C Standard Tuning: Overview & How To

C standard tuning is a unique and creative avenue for guitarists, offering a deeper, heavier sound and broader guitar range. By lowering each string’s pitch by two steps, it creates a lower tonal range and evocative resonance. This allows musicians to explore heavier power chords or create distinctive melodic elements. However, the choice of strings and understanding how guitar parts interact under new tensions are crucial. It’s important to recognize that different guitar tunings lend themselves naturally to unique playing styles due to their innate tonal characteristics.

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Theory Behind C Standard (C F A# D# G C)

Tuning your guitar to C Standard (C-F-A#-D#-G-C) involves tuning all strings down by two whole steps from “Standard E” tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E).

This tuning is popular in heavy music genres due to its darker, heavier, and deeper sound – All while retaining a familiar string configuration.

So when compared to “Standard E” tuning, the underlying theory of chords & scales remains constant, and only the tonality changes.

Overall the change from “E” Standard to “C” doesn’t require significant adjustment to your playing style except when transposing music for accuracy sake.

Related: How To Tune To C# Standard Tuning

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How To Implement C Standard Tuning

The process begins by loosening the strings of your instrument which are typically set at standard E tuning.

Start with the highest or thinnest string, ordinarily an E on most guitars.

In this alternate tuning scheme, each string will be tuned down two whole steps – an action that might seem straightforward but necessitates careful handling to avoid string breakage..

Remember that incorrect tuning can lead to guitar parts being strained due to uneven tension distribution across the strings.

For example, starting to detune with the lower strings first can cause excessive tension on the thinner strings and cause them to snap!

Use of Heavier Gauge Strings

When delving into alternate tunings such as c standard guitar tuning, it’s essential to pay attention to not just the new sounds you’ll be able to create, but also the different physical requirements that these tunings impose on your instrument.

One critical element in this equation is the use of heavier gauge strings.

Thicker gauge strings are a popular choice among guitarists who frequently utilize lower pitch tunings

This is due to their inherent ability to maintain tension & sustain even at these lower pitches. Using regular strings for such a low tuning could result in the strings being very loose, not sustaining notes very well, and overall cause unwanted fret buzz.

Other things to consider when choosing to use thicker guitar strings include:

Guitar Neck Relief:

Thicker strings may necessitate adjusting the neck relief & guitar’s truss rod to accommodate the increased tension. Consulting a professional technician or luthier for setup adjustments is recommended.

Nut and Bridge Slots:

Wider strings require wider slots in the nut and bridge. Ensure the slots are properly sized to prevent binding, tuning instability, and breakage.


Thicker strings may affect intonation due to different tension across the fretboard. Intonate the guitar properly after string change and downtuning.

Nut Lubrication:

Thicker strings can get caught in the nut slots. Lubricate the slots to minimize binding and tuning issues.

Bridge Adjustment:

Thicker strings might require bridge adjustments to set the correct string height & maintain comfortable action.

If you’re unsure or uncomfortable making these adjustments, consult a professional guitar technician or luthier for proper setup.

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What’s An Alternate Tuning & Others To Try

Alternate tuning is a concept that contributes to the versatility and adaptability of the guitar. It refers to any guitar tuning other than the traditional E-A-D-G-B-E standard (standard E tuning) and provides an entirely new range of possibilities for musicians.

Here’s a couple that are also popular for metal players or those looking to tune low:

Drop D Tuning (D A D G B E):

Drop D tuning is a different tuning that’s a staple in metal. By tuning the lowest string (sixth) down a whole step to D, it allows you to play chords (see power chords) easily with one finger across the three lowest strings. This tuning allows for chugging riffs and provides a powerful low end.

Drop C Tuning (C G C F A D):

Similar to Drop D, Drop C tuning lowers all strings by a whole step. This tuning enhances heaviness and is used in various metal subgenres, allowing for lower and more aggressive riffing.

D Standard Tuning (D G C F A D):

In D Standard tuning, you tune your guitar by shifting all strings down a whole step from standard E tuning. This maintains tension while providing a deeper and darker tonality, making it suitable for heavy and doom metal.


Tuning a 7 string guitar

Tuning an 8 string guitar

Frequently Asked Questions

What string for C standard?

For best string tension when tuning to C standard, we recommend something along the lines of 11-54 or 12-56.

Is Open C the same as C Standard?

No, Open C and C Standard are not the same. Open C tuning typically involves tuning the open strings to create a C major chord when strummed open, which is usually C G C G C E from lowest to highest.

On the other hand, C Standard tuning refers to tuning all six strings down by two whole steps (four half steps) to C F A# D# G C from lowest to highest.

While both tunings involve a C as the lowest pitch, Open C focuses on a specific chord voicing, while C Standard provides a different overall pitch arrangement for a broader tonal range.


Plunging into the depths of C standard guitar tuning can be a thrilling expedition for guitarists seeking fresh avenues for expression.

In this case, C standard tuning offers a rich sound that’s powerful & heavy, all without having to re-learn fingering positions.

One challenge to keep in mind is that of string tension and so thicker gauge strings are recommended when choosing this tuning. This is because using thin strings can cause string rattle (fret buzz) & lack of sustain.

Learning how to tune your guitar to C standard will open up a whole new world of playing chords and riffs & can breathe new life into your favorite songs by imparting a deeper sound.

Moreover, having a second guitar specifically set up for C standard could be a worthy investment if you find yourself frequently navigating between different tunings or if this has become your go-to alternate tuning.

To summarize, experimenting with different tunings, such as C standard, is an exciting part of being a guitarist, pushing both technical skills and musical creativity to their limits.

Embracing these alternative tunings promises new ways to express yourself musically and unimaginable rewards for those brave enough to venture down this sonic path less traveled.

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