If you’ve ever been curious about Korn tuning or which alternate tunings this band uses, this post is for you!
I am not necessarily a huge Korn fan.
But I have been interested in the alternate tunings they use to get their unique sound.
Let’s get into it!
Lower Tunings and Extended-Range Guitars
Sure, we’re all used to regular 6-string guitars. And yes, this is a standard that persists even to this day. However, there’s more to the world of guitar than that. I’m talking about extended-range guitars.
The idea of having more than 6 strings dates way back. As for electric guitars, the idea was explored throughout the 20th century. But it wasn’t until 1990 when Steve Vai teamed up with Ibanez that the instrument saw mass production.
At first, his UV7 model was not that popular. However, an unlikely band brought these guitars to the spotlight. When Korn came onto the scene, everyone was surprised at how they implemented the guitar.
It’s important to differentiate between extended range and other types of guitars with more than 6 strings. For instance, a 12-string guitar comes with string courses. Whereas a 7 or 8-string guitar extends the typical range of a 6-string guitar.
A typical 7-string guitar has an additional B string at the bottom. There have been other concepts over the years, including the addition of a high A string.
Extended-range guitars are more widespread these days. Plenty of musicians and bands use 7, 8, or even 9-string guitars today.
Of course, just like with 6-string guitars, you can tune extended-range guitars differently. The low B string might seem to go too deep for some tastes. But modern metal musicians prefer to down-tune the whole instrument.
What Guitar Tuning Does Korn Use?
Head and Munky from Korn were game-changers in the world of guitar. First, they implemented 7-string guitars in their music before everyone else. This guitar was commonly used by virtuosic players. Instead, they used it for heavy riffing.
A regular 7-string guitar tuning, or B standard, goes like this:
But to be more precise it’s actually:
However, Korn did something different. They went a step further and down-tuned their guitar by two semitones. So going from the bottom to the high string, the tuning looks like this:
You can refer to this tuning as A standard. The intervals between strings are pretty much the same as with the B standard. You can also think of it like D standard but with an added bottom A string.
Essentially, the bottom string is the same note as the 3rd string of a 4-string bass in the standard tuning. That’s pretty low, right?
However, the sound of an extended-range guitar differs from that of a bass guitar. This has to do with different pickups, string gauges, amps, and overall instrument construction and use.
This tuning is present in almost all of their songs. It’s been the center point of the band’s sound and songwriting practices.
What’s So Special About Korn Tuning?
Korn’s debut single Blind was something previously unheard of. One of the main reasons behind it was the super-low tuning. The guitar duet of Munky and Head hits the low A string all throughout the song.
As I already mentioned, the A1 note on the 7-string guitar sounds different compared to A1 on bass guitars. It comes down to the timbre or tone quality.
Going so low on an electric guitar gives the instrument a distinct sound. Many pickups and even guitar pedals and amps these days are designed to work with these lower frequencies. But the main idea still remains to this day.
Just check out these riffs in Korn’s Blind.
The bottom A string is supposed to sound harsher and more rugged. It adds sonic qualities that most usually refer to as being heavy.
Of course, heaviness in metal music lies in more than just low tunings. But if we’re talking about tone, lower tunings certainly contribute to it. The way that pickups, pedals, and amps process such a signal adds some rich harmonic content.
Even if you add some softer-sounding overdrive, it will still feel heavy. This is especially the case if you use tube-driven amps.
But That’s Not All…
However, A standard isn’t the only tuning that they used over the years. Korn has also some tunings to go even deeper.
One such song is Alone I Break from the 2002 album Untouchables. Here they go even one semitone lower, down to G# or Ab tuning. It’s like the C# or Db tuning on a 6-string guitar but with an added bottom string.
It goes like this:
If you think of it as Ab standard, then we can write it down like this:
The song isn’t particularly heavy, but the tuning does its thing. Here’s the song in the embedded player below.
Down-tuning Your Guitar: What You Should Know
If you’re planning to tune your guitar to a lower Korn tuning, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, I recommend using a long-scale or baritone guitar. Whether it’s a 6-string or a 7-string, it’s always good to have a scale length of at least 26.5 inches when dealing with tunings this low.
Regular 7-string guitars usually have 25.5-inch scales. This is great for the B standard or A# standard tunings. But if you go lower, strings might feel too loose.
If you can’t get your hands on a long-scale guitar, then try with thicker string gauges. This will help you keep the string tension at normal levels.
You can also play most of Korn songs on a 6-string baritone guitar. You’ll just have to find a way to work without the top string. But you can definitely play some of the song parts in different positions.
Korn Tuning: Conclusion
I hope this has clarified Korn tuning for you and the sorts of alternate tunings this band uses!
And if you’re curious about other alternate tunings, check out my following posts:
As usual, feel free to let me know of any questions you may have about this or another guitar-related topic in the comments below!