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The Complete Guide to Morbid Angel Tuning (2022 Edition)

Table of Contents

If you’re curious about Morbid Angel tuning and how to get their sound, you’ve come to the right post!

Background

Coming from Tampa, Florida, Morbid Angel came together in 1983.

Although originally starting as a thrash metal band, they soon transitioned into new territories.

It didn’t take long for Morbid Angel to become one of the pioneering bands in the death metal genre

Although at this point guitarist Trey Azagthoth is the only classic-era member, Morbid Angel still retains the cult status in the genre.

Of course, death metal comes with its unique traits.

This most often includes various tunings.

While the early genre usually wasn’t going that low, some death metal bands went into some serious chugging downtuned areas.

While the tuning itself isn’t something that defines the heaviness of death metal, it certainly helps.

With the right gear and right settings, a lower tuning can sound pretty sinister.

Nonetheless, you can do that in E standard, or some slightly lower tunings, like E-flat standard or D standard.

Morbid Angel Tuning Guide

Although things might seem weird with some of their songs, Morbid Angel used some pretty basic tunings.

What might cause confusion is that some of the songs feature those super-deep chugging riffs.

But it’s actually not that complicated.

The thing is that Morbid Angel used both 6-string and 7-string guitars.

And although they don’t stick to standard tunings in both cases, it’s still far from a complicated setting.

Besides, in my opinion, there’s no longer such thing as the “standard” tuning, especially in metal music.

But that’s just me.

Anyhow, let’s dig in.

6-String Guitar

When it comes to 6-string songs, Morbid Angel focuses on the E-flat standard tuning.

This is essentially your E standard lowered down by one half step.

The distribution of intervals between all strings is exactly the same.

Your guitar will just have all strings one semitone lower.

This particular tuning became pretty popular among metal bands in the 1980s.

It eventually found its way into early death metal.

Now, if you’re playing in this tuning, you should also know the notes.

Technically, playing any piece of music won’t be the same if you lower it by one semitone.

After all, you’re pretty much changing the key.

So let’s look at all the strings.

Below, you have the list of strings going from the bottom 6th to the top 1st.

  • 6th – Eb
  • 5th – Ab
  • 4th – Db
  • 3rd – Gb
  • 2nd – Bb
  • 1st – Eb

It’s pretty simple, just put flats on everything, right?

Now, some may also stumble upon the D# standard tuning.

In practice, this is exactly the same one as the E-flat standard.

However, what’s different is how you write it down.

Both ways are correct.

So let’s see what this one looks like.

  • 6th – D#
  • 5th – G#
  • 4th – C#
  • 3rd – F#
  • 2nd – A#
  • 1st – D#

That’s pretty much it.

A huge portion of Morbid Angel’s works is in this tuning.

7-String Guitar

But then we also have 7-string guitar songs.

One of the most famous examples is their “God of Emptiness” from the 1993 album “Covenant.”

In case you’re interested, here’s a pretty useful lesson for the song.

Now, what Morbid angel did here is that they’ve tuned down one semitone lower on 7-string guitars.

So instead of the B standard or B-E-A-D-G-B-E, we have this particular tuning:

  • 7th – Bb
  • 6th – Eb
  • 5th – Ab
  • 4th – Db
  • 3rd – Gb
  • 2nd – Bb
  • 1st – Eb

Or, if you prefer to use sharps, it would look something like this:

  • 7th – A#
  • 6th – D#
  • 5th – G#
  • 4th – C#
  • 3rd – F#
  • 2nd – A#
  • 1st – D#

Again, both ways are correct, it just comes down to what you need and what you prefer.

These are, in practice, the same notes for both tunings.

Well, they sound the same but are, in theory, not the same notes but rather enharmonic equivalents.

However, for now, I won’t tire you with too much music theory.

Playing 7-String Morbid Angel Songs on a 6-String Guitar

Now, you may be feeling bummed out that you can’t play some Morbid Angel songs because you don’t have a 7-string guitar.

Well, what if I told you that you can?

You’ll just be missing the top string.

And, believe it or not, you won’t be missing it that much, or at all.

What you’ll want to do is take your 6-string and tune it like this:

  • 6th – A#
  • 5th – D#
  • 4th – G#
  • 3rd – C#
  • 2nd – F#
  • 1st – A#

You can already see that these are the same notes as the bottom 6 strings of a 7-string guitar tuned down by one semitone.

If you want to learn a song from tabs, just ignore the top string.

As for the tuning, we can also see that the distribution of intervals won’t be the same as with regular 6-string guitar tunings.

The bottom 4 strings are 6 semitones lower than the E standard.

The 2nd string is tuned 5 semitones lower, and then the 1st string is, again, 6 semitones lower.

Your 1st and 2nd strings form a major 3rd interval, while the other strings form a perfect 4th interval with neighboring strings.

This is because you’re “taking away” the top string of a 7-string guitar.

You could also tune everything down by 6 semitones where the 2nd string would be F.

However, if you’re learning Morbid Angel songs through tabs, then things wouldn’t be sounding right.

So I’d advise you to stick with the example shown above.

Low Tunings on 6-String Guitars

One more thing to bear in mind is that you should probably use a longer-scale 6-string guitar for such tuning (like the one below), or possibly even thicker strings.

Gretsch G5260 Electromatic Jet Baritone Jade Grey Metallic w/V-Stoptail
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You could also take a 7-string set and just use the bottom 6 strings and ditch the top one.

If you’re using a Gibson-style 6-string guitar, then your scale length is a bit shorter, 24.75 inches.

In this case, strings can feel like rubber if you tune them that low.

Thicker strings could solve the issue by increasing the tension.

But, in my opinion, you should probably use either a guitar with a 25.5-inch scale or longer.  

Morbid Angel Tuning: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you better understand Morbid Angel tuning!

And if you want to read more about tunings bands use on this blog, then check out:

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

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