What is “Nashville Tuning” and Why is it Great?

Most musicians have a guitar or two at home. Something to pluck along with as you listen to music, something to play a little ditty in between washing the dishes and bedtime.

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But when you enter a recording studio, there is often a swath of musical instruments at your disposal. So much so that you might even make a discovery, learning about something new that can make your songs sing that much brighter.

One such revelation for some might be a guitar that’s strung with “Nashville Tuning.”

But what is this? And why is it the best sound?

How To Do It

Something many guitar players are familiar with is the 12-string guitar.

While “normal” guitars are known as six-string instruments, whether talking acoustic or electric, the 12-string doubles those. Six-string guitars are strung in order E-B-G-D-A-E, from highest to lowest. But with a 12-string guitar, those notes are doubled. High E with High E, High B with High B.

This is where it gets interesting: the other strings, G-D-A-E, are doubled but instead of being the same note, they are octaves up. This gives the 12-string guitar a bright, shiny, almost choir-like tone. High E with High E, High B with High B, High G with G, High D with D, High A with A, and High E with E.

A guitar strung in “Nashville Tuning” is the best of both worlds. It uses only six strings, but the lower octave strings are removed. With Nashville Tuning, you replace the E-A-D-G strings with strings that are an octave higher than the standard six-string.

The result is a shimmery sound but not as thick or fat as one produced by a 12-string guitar. It also gives the effect of a different open tuning when the notes remain the same and the player doesn’t have to learn new chord shapes.

Examples of Songs in “Nashville Tuning”

Examples of songs played with Nashville Tuning are “Hey You” from the Pink Floyd album, The Wall. The Kansas song “Dust in the Wind,” from the band’s Point of Know Return album, is also played with this style of tuning. The Rolling Stones song “Wild Horses” features both a 12-string and a guitar in Nashville Tuning.

In the video below you can see two guitars, one played standard and one played with Nashville Tuning. See if you can tell the difference below.

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