there is no right or wrong position here.

The best way to answer your question on what sounds better, is to actually try it. Every guitar will yield different results. One of the key factors is what the main resonance of the guitar is. Changing the pitch of the strings will shift the wolf notes and such to different positions.
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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by Michael.N. » Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:03 pm

Some makers tune tops to a specific note. I certainly don't. I guess when you put the bridge and strings on everything is going to change anyway.
So I doubt that any soundboard is restricted to a specific pitch. Not only that but it has to respond to any pitch of our 3 octaves and a bit, otherwise it really would be a very poor instrument.

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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by petermc61 » Fri Dec 16, 2016 8:37 pm


It probably depends on how far you go. If you had the main resonance well placed by the luthier between two notes then tuning down by half a semitone could be problematic. I agree with others, try it and see.


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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by Erik Zurcher » Fri Dec 16, 2016 10:33 pm

As long as you don't play with other instrumentalists, there is no downside.
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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by Iain » Fri Dec 23, 2016 11:02 pm

Would there be another way of adjusting anything on the guitar play easier on the left hand?

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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by cool09 » Sat Dec 24, 2016 12:44 am

On an electric guitar the downside is fret buzzing. Don't know about classical guitar.

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Re: Tuning down ... What's the downside?

Post by Lovemyguitar » Sat Dec 24, 2016 3:12 am

Iain wrote:Would there be another way of adjusting anything on the guitar play easier on the left hand?
1. More practice! Playing guitar is hard on the left hand, particularly if you are a beginner. It gets easier, and in fact, with time, it won't bother you at all (that is, if you keep practicing, and practice correctly!). Don't press harder than you need to.
2. Low tension strings can help a little.
3. Lower the saddle and the nut a bit, if the action is too high (but don't go too low -- a qualified tech or luthier can help with the set-up, if needed).

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