Half Step Down Tuning on the Guitar (2023 Edition)

Table of Contents

If you’re curious about half step down tuning on the guitar, this post is for you!

In short, half step down tuning on the guitar is:

  • A2
  • D3
  • G3
  • B3
  • E4

I’ll unpack when and why you might use this tuning in the sections below!

Understanding Guitar Tunings

What we first need to do is understand how guitar tunings work.

The so-called E standard is what most guitar players are using.

On one the other hand, it’s really hard to say what the “standard” is since the instrument and its use have changed a lot.

However, most of the other tunings have identical, or almost identical, distribution of intervals between strings.

All of the strings except for the 2nd and 3rd (B and G) are in perfect 4th interval.

These two form a major 3rd interval, which “moves” the top two strings one semitone lower compared to a hypothetical all 4th tuning.

Now, if you wish to change the tuning, you just lower the pitch of all strings by one or more semitones.

For instance, you move them all down two semitones and it’s called the D standard.

In some rare cases, we have tunings that are higher rather than lower, like the F standard.

We also have so-called drop tunings, like drop D.

So you just use the standard tuning and detune the bottom string one whole step to D.

This gives you a simple way to finger a power chord on the bottom two or three strings, although this is also a personal preference.

Half-Step Down Tuning on the Guitar Explained

Now, among guitar players, going one half-step down is not uncommon.

Let’s first look at how the E standard tuning looks:

  • E2
  • A2
  • D3
  • G3
  • B3
  • E4

If you tune it down one semitone or half-step, then it looks like this:

  • Eb2
  • Ab2
  • Db3
  • Gb3
  • Bb3
  • Eb4

In case you prefer sharps over flats, then we can present it this way:

  • D#2
  • G#2
  • C#3
  • F#3
  • A#3
  • D#4

Both ways are technically correct.

So we usually call this tuning E-flat standard or D-sharp standard.

What’s the Advantage of Using the Half-Step Down Tuning on the Guitar?

Most commonly, these lower tunings come in handy if you want to transpose songs one semitone lower.

At the same time, you’re keeping the same fingerings on the fretboard, keeping the main vibe of the song.

Most importantly, this is common for bands who want to make things easier for their singers.

As you may know, rock and metal bands often tend to write and record songs with high-pitched vocals.

But unfortunately, singers often can’t perform entire tours in this range.

Going one semitone lower can help them achieve a more comfortable range to sing in.

Generally speaking, going lower can help you extend your instrument’s range.

So it’s not uncommon for guitar-oriented bands to use the E-flat standard.

For metal and rock music, and even some blues rock, things can sound just a bit heavier with this tuning.

With some tube amps, you may even get that rougher and richer kind of tone, although this is debatable and different guitar players report different results.

Some Popular Uses

Although not as common as E standard, going one semitone lower is pretty common.

As I mentioned already, it’s popular in rock and metal music.

And this is exactly where you’ll find most of these examples.

For instance, Black Sabbath tuned down a semitone for their “Heaven and Hell” album in 1980.

Black Sabbath - Heaven & Hell (Full Album)

Then we also have a bunch of Guns N’ Roses songs.

Guns N' Roses - Welcome To The Jungle

Of course, Slayer used this tuning for almost all of their discography.

In fact, I’d argue that they’re one of the bands who popularized the tuning.

Slayer - Angel Of Death (Live At The Augusta Civic Center, Maine/2004)

Going outside of metal, Stevie Ray Vaughan was also one of the musicians who preferred this tuning over the E standard.

Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Pride And Joy (Live at Montreux 1982)

But then we also had bands like The Police who used this tuning.

For example, their major hit “Every Breath You Take” was recorded with E-flat standard tuning.

The Police - Every Breath You Take (Official Music Video)

Half Step Down Tuning: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand what this tuning is and why you might use it!

And if you want to learn more about different guitar tunings on this blog, then check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have more questions about this or another guitar-related topic!

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