Thoughts :: 8-string tunings

May 11th, 2020
A hippo in a flower field.
Schecter C-8 Deluxe

In 2016, before Sækla, I wrote a a post about my guitar tuning at that time. An year after, I wrote two other posts (here and here) updating and welding the subject.

This post is an adaptation and translation of that thread.

Turning point

In the beginning of 2016, I decided to break with the conventions and to do what I want and feel comfort to do. No more standard tunings, no more attending expectations. I took 20 years to get there.

My first try was exchanging the regular picks by finger ones, but that didn’t work. I simply couldn’t get at ease with them. So I came back to the regular picks.

DAD-GAD

The standard guitar tuning (EADBDE) doesn’t meet my purposes, so I’ve put it away since my earnly youth. But I used a very similar tuning for a long time, the Drop D. At the first post’s time, I was just migrated to the Celtic Tuning, popular in the Irish folk music, with a very interesting sound. But it narrows the high pitches a bit.

To solve that issue, I found the 8-string guitar.

I thought the standard 8-string tuning was the metalheads’ one, which is the EADBDE, plus 2 lower strings: FBEADGBE, but there are two standad 8-string tunings:

  • Jazz 8-string tuning: 5 higher guitar strings and 3 lower bass ones: EADADGBE;
  • Classical Music 8-string tuning: the 6 middle strings are similar to the standard EADGBE, but changing B by C, the 8th string is an A (one octave lower than the 6th), and the 1st one is another A (a perfect 4th higher than the 2nd string): AEADGCEA.

That Classical Music tuning is used by Egberto Gismonti, and was what I was looking for!

So I sold my cherry Tagima Memphis MPL 100 and purchased a satin-black Schecter C-8 Deluxe. I followed the Classical Music tuning concept, applying it to the DAD-GAD. The result was 55Hz A + DAD-GAD + 392Hz G (ADADGADG).

The sound became very interessing, and some songs had become unexpected easier to play.

So-far tunings

Tuning8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd1st
EADGBE (standard)--82.4Hz
[E2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
246.9Hz
[B3]
329.6Hz
[E4]
Drop D--73.4Hz
[D2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
246.9Hz
[B3]
329.6Hz
[E4]
Celtic (DAD-GAD)--73.4Hz
[D2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
220Hz
[A3]
293.6Hz
[D4]
FBEADGBE (Heavy Metal)46.2Hz
[F1]
61.7Hz
[B1]
82.4Hz
[E2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
246.9Hz
[B3]
329.6Hz
[E4]
EADADGBE (Jazz)41.2Hz
[E1]
55Hz
[A1]
73.2Hz
[D2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
246.9Hz
[B3]
329.6Hz
[E4]
Gauge (Jazz / Heavy Metal).080".064".046".034".024".016".011".009"
AEADGCEA (Classical Music)55Hz
[A1]
82.4Hz
[E2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
261.6Hz
[C4]
329.6Hz
[E4]
440Hz
[A4]
My tuning55Hz
[A1]
73.4Hz
[D2]
110Hz
[A2]
146.8Hz
[D3]
196Hz
[G3]
220Hz
[A3]
293.6Hz
[D4]
392Hz
[G4]
My gauge.062".046".036".026".016".011".009".008"

Open C

After a lot of rehearsals, I realised a drawback: it‘s very easy to miss the right strings in the same neck region I’m playing.

I felt that from the very beginning, but I thought it was only a matter of practice. It wasn’t. After months playing the 8-string DAD-GAD tuning version, the problem was persisting.

Meanwhile, I had tuned my acoustic guitar in Open C, in order to make it easier for my son to play it. Then I had an insight!

Using an open tuning, only the neck region is relevant, one’s always in the same scale slice, even if miss the right string – only the octave is changed.

Thereafter I’ve been tuning my 8-string guitar using a version of Open C:

8th7th6th5th4th3rd2nd1st
49Hz65.4Hz98Hz130.8Hz196Hz261.6Hz329.6Hz392Hz
[G1][C2][G2][C3][G3][C4][E4][G4]
.080".046".034".024".016".010".009".008"

The rationale:

  • I take no advantage of 2 lower strings, so only one lower G is enough to grant the low pitches, even not using the board near the nut, which means I can get only the bass G string.
  • I got the treble from the high G on the 1st string.
  • It smooths the missing-region issue.

From melody’s perspective, the string pairs 7th-6th, 5th-4th, and 3rd-1st complete a octave each, while the 8th string gives a lower tetrachord to supply the leading tone(s).

From harmony’s perspective, a simple barring finger gives us a major chord (if using the 2nd string). All leading and passing tones can be reached 2 frets ahead.

The only annoyance is the 4th degree, always far away.

Japanese scales

The 8-string Open C makes very easy to play the Japanese pentatonic scales, Yo scale and Sakura pentatonic.

Epilogue

That was the tuning I’ve been using in my work.

For better informations about how to tune a guitar, please read the Terry Stefan’s post, explaining tuning in detail and approaching other essential subjects, like tuning by ear, using a piano, the 5th fret method, using harmonics (my favorite method), using a tuner, and lots of useful FAQs.

Music