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Tunings Master List

This listing was started years ago and was meant to be a reasonably sized listing of most of the playable tunings used over the last 100 years in the area of Hawaiian music, western swing, and country music. It's plain I've omitted many blues and modal tunings from this list. Common tunings or ones I consider important and useful are highlighted. Obviously, this is highly subjective and I'd be interested in your input. Please email me your additions and any corrections. Mahalo!

Tunings sometimes contain pitches that aren't "in order" from bottom to top—for example, the high chromatic strings at the bottom of Herb Remington's F#13th. The Midi Pitches column helps clarify the notes named in the Spelling column. The chart below is the key used to generate the midi pitches.

Note Names with Midi Pitches


(Open guitar notes in blue - Middle C in pink)

Many players list their tunings starting with the top string, also called the first string. Makes sense. I prefer to list the pitches from bottom to top since the tuning notes often spell out a chord that corresponds to the name of the tuning. Using the links below you can set your preferred spelling method.

Spell Tunings: [  Bottom String First  |  Top String First  ]

Major Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
A Major E C# A E C# A E 64-61-57-52-49-45-40
A Major E C# A E C# A 64-61-57-52-49-45 High Bass
A Major E C# A E A E 64-61-57-52-45-40 Low Bass
D Major D A F# D A D 62-57-54-50-45-38 Basic
D Major F# D A F# D D 66-62-57-54-50-38 Feet Rogers
E Major E B G# E B G# E 64-59-56-52-47-44-40
E Major E B G# E B E 64-59-56-52-47-40 Basic
G Major D B G D B G 62-59-55-50-47-43 Dobro
G Major D B G D G D 62-59-55-50-43-38 Taro Patch

The major chord tunings are simple to conceptualize and are well suited to early Hawaiian music, early country music, "slide" styles and blues. They were not designed with complex harmony in mind. The A major low bass was the first steel guitar tuning ever, developed by Joseph Kekuku in the 1890s. The E major tunings were the first real innovation over the A major, and they offered improved playability in the slant position on the top three strings. The open G tunings including the basic G dobro tuning remain very popular today among guitarists and dobro players.

Minor Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
C Minor 6th G Eb C A G Eb A 67-63-60-57-55-51-45 Bobby Koefer
C# Minor E C# G# E C# G# E 64-61-56-52-49-44-40
C# Minor E C# G# E B E 64-61-56-52-47-40 Sol Hoopii
C# Minor 7 E C# G# E D B 64-61-56-52-50-47 Sol Hoopii
F#min9 E C# G# E A F# C# G# 64-61-56-52-45-42-37-32 Jerry Byrd

A big leap in tuning evolution occurred when Sol Ho'opi'i and others raised the 2nd string of the E major tuning from B to C#, creating the powerful C# minor tuning family. In fact, for many styles of music minor chords are more versatile than major chords. Sol's C# minor 7 tuning shown was probably the first powerful chord melody tuning where you could get majors, minors, and sevenths in the straight position and using very playable slant bar. Jerry Byrd's F# minor is a very rich "strum" tuning with lots of color for backup chording.

