How do you tune a guitar to C standard tuning?

A guitar is meant to be tuned. Thinking about tuning your guitar low as a standard C? You may want to read the below before you go ahead with it. This content elucidates the reasons for standard C tuning, advantages & disadvantages, the guitar setup appropriate for standard C tuning, and the accurate ways to tune.

Why standard C tuning?

Tuning your guitar to an alternate tuning such as standard C is two whole steps down from the common standard tuning. The resulting notes can be described most commonly as C-F-A♯-D♯-G-C or C-F-B♭-E♭-G-C. And this is not to be mixed up with the C♯ tuning which is one and one-half steps lower than standard tuning. Low tunings such as standard C is usually used by Rock and metal artists to achieve a big, fuller, and deeper sound. C tuning is also somewhat popular among acoustic players due to its rich sound.

Tuning low can also assist you in experimenting with tones and especially if you are into writing music. EX: Led Zeppelin – Friends (Official Audio) & A Thousand Days Before

However, if your playing style doesn’t necessarily need low tuning, or unless there are unpleasant buzz noises while reaching the tower tones, low tuning may not be something essential. Particularly, a standard C two-step down tuning can literally be quite a stretch.

Appropriate strings to support low tuning:

Tuning light or regular strings to a lower pitch will make bending easier. This may be good for some musicians while some others will not enjoy it as much. If you do not fancy extra bending of strings, you may change the strings to heavier-gauge strings which will help to avoid unintentional bendings and also to hold the tune more easily. Light strings subjected to low tunes will sound a little sloppy, particularly if your guitar is short-scale. Since the light strings cannot hold a lot of stretches, low tuning may easily break them.

Basic ways to tune:

  • Play songs with standard C (Led Zeppelin – Friends (Official Audio), A Thousand Days Before)
  • Inspire by ear (follow the steps: practice makes you develop an ear but can be hard for beginners)
  • Tuning in to a computer keyboard / Virtual tuning (Click the string you want to tune on the keyboard and play the corresponding string on your guitar so the two notes sound together.)

Tip: We, however, recommend you tune your guitar every time you play. Tuning may assist in achieving accurate tones and sound that you wanted to, and inspire your playing sessions as well. And, no matter how trained your ear is, a tuner will help your sound immensely.

A quick guide to the standard tunings:

Standard tuning in E from lowest string to highest:

E, A, D, G, B, C

Standard tuning in C from lowest string to highest

C, F, A#, D#, G, C

Drop C tuning is the same as drop D but one step down

Drop D from lowest string to highest:

D, A, D, G, B, E

Drop C from lowest string to highest:

C, G, C, F, A, D

Tuning:

C standard tuning simplified step by step guide:

  1. Low E-String into C
  2. A-String into F
  3. D-String into B♭(A♯)
  4. G-String into E♭(D♯)
  5. B-String into G
  6. High E-String into C

Guitar Setup to low tuning:

  • Replace your strings with thicker gauge strings
  • Raise the action of the guitar (to avoid buzzing)
  • Adjust your guitar’s truss rod (there is an opening to the truss rod at the top of your guitar neck that can be tightened or loosened with an Allen wrench)

Advantages & Disadvantages:

Advantages:

  • Sound: Rich, big, fuller, and deeper sound.
  • The right setup and thicker gauge strings will keep the tune longer.
  • Sounds awesome on the clean channel too.

Disadvantages: 

  • Since you’ll be tuning your strings down several steps, they might rattle (due to strings hitting the fretboard more than they would in standard tuning).
  • Intonation: increase of the pressure to the strings by fretting hands will make it sharper.
  • Action: If not set up right, the tuning will cause a buzz.
  • Attack: string tension changes in general when you strike the string with your pick.

How often do you want to tune your guitar?

As I have mentioned at the beginning, a guitar is meant to be tuned. But how often, is a good question. Tuning often may not necessarily harm your guitar, but using the same set of strings to different tunings could be a problem. 

Tuning the same set of strings to different tunings can naturally create more tension to the strings. This will result in what we call “metal fatigue”. Metal fatigue is caused by weakening a metal by exposing it to repeated stress. More metal fatigue will result in string breakage. 

But then again, strings will anyway break at some point. What metal fatigue does is make them break more often and faster than they would normally be, shortening the lifespan of the strings. Tuning in general will also consume an immense amount of time and effort. To avoid these hassles, if you decide to tune your guitar low, such as standard C, we recommend you to keep a second guitar with different tuning that you’d be using more often so that you don’t have to keep tuning the same guitar back and forth. 

Other than that, tuning your guitar differently from time to time will leave zero permanent impact on your guitar.

Further Reading

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