Nashville High Strung Tuning is a new one to me. I watched a video posted Warren Huart on his excellent Produce like a Pro Youtube channel recently where he demonstrated it. I was sold on it immediately and jumped on Ebay in search of a cheap acoustic that I could dedicate entirely to this tuning. I’m glad I did and after reading this you might want to do that too.

High strung tuning is nothing new. As Warren explained, its responsible for many of the lush acoustic and electric sounds on numerous hit songs. Everyone from The Stones to The Smiths have harnessed its wonderful sound. Lets get to the details. 

High strung or Nashville tuning isn’t actually an alternate tuning. The strings are tuned as standard E A D G B E but the low 4 (E-G) are tuned an octave higher than standard. They are in effect the high or unison strings from a 12-string set with the high B and E strings left as they are. That’s the case with 12 string guitars where the B and E are simply doubled. The sound when fitted to a six string is a thing of delight.

Don’t in any circumstances be tempted to try and tune normal gauge bottom E to G strings up an octave, They will definitely break and might also destroy your guitar. Instead, to try this buy a dedicated set of Nashville strings which are easily available. I bought a Nashville set of strings by D’Addario. You could also buy a 12 string set and use the octave E,A, D and G strings for this. That way the remaining strings are just a standard six string set so you have a 2 for 1. 

Why Not Just Play A 12 String?

What’s the point? I hear you ask. Well the sound of a Nashville tuned 6 string guitar is somewhere between a mandolin and a guitar. Its’ primarily used to double normally tuned guitar parts in recording and mixing but it offers loads of additional creative possibilities too. When used to double a standard part the effect is similar to a 12 string guitar part but with lots more definition. You get that shimmering, full sound but with a certain extra shine to it.

Warren and other exponents of high-strung tuning explain that a smaller cheap guitar is best for this. A parlour or travel guitar would be ideal.  I went for a Yamaha F310, which is a dreadnought but they are excellent, cheap and widely available.  So far I love the sound of it on its own or as a doubled track in my recordings.  

This is not a tuning that works for single note or finger style playing very well. It just sounds odd and feels weird. There are no rules of course so maybe you’ll disagree. For strumming chords though it’s just beautiful. It’s well worth getting another guitar specifically for this set up. The good news is that cheaper ones give the best results.  You probably don’t want to be changing strings every time you want to use this tuning but you will want to use it a lot when you hear it so a small expense is easily justified.  

High Strung Tuning – Worth a Try

So that’s Nashville high strung tuning.  I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with it if you give it a try. It’ll add a real sparkle to your recordings and inspire you to create more interesting sounds in general. I’ve always been a fan of alternate tunings like DADGAD,  dropped D and Richardsesque G and C. This is a little different, as it needs special strings and another guitar. But then again how many guitars is too many?  

As a footnote, Nashville tuning aside, if you are looking for a decent acoustic guitar on a budget I can thoroughly recommend the Yamaha F310. Either as a second guitar or as my friend Andy calls his – a sacrificial guitar – or as something to cut your teeth on and enjoy for years, it’s very good value. I looked at lots of reviews of budget acoustics before I bought mine.  The 310 gets nothing but praise. I strummed away on it for a day or two before I restrung it and really like it. 

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I'm Dave Menzies a digital entrepreneur, photographer and guitarist. I live on the Argyll coast of Scotland. My partner and I write, record and produce our own music and videos in our home studio. I love to help individuals discover the lifestyle freedom offered by the digital world and guitarists to develop their own style.