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I have played guitar for many years and only experimented once during this past Spring with alternative tunings. Are there any great sites where one can dip their feet in, get some chord charts and try some well known songs to see how they work?

Kevin Lougheed

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Replies to This Discussion

I suggest you try the Kyser K-Lever Series of Partial Capos. You simply put one of the four different capos on a standard tuned guitar and the capos puts you in a alternate tuning. Since you are not changing the actual tuning of the guitar, you start out with familiar chord forms but get the beautiful different chord voicing of an alternate tuning. The four different capos are:
Drop D
Double Drop D
Open G
They are available from Elderly, Kyser, Ebay and me.

I hope this will help. Greg
I do find this intriguing and perhaps worthwhile looking at. I do like the idea of using the familiar chord shapes but obviously wonder what I might be missing by "sounding like" DADGAD. Thanks though for the heads up and I may indeed take you in the near future.

Would the Kyser K-Lever series work with a 000-16 Martin? The write up suggests "This partial capo is designed to be used on any curved fret (radiused fingerboard), six string, acoustic or electric guitar" so I am not entirely sure if this will work.

Thanks for this Jeremy...I will check it out for sure.
I recomend you try and get hold of alternate tunings guitar essentials, acoustic guitar private lessons. It has all you need in one book to keep you going for quite sometime, it has over 60 tunings to try. 12 in-depth lessons, 10 full songs, plus tips and techniques from David Crosby, Alex De Grassi, David Wilcox and more.
To get you started why not try dropped d, Where you drop the sixth string. It's good for fingerpicking because of the octave in the open bass strings 6,4. good when plying alternating thumb leaving the fingers to the melody.
I also reconmend a book by Rikky Rooksby How to write songs on guitar. it has a good section on alternate tunnings.
I hope this might by of help to you. regards. marc picard
Thanks for this Marc...I will also check out this excellent information you have shared. I am hoping to visit my two best guitar shops over the next 3-4 days so will add this to my "shopping list" to see if they have in stock.

I've found that the Drop D is easily achieved by simply applying the capo to the second fret while leaving the low E untouched and open. Drop E? Anyway, it's quick and easy. Two capos allow you to move on up the fretboard for other keys.
As several people have noted, an easy way to achieve an alternate tuning is to use a partial capo. I agree but really, it's not entirely true. In my opinion the partial capo has several advantages over a true alternate tuning, but there are some differences that could be regarded as disadvantages depending on your perspective. For example, a nice thing about the partial capo is that you don't have to re-tune (and maybe break a string), but that's not the only difference. In particular, what you do with your left hand will rarely be the same.

Most alternate tunings are open tunings and that makes them fairly easy to learn (even DADGAD is a suspended fourth tuning). The instrument will sound nice without fretting any strings and a simple bar of all string will sound equally nice. A downside is that to play any chord that actually does require fretting will force you to learn a new chord shape and we all know how much time and effort this will take. Still, there will always be some easy chords in any tuning and simple tunes don't require so many chords.

Let's look at an example, take an open-A tuning. You can get there from standard tuning by tightening the second, third and fourth strings to a tone that is two half-steps higher so that the strings are tuned to EAEAC#E. A partial capo advocate will say that the same result can be achieved by placing a 3-string capo at the second fret (by the way you can buy a $5 standard capo and make a satisfactory 3-string capo in a few minutes with a hack-saw, a file and a knife). So long as you leave your left hand hanging at your side this is true.

But as an experiment, put that partial capo down on the second fret. Now, just try fretting this at, say the 4th fret on all strings. Trust me, what you hear probably has a name, but it won't closely resemble any major chord, as it would if you had re-tuned the three strings. But if you simply try some familiar chord shape when using the partial capo, especially if you don't strike the second third or fourth chord (or if your chord requires you to fret those strings) you will probably be surprised to get a fairly pleasing sound. If you think through the mechanics of what you are doing, it should be pretty obvious about what is happening.

For myself, I really do like the partial capo concept. I'm not using them much right now, but I'll probably go back to using them some time. I'm strictly an amateur, but I've some tunes up on my page that use various partial capo's and I've commented on how they are played. Try it, you may like it.

By the way, if you are at a loss for how to play a chord in some alternate tuning there are some chord books, but my preference is some inexpensive software. Do a search for something called Virtual Fretboard. It's probably not the only tool out there, but it has worked for me.
Try this link -

Mark Hanson also has a book out called 'Alternate tunings' which I have found quite useful.

Chris Banks
Hi Kevin
Try my prototype teaching site. John teaches "Silent Night" in Open G and gives a nice little video tutorial on getting into Open G.
Good luck! Open tunings are great fun

My friend Gene Kessler has written a book on Open E Tuning with the easiest chord theory chart I've seen. I'm still helping get his website up so the books not there yet, but in the meantime you can contact him at He'll help with any of your questions.
there was a great article in Acoustic Guitar a while back! you could search the archives and probably find it or order the back issue


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