1/2 Step Down Tuning

Discussion in 'Acoustic Guitar Technique' started by tenma4, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. tenma4

    tenma4 New Member

    Many years ago I began to play guitar a bit. I had a major hindrance due to a terrible first guitar, so I thought playing was quite uncomfortable. Years later I began to take up playing again with a couple of successively better guitars. I've become a competent bass player, focusing on technique, but despite trying to do the same on guitar, I've always found tension in either my fretting hand's wrist, or thumb to be an issue.

    A few days ago, on a whim, I downtuned 1/2 step. Suddenly it's like playing an entirely different instrument. Constant barre chords aren't an issue, which is where I usually had problems. I stuck a capo on the first fret to make everything relatively the same. Bends and vibrato opened up for me a lot too. It's like my playing just became easier and 2x as expressive.

    For what it's worth, I've always had issues during various activities of excessive tension in my wrist and/or thumb. I'm curious if others have had similar experiences. Thoughts? Right now I'm thinking all of my acoustics may go to 1/2 step down tuning. FWIW, I've not had the issue with basses in many years, I figure due to the lesser tension.
  2. SolidFooting

    SolidFooting Member

    I'm no expert, but I'm glad to chime with a little feedback. First, are you playing with a thumb over style, or with your thumb on the back? I'd assume the latter - just curious. Finally, what gauges are your strings? You may be able to achieve the same effect by going with a lighter string.

    Effectively, by tuning down and capoing up, all you've done is shorten your scale length. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as you have a good capo and you never forget to bring it with you. It will also change your tone a tiny bit on open strings - like you're playing with a zero fret instead of a normal nut. But if you don't mind it, who cares?
  3. tenma4

    tenma4 New Member

    Usually I try to keep my thumb loose on the middle of the back of the neck. I'm not accustomed to the number of gauges of guitar strings, but generally whatever is packaged as medium strings from D'Addario, or Elixir. I've tried lighter strings...but I didn't like the tone, or the way they dug into my fingers if I hadn't been playing guitar quite a bit. (I fairly meaty fingers...) For what it's worth, I think the scale length might be a factor. My arms aren't incredibly short, but I'm rather barrel shaped, which makes the majority of acoustic guitar uncomfortable, even compressing a nerve in my right arm due to where the edge of the body meets it.

    Ovation makes a turtle backed guitar. Those would work better if I weren't turtle fronted. Heh. Someone needs to make an acoustic guitar the curves the back the opposite direction for my body. :)
  4. SolidFooting

    SolidFooting Member

    Ha! Well, you should go with what works then, I say. You could probably avoid some cramping if you adapted to a thumb over style, but it would be better to just keep at it until you hand strengthens up.
  5. tenma4

    tenma4 New Member

    Yeah, the hand strength is what puzzles me. You'd think a guy that does 75 lb curls wouldn't have any problem with playing guitar. Regardless, I can't play thumb over while doing barre chords. I do thumb over sometimes to grab an alternate bass note.
  6. SolidFooting

    SolidFooting Member

    Different muscles.
  7. SnappyFerret

    SnappyFerret This ain't rock 'n' roll, this is genocide!

    The way your guitar hangs can affect the ergonomics and ease of playing. Strap you guitar up fairly high, tilt it so the neck is at a 45 degree angle, and point it off your hip out in front of you at about a 45 degree angle too, so you can play easily with your left wrist straight, to avoid carpal tunnel problems. You should not have to bend your wrist at all. And stand up for greater ease up and down the neck. Here's a picture of Jorma Kaukonen that kind of illustrates it.

    Jorma Kaukonen.jpg
  8. tenma4

    tenma4 New Member

    That's pretty close to what I do with electric guitar, or bass. I've only ever found the bowl-shaped Ovations that allow me a semi-comfortable position for an acoustic guitar. Now if only they had a big belly cutout. :D
  9. Sam

    Sam New Member

    Kinda sounds like the guitar simply needs a setup. I don't lift and I've played a standard acoustic with 12s. It could also be a technique issue.
  10. jaclop099

    jaclop099 <Blues Jazz Rock Funk>

    Wow, I've never heard of that happening. Cool if it works for you!

    The only experience I've ever had playing tuned down a half step is playing Green Day :D

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