Down tuning

Looking for thoughts.

I have been playing mostly nylon strings, playing mostly classical style.

I still am playing and want to still play steel string acoustic, but as I play more nylon, I find myself struggling with the tension in the steel strings (picking hand, fretting is fine).

I am fingerpicking, finger strumming and dislike string sets smaller than 12, using low tension Straight Up Strings.

So, I can solve this by down tuning one step to DGCFAD. I do like the sound, better for my vocal range and much nicer feel, to me. If I need to play along to a backing track, or with somebody else (which is almost never), I can capo.

I guess I am just wondering whether anyone can think of a disadvantage to playing like this. Or should I see this as an opportunity to buy a new short scale guitar?:thinking:

I currently play one step down as well and there are a lot of people playing either half or while step down. Btw: If you go for a short scale, you’ll need even thicker strings to retain tuning stability on downtunings.

Edit; I moved your topic as it was’t a (technical) Community issue


So, I guess it makes sense that is could be harder to drop down on a short scale. Is that just because the tension gets so low?

I guess I am not sure a shorter scale would be enough to matter, especially if there are other drawbacks. I don’t think I need short scale for anything else.

If the difference in scale is a full inch, 25.5 to 24.5 for example. It would reduce tension by roughly 8%. Since it seems 24.75 is more common, the tension reduction would be less.

Down tuning a full tone reduces tension by roughly 20%, so a significant change. My SUS 12s going from 146lbs to 117lbs.

But tension must correlate to force on the soundboard, so wouldn’t lower tension strings also drive the soundboard with less energy and so be less loud? At some point wouldn’t that cause some muddying or degradation of sound? I guess where that happens would be guitar dependent.

I was also thinking of trying some John Pearse Folk finger style strings. They have a tension of 85, so maybe too low for a steel string soundboard. They also would require a new nut for the gauges and probably a new saddle because the low tension would need higher action than I have now. But still, only a $50 experiment, cheaper than a new guitar and fun to try. They are really meant to fit on a nylon string guitar, there may not be ball ends…

I’ve found tuning down a half step to have less rattle and buzzing than whole step. I’ve not found that either tuning provides improved guitar tone. To my ears it deadens tone. It all depends on your gear and playing style I suppose.

I bought a classical (hence nylon strings) about 6 months ago after playing acoustic for about 14 years and electric for 1 year. I am loving the classical as much as the others and i seem to be coping with the nylon strings. I think going from steel to nylon is easier than t’other way round but i wondered if it was just a time thing and you would get used to the different strings in time. Just a thougt. Down tuning all the strings is new to me. Going to give it a go! :grinning:

I am more of a beginner with both, 1 3/4 years all in. But I was struggling a bit with string tension before I picked up classical. I think those nice soft string are just spoiling me more. But in a good way.

The major downside of down tuning (I think) is just if you play along with recordings, backing tracks or people, Justin’s app included.

That is because you will be out of tune with them. Nothing a capo can’t fix.

I was wondering a bit about training my ear to non-standard tuning, but the majority of my playing is on the classical tuned EADGBE normally.

I often play in Eb standard or D standard because some songs I want to play are supposed to be that way, the guitar plays fine and sounds good like that. Like you say I put a capo on for songs in standard tuning.

I don’t have as much experience but I imagine your ear might develop incorrectly if you’re transposing every song you play - eg if you’re playing original fretting for a song in E standard tuning but you’re down a whole step. So maybe just use a capo on the 2nd fret by default?

I doubt it. You would need to develop perfect pitch for that, and that is very difficult to do (especially if you don’t train from a young age) and isn’t that useful.

Probably the biggest issue is if you start to learn chords and scales with the different tuning (e.g. the normal D chord would be C) and start playing along to songs using those chords without using a capo. That then might be a bit confusing if you switch back to standard tuning.

Also I guess songs might sound a bit weird if you have learned them a semitone down.