• D Standard (‘Tone Down’) tuning •



Tuning ‘down a whole tone’ lowers overall string tension by around 20%, decreasing volume but allowing for wide bends, subtle vibratos, and an overall ease of fretting. Great for opening up electric-style melodic freedoms on the acoustic guitar – and for reducing strain on the hands.


According to Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, tuning his Les Paul to D takes their Southern rock “down to a sludgy place that we really like. It sounds more primal and scary, and puts the vocals that much above it all. I guess I like the ‘wrongness‘ of it…”.

Pattern: 5>5>5>4>5
Harmony: Dm7(11) | 1-4-b7-b3-5-1




Used on innumerable tracks: e.g. Yesterday (Paul McCartney), Working Class Hero (Lennon), Come As You Are (Kurt Cobain), Walk (Dimebag Darrell), Dogs (Dave Gilmour), Between the Bars (Elliot Smith), Sad But True (Metallica), Budapest (George Ezra), Rats (Ghost).


Also many Neil Young live records, and lots of tracks by jazz guitarist Jim Soloway (In Remembrance Of Those We Have Lost To Addiction).


  • Come As You Are – Nirvana (1991):


6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note D G C F A D
Alteration -2 -2 -2 -2 -2 -2
Freq. (Hz) 73 98 131 175 220 294
Tension (%) -21 -21 -21 -21 -21 -21
Pattern (>) 5 5 5 4 5
Intervals 1 4 b7 b3 5 1
Semitones 0 5 10 15 19 24
  • 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!


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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…


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Dedicated to Nigel Tufnel – a true tuning connoisseur

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