F Standard



By accident and design, countless guitarists have ended up tuning a semitone sharp of standard. Raises overall tension by ~12% – giving a fantastic volume boost – but limiting bends, barres, and general fluency, especially on steel-string acoustics.


Works best on lighter-strung, shorter-scale guitars – e.g Les Pauls will handle it better than Stratocasters. Although a capo can often be a better option (my acoustic playing in this tuning was jumpy, reflecting my constant fear of an imminent string snap…).

Pattern: 5>5>5>4>5
Harmony: Fm7(11) | 1-4-b7-b3-5-1




Often difficult to distinguish from a 1fr capo – but Luther Perkins often tuned upwards when accompanying Johnny Cash, and Nirvana used F on Love Buzz, apparently without conscious intention.


Also seems to have been used by Norwegian black metal artist Varg Vikernes on early Burzum releases (…although he has since become better known for his, umm, other work).


  • Walk the Line @ Town Hall Party – Johnny Cash (1958):


6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note F Bb Eb Ab C F
Alteration +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1
Tension (%) +12 +12 +12 +12 +12 +12
Freq. (Hz) 87 117 156 208 262 349
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…


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

  • F Standard: discussion with some quality insights on the Acoustic Guitar Forum (“…retain perspective with the fret markers, instead of capoing and losing them as references…”)
  • Luther Perkins: how to emulate his sound with Dirk Wacker in Premier Guitar (“So, what does ‘boom-chicka-boom’ style mean? It’s an onomatopoetic word, similar to the fast, stomping tone from a freight train in motion. Several urban legends exist about how Luther Perkins developed this tone…”)


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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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