Piccolo Guitar Tuning: The Ultimate Guide [2023 Edition]

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If you’re curious about piccolo guitar tuning, this post is for you!

Although I don’t technically own a piccolo guitar, I do own a guitalele.

And in case you didn’t know, a guitalele is the nylon string equivalent of a piccolo guitar (with a few other minor differences that I address in my post, guitalele vs piccolo guitar).

So when you string a guitalele with steel strings as I have done, you essentially have a piccolo guitar.

(But only do this if your guitalele has a truss rod. Otherwise, you will likely warp or snap your instrument’s neck!)

And since I’m familiar with guitalele tunings, I thought I’d put together this guide for piccolo guitar tunings.

So what is standard tuning for the piccolo guitar?

A piccolo guitar is tuned to ADGCEa in the same intervals as a guitar but up a fourth.

This is the same tuning as a standard guitar if you were to capo it on the fifth fret. 

Standard Piccolo Guitar Tuning: ADGCEa

In this clip, I play a lick from the Here Comes the Sun in standard piccolo guitar tuning with steel strings on my guitalele.

Standard piccolo guitar tuning will sound just like a steel-string guitar capoed on the fifth fret. 

So what strings are best for this tuning?

Unfortunately, I don’t know of any strings made specifically for the piccolo guitar.

That said, my favorite strings, extra light Elixirs, should work fine for this pitched-up tuning.

Regardless of the brand you use, I recommend extra lights and not a heavier gauge.

This is because you will be tuning these strings beyond the tension of standard guitar tuning.

Standard Guitar Tuning (EADGBe)

If you’ve ever wondered if a piccolo guitar can be tuned like a guitar, then this section is for you.

The answer is yes, you can absolutely tune a piccolo guitar to standard guitar tuning: EADGBe.

However, note that it’s a non-standard tuning for the piccolo guitar.

In effect, this tuning makes your piccolo guitar no different than a travel guitar since the only difference between it and a standard guitar is its size in this case.

For standard guitar tuning on a piccolo, I actually recommend the same string set above – extra light elixirs.

I use these strings on my guitars and guitar-like instruments for standard guitar and standard guitalele/piccolo guitar tuning.

They work very well!

High E/Octave Tuning (eadgbe) for the Piccolo Guitar

If you prefer the sound of a guitar tuned up an octave, you can also try this tuning setup on a piccolo guitar.

This is the same tuning as a mando guitar.

High E tuning allows you to play in the same tonal range as higher-pitched instruments like the mandolin or mando guitar. 

I haven’t tuned my guitalele to high E tuning yet.

But I do have a mando-guitar, and its standard tuning is high E tuning.

On this acoustic instrument, I’m actually using electric super light Elixirs.

This is because their string gauges more closely match the manufacturers’ string gauges originally on my mando-guitar.

As you can imagine, electric strings on an acoustic instrument don’t quite resonate the same way acoustic strings do.

That said, they do work.

And if you want to use the most cautious choice on your piccolo guitar when testing out high E tuning, I recommend super-light electric strings.

But I plan on putting the same extra light acoustic elixirs I recommended above on my mando-guitar with high E tuning the next time I restring it.

Although these strings have thicker gauges and are designed for a tuning a full octave below high E tuning, the worst that can happen is that I break a string when restringing!

And I think the extra strain on the neck of the instrument is worth getting a more resonant sound out of an already small instrument that struggles with projection.

Likewise, you may want to experiment with super-light electric strings and extra light acoustic strings for high E tuning on the piccolo.

“DADGAD” Tuning

If you’re familiar with alternate tunings for the standard guitar, you’ve probably heard of DADGAD tuning.

This alternate tuning gives you a different sound from your instrument with more versatility than an open tuning.

And there are a few ways you can accomplish DADGAD tuning on a piccolo guitar.

First, when tuning away from standard guitalele tuning, the equivalent of DADGAD tuning is actually GDGCDG.

This will give you that same DADGAD sound you would get on the guitar but as if you were to capo on the 5th fret.

In this video, I’ve tuned to the guitalele’s equivalent DADGAD tuning which is GDGCDG (as if you were playing in DADGAD but capoed on the 5th fret of the standard guitar). This is on my guitalele with nylon strings, but you get the idea.

You can also tune your piccolo all the way down to DADGAD, just like you would on a standard guitar.

Finally, you can use a short-cut capo to capo only strings five, four, and three on the second fret of the guitalele.

This will give you an equivalent tuning of GDGCDG capoed on the 2nd fret or AEADEA.

In this video, I’m using the Kyser short cut capo to capo strings 5, 4, and 3 on the second fret to play with a tuning in the same intervals as DADGAD or GDGCDG but on capo 2 so no retuning is necessary.


I hope this guide helps you understand the various tunings for the piccolo guitar.

Let me know in the comments if you have any further questions!

4 Responses

  1. Do you a demo sound of EADGBe tuning? Thanks

    1. Hi Mik,

      I wish I had a demo of standard-guitar tuning on the piccolo. Would a demo of standard guitar tuning on a guitalele help? I could probably record one and post it here on the blog.

  2. Hi Harrison, thanks for the response. I don’t think it’s necessary since I don’t really like the strumming sound of nylon string plus the neck in guitalele is a bit wider right (compared to acoustic steel srring)? I mostly strum my guitar, so i like narrower neck & steel strings sound.

  3. I have an ADGCEA-tuned guitar built for me by Gary Zimnicki. The scale-length is exactly as though I’d capo’d the guitar at the fifth fret. So, I’m not sure that your comment “Regardless of the brand you use, I recommend extra lights and not a heavier gauge. This is because you will be tuning these strings beyond the tension of standard guitar tuning.” is accurate in this case – the length of string producing a low A, for example, is the same on both instruments, and so the tension required to be in tune would be the same for both.
    That said, I’ve been going with Thomastik AC110’s, which are really light. 🙂
    I’ve been calling my instrument a “steel string requinto” – would “piccolo guitar” be more, well, official?
    If you’d like to hear the instrument, look for feiringcelta on Instagram.

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