Half-step down tuning is a guitar tuning where the strings are tuned a half-step (or one fret) lower than standard tuning. Getting your guitar tuned half step down produces a lower, thicker sound, and is used in genres such as blues, metal, and some alternative rock.
It’s often called Eb (E Flat) or alternatively, D# (D Sharp) tuning. The strings are tuned to the following pitches: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb (or D# G# C# F# A# D#)
Below we cover some frequently asked questions & a couple short videos on how you can do this yourself.
Related: How to tune an 8 string guitar
Why do people tune their guitar half step down?
People often tune their guitar half step down to create a different, often fuller or heavier, sound or to make it easier to play certain songs. Tuning down a half step (D-G-C-F-A-D) can make the guitar sound slightly more mellow and sound deeper. This tuning is especially popular in metal music, making it easier to play fast, intense riffs. It is also sometimes used by blues guitarists to create a more vintage sound. Furthermore, tuning a half step down results in less string tension which can make bending notes or vibrato techniques easier.
One other thing to note, is that if you want to use thicker gauge strings for an even bassier tone, you will likely need to tune your guitar a half step or more. This is because thicker strings require more tension in order to maintain a standard E tuning. So tuning thick strings to standard E will make them very stiff & difficult to play.
Related: How to use a guitar capo
How do you tune a guitar step down?
If you already know how to tune you guitar to the standard pitch of EADGBE, then you can simply start by tuning you guitar to that pitch.
Next, you will loosen each tuning peg accordingly until each string pitch matches the video below. By matching pitch, we mean that the note being played on the video & the note being played by you, will sound the same & in unison.
You’ll only be going down a half-step so you shouldn’t have to turn very far & the strings will feel slightly loose. If you need more of a visual approach, you can also scroll down a bit & check out the 2nd video in this article.
Related: How is a twelve string guitar tuned
Famous Guitarists Who Use Half Step Down Tuning
Half-step down tuning is rather common in a lot of music so we can’t list all the guitarists. Furthermore, some guitar players will use this tuning for individual albums or songs & so they don’t permanently stay in this tuning.
1. Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
2. Kurt Cobain (Nirvana)
3. Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society)
4. Dimebag Darrell (Pantera)
5. Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine)
Popular Bands Who Use Half Step Down Tuning
Besides the artists & bands listed above, here’s a few more you might want to look into for Eb or D# tunings.
1. Avenged Sevenfold
5. Breaking Benjamin
8. A Perfect Circle
9. All That Remains
10. Lamb Of God
+ many more!
What Pitch is Used For 1/2 Step Down Tuning?
You might notice that some guitar tuners have a hz designation in the corner, maybe even 440 hz specifically. This is what’s considered to be “concert pitch”. Concert pitch is the standard pitch at which a musical performance is generally tuned. It’s set to the A Note (440Hz) on the piano and is used as a reference to ensure all instruments in the ensemble are playing in the same key. It’s mostly for ensembles but also applies to guitars.
So when you tune your guitar a half step down to Eb/D# then you are lowering the hertz by a semitone. The result will be a hertz of about 415hz or more accurately, 415.3047hz.
How Do You Tune a Guitar a 1/2 Step Down?
To tune a guitar a 1/2 step down, start by tuning the guitar to standard tuning (EADGBE). Then, lower the pitch of each string by one fret. For example, for the E string, lower the pitch from an E to an Eb (or D#). Continue this process for each string until the guitar is in tune a 1/2 step down.
Is Drop Tuning Bad for Your Guitar?
If you’re concerned about the maintenance of your guitar & want to keep it in top shape, fear not. Tuning a half step down or even keep it there, will not harm your instrument. Some people even prefer it that way as it lessens the tension put on the neck. At most, you might need to make minor adjustments to your guitar’s intonation.
Why Do Musicians Tune Down a Half Step?
Down tuning your guitar a 1/2 step down will not only give you a lower & heavier sound overall, but it also comes with a few other benefits. For example if you’re just learning how to string bend or do vibratos, tuning down will lessen the string tension & make it slightly easier to perform the techniques mentioned. This saves you some pain from your fingertips, lessens the stress on your wrists, and allows you to advance in your learning.
If you want to play something like hard rock or heavy metal, you might also want to go for an aggressive meaty tone. One way to do this is by adding thicker strings! Thicker strings require lower tension however, so you will probably need to lower your tuning a half step (or more!) depending on what tension is comfortable & the sound you are seeking to attain.
Tuning a half step down not only produces a more bass in your tone, it also lowers the tension of your strings which can make certain songs easier to play. It’s a very common tuning across all guitar music from blues to metal. It won’t hurt your guitar & is relatively easy to accomplish.
We hope you found this article useful! We will be covering other guitar tunings & frequently asked questions. Thanks for reading & stay tuned!