Sixth Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
A6th E C# A F# E C# A E 64-61-57-54-52-49-45-40
A6th E C# A F# E C# 64-61-57-54-52-49 Basic
A6th E C# A F# E C# A A 64-61-57-54-52-49-45-33 Herb Remington
A6th F# E C# A F# E C# A 66-64-61-57-54-52-49-45 High 6th
A6th E C# A F# E C# A F# 64-61-57-54-52-49-45-42 Leon McAuliffe
Bb6th G F D Bb G F D Bb 67-65-62-58-55-53-50-46 High 6th
Bb6th F D Bb G F D Bb G 65-62-58-55-53-50-46-43 Western Swing
B6th G# F# D# B G# F# D# B 68-66-63-59-56-54-51-47 High 6th
B6th F# D# B G# F# D# B G# 66-63-59-56-54-51-47-44 Western Swing
C6th E C A G E C 64-60-57-55-52-48 Basic-6
C6th G E C A G E C A 67-64-60-57-55-52-48-45 Basic-8
C6th D G E C A G E C A F 62-67-64-60-57-55-52-48-45-41 Billy Robinson
C6th E C A G E C A G 64-60-57-55-52-48-45-43 Low G
D6th F# D B A F# D B A 66-62-59-57-54-50-47-45
D6th D B A F# D B A F# 62-59-57-54-50-47-45-42 Rudy Wairata
Eb6th G Eb C Bb G Eb C Bb 67-63-60-58-55-51-48-46
E6th G# E C# B G# E C# B 68-64-61-59-56-52-49-47
E6th E C# B G# E C# B G# 64-61-59-56-52-49-47-44
E6th G# E C# B G# E C# A 68-64-61-59-56-52-49-45 Don Helms
G6th G E D B G E D B 67-64-62-59-55-52-50-47
G6th E D B G E D B G 64-62-59-55-52-50-47-43 High 6th
G6th D B G E B G 62-59-55-52-47-43 Ken Emerson

The sixth chord tunings are hands down the most versatile tunings for beginners and pros alike. Because the strings are evenly spaced in pitch, they are excellent for single-string work. They generally have all the inversions of minor and major triads, which makes them superb for chord melody even though there are no seventh-type chords in the straight bar position; there are very playable sevenths in the slant position, but no rich strums. For this reason, players with double neck steel guitars often combine their sixth tuning with a rich strummer like E13th or B11th. In my opinion, the basic 6-string C6th shown is the most powerful 6-string tuning. The Leon McAuliffe A6th shown was a standard western swing tuning for years before the C6th gained popularity. I still prefer A6th to C6th for the most part, because on older instruments with the sweeter, thinner pickups, that high G on the C6th sounds thin to me. But that basic 8-string C6th shown above is an excellent choice.

Seventh Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
A7th E C# A E C# A G E 64-61-57-52-49-45-43-40
A7th G E C# A G E C# A 67-64-61-57-55-52-49-45
A7th E C# A E C# G 64-61-57-52-49-55 European
E7th G# E B G# E D B E 68-64-59-56-52-50-47-40
E7th G# E B G# E D B G# 68-64-59-56-52-50-47-44
E7th E B G# E D B G# E 64-59-56-52-50-47-44-40 Basic-8
E7th E B G# E D E 64-59-56-52-50-40 Low Bass
E7th E B G# E D B 64-59-56-52-50-47 Roger Filberto

The seventh tunings although outmoded do have historical importance. The Roger Filberto E7th shown was a much taught system and was featured in Roger's classic two-volume instruction course put out by Mel Bay. Those were the days when steel guitarists read music straight from standard notation, a long lost skill! These tunings in general lack some of the chord colors for western swing or pop styles, but still work really well for basic, old-style Hawaiian and country tunes.

Ninth Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
D9th E C A F# D C A F# 64-60-57-54-50-48-45-42
D9th E C A F# E D 64-60-57-54-52-50 Basic
D9th E C A F# E C A F# 64-60-57-54-52-48-45-42 Drop-string C6
D9th E C A F# E C 64-60-57-54-52-48 Drop-string C6
D9th E C A F# E C A D 64-60-57-54-52-48-45-38 John Ely
E9th E B G# F# E D B G# 64-59-56-54-52-50-47-44
E9th E B G# F# D B G# E 64-59-56-54-50-47-44-40 Basic-8
E9th E B G# F# E D 64-59-56-54-52-50 Basic
E9th E B G# F# E D B E 64-59-56-54-52-50-47-40 Jerry Byrd
F9th F D A F G Eb C F 65-62-57-53-55-51-48-41 Kayton Roberts
F#9th E C# G# E A# F# 64-61-56-52-46-42 Dick McIntire

