Nashville tuning is unique in that it uses the same notes found in standard guitar tuning. It can be used to great effect to add a distinctive sound to your recordings, or even to help generate new and unique song ideas.
In this article, we’ll look at the origins of Nashville tuning, how best to use it, and what string gauges you’ll need to save potentially damaging your guitar!
What Is Nashville Tuning?
Nashville tuning is an interesting guitar tuning that allows players to achieve a sound similar to a 12-string while using a regular 6-string guitar. It is unusual in that it is tuned EADGBE, with the four lowest strings tuned an octave higher than standard tuning.
Find out exactly how to tune to Nashville tuning in the section below!
The resulting tone is very bright and airy, and allows for a unique take on common chord progressions and the like.
A big difference between this and standard tuning is that while standard tuning has a two-octave range, Nashville has just one. You may think that this would be a disadvantage, but as we’ll find out, there are several unique ways you can use this trait to your advantage.
How Is It Used?
Because they’ll lack some bottom end, guitars in Nashville tuning are typically used alongside a second guitar in standard tuning in order to serve up a wider tonal range.
As there will be small deviations between the playing of the two guitars, the resulting sound is generally even richer, and more chorus-laden than the tones you would achieve from a 12-string guitar alone.
This technique was used in numerous country music records throughout the 60s and 70s.
5 Reasons To Try It
New And Unique Sounds. In the studio, try panning your standard tuned guitar to one side and the Nashville tuned guitar to the other. You’ll be rewarded with a vast and ethereal 12-string-like tone.
Emulate Other Instruments. Other unique sounds can also be achieved using Nashville tuning. For example, placing a capo higher up on the frets can help to produce a tone similar to a mandolin or banjo.
Unlock Your Creativity. The first time you try Nashville tuning you are almost guaranteed to come up with several new musical ideas. Even riffs and licks you’ve been playing for years will take on a whole new lease of life.
No Need For A 12-String. Why go to the hassle of buying and owning a 12-string when you can achieve a similar sound using a Nashville-tuned guitar?
The Notes Are The Same. Thanks to Nashville tuning being EADGBE, you can simply play the chord progressions, riffs, and licks you already know. There’s no need to adjust to a weird and wonderful new alternate tuning.
Who Invented Nashville Tuning?
Nashville tuning was invented in the 1960s by country music session musician Ray Edenton. After initially experimenting with a g-string tuned an octave higher (High Third tuning), Ray tried replacing all of the higher strings with those from a 12-string set.
How To Tune To Nashville Tuning
Also sometimes called high-strung tuning, Nashville tuning is tuned EADGBE. However, it differs from standard guitar tuning as it replaces the 4 lowest strings with the octave strings from a 12-string guitar.
Related Article: Why is Standard Tuning EADGBE?
So what we end up with is the two highest strings tuned exactly the same as standard tuning, but the four lowest strings are tuned one octave higher than usual. You can see the difference between Nashville and standard guitar tuning below.
|Standard Tuning||Nashville Tuning|
Although you can happily use Nashville tuning on any guitar, it will sound best on smaller-bodied guitars such as travel guitars or 3/4 size guitars. This is because the lack of bottom-end in Nashville tuning will lend itself better to guitars designed to produce more of a trebly tone.
Nashville Tuning Strings
Unlike many other alternate tunings, you will definitely need a new set of strings to enjoy Nashville tuning with. You could try, but a standard set of strings would simply exert too much pressure on the neck!
Luckily, you do not have to purchase a pack of 12-string guitar strings only to throw away half of the set. Or even worse, go to the hassle of purchasing each string individually to make up your own custom set!
Thankfully, many brands now produce 6-string packs specifically tensioned for Nashville tuning. For example, D’Addario has sets for both electric and acoustic.
- On electric guitar, a light set of strings are typically around .010 – .014 – .009 – .012 – .018 – .026w.
- On acoustic guitar, you’re looking at .010 – .014 – .009 – .012 – .018 – .027 or thereabouts for a light set.
Alternatively, you could always buy a 12-string set and use half for Nashville tuning, and the remainder for your standard tuned guitar. Two sets in one! This could be a great option if you struggle to get your hands on a set of the (fairly niche!) strings above.
And whatever you do – do not try to tune to Nashville tuning using a standard set of guitar strings. The tension will simply be too high and could cause some serious damage to your instrument,
Check out my guide to guitar tuners to find some great options for getting your guitar into Nashville tuning.
Alternatively, check out my free online guitar tuner guide for some quick options you can use today!
Do I Need A Setup?
Trying out Nashville tuning on a guitar set up for standard tuning may exhibit intonation and/or string height issues. So if you decide that you’d like to make more regular use of this tuning it may be a good idea to set up a guitar specifically for this purpose.
Check out my guitar setup guide for more information on this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Nashville Tuning The Same As High-Strung Tuning?
Technically, Nashville tuning is not the same as high-strung tuning – although most people will use the two names interchangeably. High-strung tuning keeps the G-string at the standard octave, instead of tuning up an octave as with Nashville tuning.
|High-Strung Tuning||Nashville Tuning|
What Songs Are In Nashville Tuning?
A number of well-known artists have utilized Nashville tuning over the years. Here are a few examples of the songs that this particular tuning has been used on.
- Pink Floyd – Hey You
- The Rolling Stones – Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Wild Horses
- Joe Satriani – Always With You, Always With Me
- Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
- Rush – Entre Nous
- The Smiths – The Headmaster Ritual
- The Stooges – Gimme Danger
- Kansas – Dust In The Wind
Listen to the intro from Pink Floyd’s ‘Hey You’ below – it almost sounds like a different instrument is playing!