Nick Drake Tuning: A Guide to His Unconventional Guitar Tunings

If you’re a fan of Nick Drake, you’ve probably heard of his unique guitar playing style and the tunings he used. Nick Drake tuning refers to the alternative guitar tunings that Nick used to create his signature sound, most notably CGCFCE . He was known for experimenting with different tunings to create complex chord structures and unique harmonies.

One of the most well-known songs that showcases Nick Drake tuning is “Pink Moon“. The song features an intricate fingerpicking pattern that is played in an open tuning. The use of this tuning gives the song a haunting and ethereal quality that is characteristic of Drake’s music.

Nick Drake’s use of alternative guitar tunings was a major factor in the development of his unique sound. While some of his tunings were based on traditional folk & blues tunings, others were entirely unique and created specifically for his own compositions.

In this article we cover how to implement his signature CGCFCE tuning and explore various other tunings that he used in his music.

Related: A Nick Drake Biography

Nick Drake Tuning, Pink Moon, Guitar Tuning, Molly Drake, Robert Kirby, Bert Jansch

Nick Drake’s Tuning Method & How To

Nick Drake’s unique and distinctive sound was largely due to his use of alternate tunings on his guitar. He was known to use a variety of tunings, most notably CGCFCE, which he used on songs like “Pink Moon” and “Hazey Jane 1 & 2.”

Drake’s tuning method involved experimenting with different tuning configurations until he found the perfect sound for each song. He would often use unconventional tunings for songs that were difficult to achieve on a guitar using standard tuning. This allowed him to create intricate and complex chord progressions that added depth and complexity to his music.

Drake’s use of alternate tunings has become legendary among guitarists and music enthusiasts alike. His unique approach to tuning has inspired countless musicians to experiment with their own tunings and explore new sounds.

Despite his untimely death at the age of 26, Nick Drake’s music continues to inspire and influence musicians around the world. His use of alternate tunings remains a testament to his innovative spirit and his dedication to creating music that was truly unique and unforgettable.

If you want to achieve his legendary & signature sound, you can use the video below to tune your electric or acoustic guitar to the same string pitches:

Nick Drake’s Guitar Tunings & Related Songs

Nick Drake’s music is as much defined by his evocative lyrics and gentle vocals as it is by his innovative guitar tunings. His exploration of alternate tunings created a distinctive sound that has fascinated guitarists and music enthusiasts alike.

Related: Nick Drake Best Songs

EADGBE (Standard Tuning)

Bird Flew By, Blossom, Day Is Done, Joey, Leaving Me Behind, Mayfair, Poor Boy, Rain, River Man, Strange Meeting II, Things Behind the Sun, Time Has Told Me

CGCFCE (Nick Drake Tuning)

Hanging on a Star, Hazey Jane I & II, Introduction, Parasite, Pink Moon, Which Will


At the Chime of a City Clock, Fly, Harvest Breed, Man in a Shed, Northern Sky, Sunday, Time of No Reply, From the Morning


Fruit tree, Three hours


Cello Song, Thoughts of Mary Jane


Road, Voice From The Mountain


Black Eyed Dog, Rider on The Wheel, Tow The Line


Free Ride

Nick Drake's Guitar Tunings, Pink Moon, Island Records, Albums, Hear, Play

Exploring Other Alternate Tunings

Nick Drake was known for his unique approach to guitar tuning, often using alternate tunings to create his signature sound. If you’re interested in exploring other tunings, there are many options to choose from. Here are some of the most popular alternate tunings for guitar:

  • Open D (D-A-D-F#-A-D): This tuning is often used in blues and slide guitar playing. It allows for easy chord shapes and a full, resonant sound.
  • DADGAD (D-A-D-G-A-D): This tuning is commonly used in Celtic and folk music. It has a rich, open sound and allows for unique chord voicings.
  • Open G (D-G-D-G-B-D): This tuning is often used in rock and blues music. It allows for easy slide guitar playing and a full, powerful sound.
  • Drop D (D-A-D-G-B-E): This tuning is often used in heavy metal and grunge music. It allows for easy power chord shapes and a heavy, aggressive sound.
  • Open C (C-G-C-G-C-E): This tuning is less common but can provide a unique, ethereal sound. It is often used in fingerstyle guitar playing.

The Emotional Impact of Nick Drake’s Tunings

The Emotional Impact of Nick Drake’s Tunings

The alternate tunings that Nick Drake employed in his music are not mere technical feats; they are the vessels through which he conveyed profound emotional landscapes.

Take, for instance, the haunting CGCFCE tuning used in “Pink Moon” – it creates a spacious, otherworldly atmosphere that perfectly captures the song’s introspective melancholy.

In “River Man,” the tuning BEBEBE brings a mysterious and reflective quality to the song, as the drone of the open strings resonates with a sense of longing and depth that standard tuning could never achieve.

As a devoted fan, I’ve always felt that Drake’s genius lies in his ability to use these tunings to reach into the listener’s soul, creating a deeply personal and emotional experience that has forever changed the way I perceive the power of music.

Drake’s Tuning Legacy

Nick Drake’s pioneering use of alternate tunings has left an indelible mark on music, influencing a wide array of artists across genres, from the introspective indie-folk of Elliott Smith to the experimental soundscapes of Radiohead.

His tunings have become a touchstone for guitarists seeking to evoke emotion beyond words, creating a legacy that transcends folk and enters the broader tapestry of music as a form of pure, emotive communication.

Drake’s subtle yet profound impact can be heard in the way contemporary musicians approach the guitar not just as an instrument, but as a tool for heartfelt expression.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the guitar tuning used by Nick Drake on Pink Moon?

Nick Drake used a unique tuning on the title track of his album Pink Moon. The tuning is CGCFCE, and it is sometimes referred to as “Pink Moon tuning.”

What are the chords for CGCFCE tuning?

The CGCFCE tuning used by Nick Drake on “Pink Moon” can be played with the following chords:

C: x5555x G: x5553x C: x5555x F: x5558x C: x5555x E: x5554x

Did Nick Drake use a thumb pick?

There is no evidence to suggest that Nick Drake used a thumb pick. However, he did use fingerpicks at times, particularly in his early recordings.

What are some Nick Drake tabs for fingerpicking?

Some popular Nick Drake fingerpicking tabs include “Cello Song,” “Northern Sky,” “Time Has Told Me,” “One of These Things First,” and “Fly.” These tabs can be found online or in various guitar tab books.

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