The Complete Guide to Seven Nation Army Tuning (2023 Edition)

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If you’re curious about Seven Nation Army tuning, this post is for you!

Ever since this song came out, it rocketed The White Stripes to fame.

And although they never seemed to have subsequent hits to match the fame of Seven Nation Army, they were a solid band in their own right.

So what’s Seven Nation Army tuning?

To play it just like Jack White, you would use Open A tuning (that’s: E-A-E-A-C#-E) along with a DigiTech Whammy pedal which can drop the tuning an octave.

In the sections below, I’ll unpack this more!

The White Stripes and Their Biggest Song

Jack White is a seriously innovative musician. Although the band is not around anymore, most remember Seven Nation Army. In fact, its main riff is so awesome that entire stadiums sing it in unison at countless sports games.

The main riff, or the main theme, repeats throughout the song. In fact, Seven Nation Army is almost entirely just this one riff. But aside from it, we have a very catchy vocal melody.

And these two elements work hand-in-hand. This is what eventually made the song so great. Despite the song’s overall simplicity, Jack White had a very innovative approach here.

He wrote the main riff back in 2002. He like the melody and hoped to use it as a James Bond theme at one point. However, he ended up using it for The White Stripes. What’s weird is that few around him seemed to hear the potential in this riff. But of course, it eventually turned into a worldwide hit.

The song is also famous for Jack’s use of the DigiTech Whammy pedal. What sounds like a murky bass guitar is actually his old Kay Hollowbody guitar dropped an octave through this device.

Here’s the live version of the song. This one is from 2007, performed at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival.

The White Stripes - Seven Nation Army (Live at Bonnaroo 2007)

The “Seven Nation Army” Tuning

But another thing that’s interesting is the tuning. Sure, most bands play in the E standard tuning when covering the song. However, Jack White actually had another thing in mind.

In the song, we have the following tuning:

  • E-A-E-A-C#-E

Or, to be more precise:

  • E2-A2-E3-A3-C#3-E4

Now, if you’ve been reading about guitar tunings online, you might recognize this one. This is actually open A tuning.

For some reason, Jack decided to go with this one instead of the E standard. Why’s that the case? Well, no one can say for sure. But open tunings are far from uncommon.

Nonetheless, it’s a simple song. What this means is that anyone can perform it in E standard. In fact, this is how almost everyone plays it anyway. But what’s important is that the song sounds the way it should. It doesn’t matter what tuning you use.

What’s So Special About This Tuning?

As I mentioned, this tuning is called open A. Essentially, open strings form an A major chord. If you play all of the 6 strings at the same time, you’d get a fully functioning A major chord.

Such tunings are very useful for certain musical styles. They’re also very popular among slide guitar players. It allows them to easily play major third intervals with a slide.

But although open tunings are common, you don’t often see open A. And especially not for a song written in E minor, like “Seven Nation Army.”

The bottom two strings are the same as with the E standard. But things get different once you get to the 4th string. Instead of going with D, you tune it up one whole step to E.

The same goes for the 3rd and 2nd strings. Instead of G, you tune the third string one whole step higher to A. And instead of B on the 2nd string, you go one step higher for C#.

Of course, the 1st string remains the same, the regular E4. But as you might notice, the top 3 strings form an A major triad. You have A, C#, and E.

Open E, open D, and open C are way more present among guitarists. Nonetheless, they all have the same distribution of intervals.

Playing in the “Seven Nation Army” Tuning

One great thing about open tunings is that they make it easier to use major chords. All you have to do is use a barre chord. There are also other forms of open tunings. These can include minor chords or even extended chords.

However, open A tuning has its challenges. Firstly, there’s a significant increase in string tension. This is why I’d recommend using lighter string gauges. 9 or 8-gauge strings would do.

But the most important thing to bear in mind is a completely different distribution of intervals. Chord shapes and scale shapes are completely different. You essentially have to re-learn the fretboard. Be it “Seven Nation Army” or any other song, you have to get accustomed to it.

Musicians usually go one way or the other. They prefer standard or open tunings. Open A tuning is usually popular among blues, county, bluegrass, or folk musicians. In case you’re interested, here’s a more in-depth video on this tuning.

The What and How of Open A Tuning | Tuesday Blues #188

Seven Nation Army Tuning Conclusion

I hope this article has clarified the tuning used in this epic song.

And if you want to read more about different tunings used by famous bands, check out the following posts!

Also, if you have further questions about this or another guitar-related subject, let me know in the comments!

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