What is Nashville Tuning?

D'Addario electric guitar strings for Nashville Tuning

Nashville Tuning gives a great jangly sound and doesn't need the guitarist to learn any new chord fingerings, so is well worth exploring - especially for those fortunate enough to own several guitars. Nashville (or "high strung") tuning is a bit of an oddity in the guitar world, as unlike "open" tunings it contains exactly the same notes as regular guitar tuning and is played using the same chord fingering. The difference is the octaves of the strings. Nashville Tuning contains no bass strings at all and gives a unique bright treble sound that is fantastic when played alongside another guitar with regular tuning - especially useful for recording a 12-string guitar sound when no 12-string is available.

How to tune a guitar to Nashville Tuning

The reason that Nashville Tuning sounds like a 12-string guitar is that it uses the same notes and the same strings. The individual string notes for Nashville Tuning are as follows:
1 - E (as per normal tuning)
2 - B (as per normal tuning)
3 - G (one octave higher than normal tuning)
4 - D (one octave higher than normal tuning)
5 - A (one octave higher than normal tuning)
6 - E (one octave higher than normal tuning)

This is exactly the same tuning as is used for the extra course of strings on a 12-string guitar. If you took off the regular strings from a 12-string, you'd be left with a Nashville Tuned guitar! Where the open strings in regular tuning cover a range of three octaves, Nashville only covers two octaves.

Of course you can't simply wind up your bass strings by an octave - they will almost certainly break before they got to pitch and would be pretty much unplayable if they survived. So if you want to try Nashville Tuning for yourself you have three choices:

  1. Buy individual strings of suitable gauges
  2. Buy a set of 12-string strings and use half the set for your Nashville Tuned guitar
  3. Buy a set of special Nashville Tuning guitar strings

Remember that if you buy a 12-string the other six strings won't be wasted, as they will be the same as a regular six-string set. But for most people the easiest way to try Nashville Tuning is to but a dedicated set of strings. Although a little unusual, these are easy to buy online if your local guitar store doesn't stock them.

Nashville Tuning Guitar String Sets

D'Addarrio, GHS and Martin all produce Nashville Tuning string sets and they are available for both acoustic and electric guitars. Some manufacturers refer to them as "High Tuning", "High Strung Tuning" or "Nashville High Tuning" - these are simply different terms for Nashville Tuning.

D'Addario EJ38H
High Strung/Nashville Tuning 10-27
(EJ38H) D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Wound, High Strung/Nashville Tuning
Gauges: .010 .014 .009 .012 .018 .027
Phosphor Bronze was introduced to string making by D’Addario in 1974 and has become synonymous with great, long-lasting string tone, and has become the stage and studio choice of top professionals worldwide. D’Addario Phosphor Bronze strings come in environmentally friendly packaging and have colour-coded ball ends for easy reference.

D'Addario EXL150H
10-26 High Strung Tuning
Gauges: .010 .014 .009 .012 .018 .026.
D'Addario XL Electric Guitar strings are world-renowned as "The Player's Choice" amongst guitar players of all genres and styles. XL strings are wound with nickelplated steel and are known for their distinctive bright tone and excellent intonation. This High-Strung Nashville Tuning gauge basically uses the octave strings from a 12-string set to give you a 12-string sound out of your 6-string guitar.

GHS Custom CU-BBHT
Nashville High Tuning Set 11-20
Gauges .011 .015 .009 .011 .015 .020
GHS Nashville High Tuning Set String Set for Acoustic Steel Guitar for Nashville Tuning, Bronze. The string specialists at GHS bring a craftsman-like approach to each aspect of string design. From material selection to such intricate factors as core-to-cover ratio, winding direction, wire tension and alteration of the wire, GHS designs state-of-the-art strings that enhance the sound quality of all playing styles and instruments. And with ongoing research, GHS develops string innovations that anticipate music trends and instrument modifications worldwide.

Martin MSPHT10
High Tuning Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Gauges .010 .012 .008 .013 .017 .025
SP High Tuning Nashville Style is specially formulated for high tuning" of the third through sixth strings. Tune up one octave from standard tuning. 92/8 Phosphor Bronze. Martin SP Studio/Performance guitar strings are ideal live, in the studio, or wherever maximum string life is desired. The creation of these high performance strings is a result of research done in cooperation with specialty steel producers. Due to the development of an industry leading ultra-high quality steel core, Martin SP strings resist breakage better than average replacement guitar strings. In addition, both the core wires and the plain strings are plated with a smooth, acoustic bronze finish. Though this golden bronze finish does enhance the beauty of your guitar, its purpose is much more functional - to prolong brightness, string life, and superior tonal quality to meet the high expectations of demanding musicians.

Famous songs that use Nashville Tuning

Many famous bands and guitarists have experimented with Nashville Tuning. Some well-known songs that make use of Nashville are:
Wild Horses - Rolling Stones
Hey You - Pink Floyd
Even the Sweet Things Die - Jayco Brothers
Jumpin' Jack Flash - Rolling Stones
Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
Wake up little Suzie - Everly Brothers
Bye Bye love - Everly Brothers
Free Fallin' - Tom Petty
Always with Me, Always with You - Joe Satriani
Dust in the Wind - Kansas

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