• F Standard (‘Raise’) tuning •

F-Bb-Eb-Ab-C-F

• OVERVIEW •

Whether by accident or design, countless guitarists have ended up tuning a semitone sharp of Standard. Doing so raises overall tension by ~12%: not enough to necessitate a restring, but still sufficient to give a fantastic volume boost. It will, however, limit bends, barres, and general melodic fluency (as well as tiring your hands out more quickly…).

 

Works best on lighter-strung, shorter-scale guitars (e.g Les Pauls will handle it slightly better than Strats). And, while you could just use a 1fr capo to produce the same notes, this has the drawback of confusing your ‘dot-marker perspective’ – all the neck markings are thrown ‘one off’ (i.e. the 3/5/7/9/12fr dots, when capoed, become 2/4/6/8/11fr: a dissonant mismatch if you momentarily forget to recalibrate!).

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

• TUNING TONES •

• SOUNDS

Luther Perkins is probably the most prominent F-tuner from guitar history – the Tennessee Three axeman used it to accompany Johnny Cash on countless occasions. (Oddly, this may have been in response to how low Cash’s voice could go: my guess is that playing in F allowed him to reach the key’s bass-octave 5th, a C2 tone lying right at the bottom of his range, e.g. audible here – perhaps EADGBE‘s equivalent B2 note was a stretch too far?).

 

Uses are generally difficult to identify (chiefly due to its similarities to a 1fr capo), although Nirvana are known to have wound to F on Love Buzz (apparently without conscious intention) – and it also seems to have been used by Varg Vikernes on early Burzum releases (although the Norwegian black metaller has since become better known for, umm, other work).

 


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

“Perkins…was not a professional…but a mechanic who played guitar a hobby. Nailing his playing style is a great lesson in minimalism, because Luther never played any wild solo parts or fancy chords…” (Dirk Wacker)


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• NUMBERS •

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!

• RELATED •

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

• MORE INFO •

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

  • F Standard: check out a tension discussion on the Acoustic Guitar Forum (“…retain perspective with the fret markers, instead of capoing and losing them as references…a half-step will not hurt the guitar, unless [it’s] made of balsar wood…”)
  • Luther Perkins: emulate his sound with the aptly-named 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…”)

Header image: Luther Perkins with Johnny Cash (~1966)

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George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Home & Writings, and hit me up for Online Lessons!

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