Changing Guitar Tuning: Frequently Asked Questions

There are many, many different tunings for a guitar. Standard, dropped, alternate, flat – you name it. However, there are many questions that seek to be answered, regarding guitar tuning, in general.

I took my time to answer those questions here. I hope you’ll find an answer you’re looking for.

In the following table of contents, you can see what questions will be addressed in this article. Let’s go!

Is It Bad To Change Tuning Of Your Guitar Often?

No, it’s not – but there’s an upper limit of doing it. You have to be careful each time you change your guitar’s tuning. Changing the tuning very, very often (like, on a daily basis) can affect tuning pegs, nut and an intonation.

Tuning pegs may easily wear out and loose over time. Also, you can worsen up the intonation on your guitar, but it stabilizes quickly nevertheless. There’s no danger regarding neck warping, also.

Nut can wear out, also. Nut is an essential part for maintaining a tuning stability of your guitar. Be careful not to screw it too much.

To change a tuning on your guitar causes no significant change in the overall tension exerted by the strings on the neck. So, you don’t have to worry about neck warping.

The change in tension between different tunings on a guitar is no more than a few percent more or less from a standard tuning tension. You can assure yourself by checking this StringJoy Guitar String Tension Calculator.

So, the bottom line is this: To change a guitar tuning won’t impose any harm to your guitar. However, it’s better to refrain from changing a guitar tuning ridiculously frequent, like every day.

If you do want to experiment with guitar tunings, then go for it! As we said already, tuning pegs and nut can wear out, so you may want to think about getting yourself a good quality nut. This is what I have on one of my guitars.

I love it, because it makes my guitar tone more resonant, and I also noticed it gave my guitar a bit better tuning stability. Check it for yourself!

Is Drop Tuning Bad For Your Guitar?

No, drop tuning is not bad for your guitar. However, you want to use heavier string gauges for drop tunings.

Lighter strings won’t sound as good when you drop tuning.

Anyway, as far as the tension change of the string goes, there’s nothing bad about drop tunings. Let’s take a look at the previously mention Stringjoy Guitar String Tension Calculator.

If you leave the default, standard tuning; the overall tension of strings for an electric guitar is 114.5 lbs. You can read it from the picture below.

Now, let’s lower the E4 string down to D4. In other words, let’s change the tuning from standard to drop D.

The overall tension 110.9 lbs. You can read it from the picture below.

So, if you change your guitar’s tuning from standard to drop D, string tension will change from 114.5 lbs to 110.9 lbs. That’s only a 3.6 lbs drop in tension. That’s around 3.1 % drop. Not significant.

Of course, assuming you use an electric guitar. But it’s similar with acoustic, or classical guitars also.

Are Alternate Tunings Bad For Your Guitar?

No, alternate tunings are not bad for your guitar. Again, the change in tension exerted by strings to neck isn’t significant.

Will Drop C Tuning Damage My Guitar?

No, it won’t. However, let’s not forget that you should have heavy strings for a drop C tuning. This is a very dropped tuning. Lighter strings won’t sound good enough.

Read the article from this site about string gauges affecting the tone of a guitar.

So, basically you’d need thicker strings for drop C tuning. Here’s my choice. I do have Elixir strings, but I prefer medium gauge strings over lighter and heavier ones.

Nonetheless, these are heavy ones, coated with nanoweb – ultra thin material. That makes them more durable, and also more dirt resistant. Check it for yourself!

Why Do Guitarists Tune Down Half a Step?

You may have noticed already that a lot of rock bands tune their guitars in E flat key. In other words, they tune their guitars down half a step.

Why is that so? I wondered about it also. There are few reasons for that.

  • easier playing

First, tuning down can ease a tension a little bit. As you already know, the tension drop is insignificant for a guitar itself. However, the tension drop eases playing some heavy riffs a bit.

That’s why a lot of hard rock and glam rock bands play in a E flat tuning. For example, Guns ‘n’ Roses.

  • easier singing

Changing pitch is, however small it is, significant when it comes to singing high notes. Rock singers very often sing in a high register.

To tune down a guitar half a step can ease hitting a high note for a singer, significantly.

Also, it allows guitar players to play open chords, like open G, D, A, and so on. Had they leave their guitars tuned to standard, playing their songs would be much complicated.

Take a look at, for example, a Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns ‘n’ Roses. That songs is played in an open D major key. However, guitars are tuned half step down.

If they were to tune their guitars back to standard, they’d have to play the song in C# key, which is unnecessary complication. Of course, playing in D major in standard tuning would probably impose too much stress on Axl Rose’s vocal chords.

Anyway, take a look at the article from this site about great E flat tuned songs you can play on your guitar. Hope you’ll like it.

Does Temperature Affect Guitar Tuning?

Temperature can affect guitar tuning, indeed. To be more precise, it’s temperature change that affects it. It’s physics. It acts in this way:

Materials tend to expand when the temperature is rising. It goes the other way around: Materials tend to shrink when the temperature goes down. It’s that simple.

So, in terms of guitar tuning; when temperature changes, strings change their length, also. When strings change their length, the tension is changed, also. When tension is changed, the pitch is changed.

Therefore, temperature changes affect guitar tuning. By the way, that’s one of the reasons why guitars usually don’t arrive tuned when they’re ordered from the store.

Take a look at the article about it.

Does Humidity Affect Guitar Tuning?

Yes, humidity affects guitar tuning. Think about your guitar as a wooden object. Wood is like a sponge when it comes to humidity. It acts like a sponge. Your guitar will absorb humidity from the air.

If the relative humidity of the room is low, the wood tend to shrink. This shrinkage affect the strings, also. Frets on a neck do not shrink as wood, so, when a guitar is subjected to low humidity for a period of time, a fret sprout will occur.

Fret sprout means frets will jut from the neck. That affects not only the tuning of your guitar, but intonation, and the tone in general, as well.

On the other hand, if the humidity level is too high, a guitar neck will expand. Every change in physical appearance on a guitar will necessarily affect the tuning stability and tuning, in general.

Anyway, I highly recommend you to check the article from this site about dangers of humidity for a guitar.

Final Words

I hope this article gave you the answers you’ve been looking for. If you enjoyed reading this article as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it, I’m more than happy about it.

Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles from this site about various guitar topics and issues!

Cheers, and rock on!

Recent Posts