Some guitar players like to get a bit fancy with the way they tune their guitars.
From drop to open tunings, to things that can only be mentioned by naming the note that each string is tuned up to.
This can get overwhelming quickly especially if you are just starting out.
There are many alternate tunings to choose from when trying to broaden your horizons as a guitarist.
But can this quest for originality also alienate you as a player?
Can 2 guitarists using different tunings play together?
You can perfectly have 2 guitars tuned differently playing together the same song. An alternate tuning will only shift the notes around the fretboard, and it’s only a matter of learning the new positions for the notes or chords you need to play. Richer arrangements can originate from this.
In this article, I will tell you all you need to know about how these alternative tunings work together with the standard tuning or among themselves.
After leaving this page you will know exactly how to approach playing a song with guitars tuned differently or how to cooperate on it with another guitarist that prefers an eccentric tuning.
Are you ready to get started?
Can you play any song with any guitar tuning?
The answer to this question has certain nuances, but I will say that you can actually play just about any song with any guitar tuning.
And this assertion is technically correct.
However, there’s a caveat I’d like to mention and that is that I can imagine, in some cases, although you will be playing the correct chords and notes, it will be impossible for you to sound exactly like the original recording if you don’t respect its authentic tuning.
This is because, as you might know, notes on a guitar repeat in different places across the fingerboard, however, they have a slightly different sound in each of their appearances.
So, if you play a song written and recorded in standard tuning, with an open tuning, for instance, you will probably be able to hit all the correct chords, however, they won’t sound exactly the same as they do in their “original” positions.
Finally, the idea that you can play any song with any alternate tuning might break if you dive too deep into weird tunings that don’t allow you to play many chords as the most popular do.
What’s the point of using different guitar tunings?
Breaking out of the standard tuning can be a refreshing exercise for players that never done it before.
Although confusing at first, having all notes in different places along the fretboard might force you to go out of auto-pilot noodling and have to think things before executing them, or perhaps fall back completely on your ear and just play what sounds right.
There are many different kinds of alternative tunings, from slight variations to the standard, to completely crazy ways of configuring the strings.
Each has its benefits and drawbacks, but trying most of them can be great fun if you have the patience to understand them.
If you are interested in knowing more reasons to try out alternate tunings on guitar, I recommend you check out the following article:
Can 2 guitars tuned differently play together?
2 guitars that are tuned differently can absolutely play together, as long as they know what they are doing.
Using an alternate tuning on guitar will only arrange notes and chords differently on the neck, but still, allow you to access them with more or less difficulty.
So, if you or a bandmate choose to try out a different tuning, it will be just a matter of learning where each note or chord is and then playing normally together.
In fact, alternate tunings might allow you to play different chord voicings than your partner, making the outcome a fuller harmonic blanket for the rest of the band.
As a simple example, let’s suppose you went for a dropped D tuning, and the other guitar in your band uses standard tuning:
The only limitation your bandmate will have is that you will be able to play 2 notes that aren’t available to him or her.
Namely the low D# and low D.
Apart from these, everything you do can be replicated in standard tuning, with different finger positions.
And when you go to these lower notes, if you ever do, the other guitar could reach for them an octave higher, or go for another note that makes sense harmonically with them, such as a third or fifth.
However, this is not an arrangement class, but a practical approach to how to make work different tunings in a band.
Would chords work the same if guitars have alternate tunings?
Yes, chords still work the same way in alternatively tuned guitars, the only thing is that they might be moved around the neck when compared to standard tuning, and you might also need to learn new chord shapes.
But once you get these new shapes and positions down your fingers, playing them with your band will just work as it always did.
Alternate tunings, however, might allow you to use different chord voicings that are impossible to play in standard tuning, allowing for richer and unique sounds.
Combining this new palette of chord colors with the ones the rest of your band already has will only add more possibilities to your songs.
Most instruments are tuned differently and they can still play together
If you pay attention, most musical instruments, and even stringed instruments are tuned differently, and they still work together in bands and orchestras.
For instance, violin strings are tuned in fifths, while guitar strings are tuned in fourths (standard tuning) and this doesn’t prevent composers from making beautiful arrangements that combine these instruments.
Again, the only thing that matters is the notes you are playing and not where they live on the fretboard.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.