I'm surprised that the ninth tunings shown aren't in more use. The "drop-string" versions are terrific. You get a ninth when you drop the fifth tone of any sixth tuning a half-step. So when you lower the G note of the basic C6th a half-step you get a very playable D9th—the drop-string C6th shown above. They provide rich strums against 7th chords and preserve the minor triads of sixth tunings, so useful when playing chord melody. Single-string work is easy, but a bit harder to visualize compared to the pure sixth tunings. Those great Joaquin Murphey chords solos, like the one on "Oklahoma Stomp," can be easily done using that "drop-string" sound. Jerry's E9th shown, the one he used on Admirable Byrd, is essentially the Nashville E9th that took the country music industry by storm with the advent of pedals—and Jerry's slant bar work on this tuning sounded a lot like pedals!

Eleventh Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
A11th F# D B G E C# A A 66-62-59-55-52-49-45-33 Hanawahine
A11th v2 F# D B G E C# G A 66-62-59-55-52-49-43-33 Hanawahine
B11th E C# A F# D# C# A B 64-61-57-54-51-49-45-35
B11th E C# A F# D# B 64-61-57-54-51-47 Basic
B11th E C# A F# D# C# B A 64-61-57-54-51-49-47-45 Baum
B11th E C# A F# D# B A F# 64-61-57-54-51-47-45-42 Don Helms
B11th E C# A F# D# C# 64-61-57-54-51-49 Drop-string A6
B11th E C# A F# D# B A B 64-61-57-54-51-47-45-35 Henriques
B11th E C# A F# D# C# B 64-61-57-54-51-49-47 Jerry Byrd
B11th E C# A F# D# B F# B 64-61-57-54-51-47-42-35 Jules Ah See
G11th E C A F D B 64-60-57-53-50-47 David Kelii

The eleventh tunings are very popular in Hawaiian music and all-around playing. The popular B11ths are just a type of "drop-string" A6th. For example, if you take the Leon McAuliffe A6th (shown in the sixth tuning list) and lower the E note on the 5th string to D#, you have a very playable B11th, an extension of the the basic 6-string B11 shown above. On all the B11ths shown, you have the A6th strings on strings 1-4 and then the more lush ninth sound coming from adding the bottom 4 strings. So you get a sort of combination of the the sound of both the ninth and sixths tunings. When strumming you have to be careful not to play the first and fifth strings together. This is a feature of the combination tunings shown further down the page—you get lots of chording options, but bad things can happen if you pick the wrong string groups! David Keli'i's G11th is worth looking at because you can get there by just retuning the bottom three strings of the basic C6th—the standard C6th string gauges work just fine.

Thirteenth Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
C13th E C A G E C Bb G 64-60-57-55-52-48-46-43
C6th E C A G E Bb 64-60-57-55-52-46 Ingano-6
C6th G E C A G E Bb 67-64-60-57-55-52-46 Ingano-7
C6th E C A G E C Bb C 64-60-57-55-52-48-46-36 Jules Ah See
C6th G E C A G E C Bb 67-64-60-57-55-52-48-46 Junior
D13th F# D B A F# C 66-62-59-57-54-48 B. Rogers
D13th D B A F# D C 62-59-57-54-50-48 DeWilligen
E13th E C# G# E D B G# E 64-61-56-52-50-47-44-40
E13th E C# G# F# E D 64-61-56-54-52-50
E13th E C# G# F# E D B E 64-61-56-54-52-50-47-40
E13th G# E C# B G# F# E D 68-64-61-59-56-54-52-50
E13th E C# B G# F# D 64-61-59-56-54-50
E13th E C# B G# E D 64-61-59-56-52-50 Basic
E13th E C# B G# F# D B E 64-61-59-56-54-50-47-40 Boggs
E13th G# E C# B G# E D E 68-64-61-59-56-52-50-40 Don Helms
E13th E C# B G# E D B E 64-61-59-56-52-50-47-40 Harry Brooker
E13th E C# G# F# D B G# E 64-61-56-54-50-47-44-40 Jules Ah See
E13th G# E C# B G# E D B 68-64-61-59-56-52-50-47 Kolsiana
E13th E C# B G# F# D G# E 64-61-59-56-54-50-44-40 Leon McAuliffe
E13th E C# B G# E D B G# 64-61-59-56-52-50-47-44 Low G#
F#13th E C# G# E A# F# D# F# 64-61-56-52-46-42-63-66 Herb Remington

