• C Standard tuning •



Tuning ‘four frets down’ opens up a radically slacker feel (~35% lower tension). Quieter, subtler, with a loose, messy expressive freedom – but without restringing, most guitars will have at least some issues with intonation and buzz (…use them to your advantage!).


Jazz guitarist John Stowell explains how the ear must adjust to deeper realms: “Some practice is required to be able to tune the instrument properly, and hear harmonies pitched considerably lower…a light touch with the right hand works best. Open strings are especially prone to lengthy sustain…I favor this tuning for solo and duo playing, particularly in combination with a vocalist, horn player or another guitarist.”

Pattern: 5>5>5>4>5
Harmony: Cm7(11) | 1-4-b7-b3-5-1




Many through time – e.g. The Everlasting Gaze (Billy Corgan), Sorrow Throughout the Nine Worlds (Amon Amarth), The Jester Race (In Flames), Hear My Train A’ Comin’ (Jimi Hendrix live acoustic take).


Also That’s The Way I Always Heard It Should Be (Pat Metheny), some early Queens of the Stone Age, and the last few years of Kenny Poole (one of his ‘deep tunings’). Used on some smaller baritone guitars too.


  • Deep-Tuned Improv – Kenny Poole (year unknown):


6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note C F Bb Eb G C
Alteration -4 -4 -4 -4 -4 -4
Tension (%) -37 -37 -37 -37 -37 -37
Freq. (Hz) 65 87 117 156 196 262
Pattern (>) 5 5 5 4 5
Semitones 0 5 10 15 19 24
Intervals 1 4 b7 b3 5 1
  • See my Tunings Megatable for further such nerdery: more numbers, intervallic relations, comparative methods, etc. And to any genuine vibratory scientists reading: please critique my DIY analysis!


—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…

  • Baritone (this -1): down even lower and looser
  • Drop C (Standard with 6str -4): for a wider range
  • Open C: another C-based layout, this time major


—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…

  • Physical considerations: John Stowell’s Low-Tuned Guitar discussion (“I use a standard set of heavy gauge acoustic strings on the low guitar…starting with a .014…I’m using a Bartolini acoustic guitar pickup and bronze strings, and the clarity and overtones produced by this combination work very well”)
  • Kenny Poole’s ‘deep tunings’: discussion on the Ted Greene Forum, and read Larry Grinnell’s profile (“He knew he was dying from esophgeal cancer, but wanted to do one more concert for his friends while he still had the energy and ability. Frankly, he looks a fright, and only had another painful month or two to live. This didn’t take away one iota of his skill and musiciality…”)


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rāga: ‘that which colours the mind’

George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher. I play guitar, tabla, and santoor, loosely focusing on jazz, rhythm, and other global improvised traditions. Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the human voices, cultures, and passions behind them. Site above, follow below, & hit me up for…


—guitar & global music—

Dedicated to Nigel Tufnel – a true tuning connoisseur

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