The thirteenth tunings are extremely powerful when used in combination with a basic sixth-type tuning if you have a double-neck instrument. They are terrific for chord melody solos, "take-off" chord solos, horn section riffing, and strumming effects of all kinds. They're not bad for single-note playing either—the top four strings translate to the common sixth tunings. They're great for imitating that Speedy West sound. I discovered that the Leon McAuliffe E13th has remarkable colors if you're willing to add a fingerpick for 4-note block chords. I just posted a couple of audio clips on this. Benny Roger's D13th playing had a powerful impact on me—with the 13th sound you get a lot of chord substitutions that sound great even in Hawaiian music. The Junior Brown C13th—really just a standard 8-string C6th with the bottom string raised to Bb—is the most versatile 8-string tuning that exists in my opinion. You have all the majors and minors of the standard C6th and very big seventh-type chords provided by that bottom note. It's incredible really. When playing C6th I'm always toggling that note from A to Bb and back depending on the tune.

Combination Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
A6+F#7 E C# A F# E C# A# 64-61-57-54-52-49-46 Bobby Koefer
C6th+A7 E C A G E C# 64-60-57-55-52-49 Jerry Byrd-6
C6th+A7 E C A G E C# C A 64-60-57-55-52-49-48-33 Jerry Byrd-8
C6th+A7 E C A G E C# A B 64-60-57-55-52-49-45-59 Joaquin
C6th+D9th E C A G E C A F# 64-60-57-55-52-48-45-54 Joaquin
C9+A7 D C Bb G E C# 62-60-58-55-52-49 Leavitt
D Major 7+E9 G# E C# A F# D B G# 68-64-61-57-54-50-47-44
G Maj 7+C F# E D B G E G C 66-64-62-59-55-52-43-36 Dick Sanft

Combination tunings reveal what steel players are capable of to get the sounds they hear. This is the "mad scientist" aspect of the steel player mindset. You take two tunings and jumble them together making for a wild ride if you're a beginner. Jerry Byrd's C6+A7 is probably the most used combo tuning. There's a lot there, but if you pick the wrong string group, watch out! The Bill Leavitt tuning is remarkable in that you can play fully voiced big band and jazz standards using only 6 strings. Not a great tuning for single-string work, however. Combination tunings prove the rule that if you make drastic modifications to get a big chord sound you're after, you'll likely be making some compromises in other areas.

Diatonic Chord Tunings
Name Spelling Midi Pitches Remarks
A Diatonic E C# B A G# F# F D 64-61-59-57-56-54-53-50 John Ely
C Diatonic E C B A G F E 64-60-59-57-55-53-52 Jerry Byrd
E Harp E C# B A G# G F# F E C# 64-61-59-57-56-55-54-53-52-49 Alkire

The diatonic tunings are the most bizarre of the playable tunings. Because they are essentially just a scale, or close to it, you can play all day long at one fret, and tight 3- and 4-part harmony options abound. Single-string work is not as easy as you would think—you have to make a lot of skips in your picking when playing arpeggios, for example. Jerry's C diatonic is the probably the most famous and he's recorded some amazing things with it. The Alkire E-Harp tuning is the most advanced, harmonically speaking, but it places great demands on accuracy and picking chord shapes most players are not used to. It is unparalleled in its harmonic richness and tendency to make the player crash and burn! Sadly, there are very few who ever mastered the tuning, and that was probably it's downfall. There are some very complicated intonation issues as well, having to do with temperament as I discussed in my article on tuning up.