If you’re a guitar player, by now you’ve probably tried your hand at a few different tunings. When you purchase a standard guitar, it’s strung with basic strings that are sized for standard E tuning. However, the lower you go, the thicker the string you will need to retain enough tension to pluck the string. This is where things get interesting, and we are about to go over a few of the most popular tuning methods for heavy metal guitar playing.
Tried and True E
Believe it or not there are plenty of metal bands out there sticking to their tuning guns by trusting good old standard E tuning. Bands like Opeth and Dream Theater are most notable for writing in E, despite the fact that John Petrucci has indulged in many lower tunings with his seven string.
It’s the best way to communicate a really harsh rock sound with a heavy metal edge, much like that of Anthrax or Melvins. Drop-D tuning has been a go-to standard in heavy music ever since Eddie Van Halen brought it into the limelight.
B-E-A-D-G-B-E (7 String)
B-E-A-D-F#-B (6 String)
Say what you will about the band Korn, but if not for their exploration into the realms of seven string guitar playing, metal would not have progressed as a genre. As with any tuning, there is no idea who did it first, but there were those who brought it to our attention like Korn and even solo players like Steve Vai.
A-E-A-D-G-B-E (7 String)
A-E-A-D-F#-B (6 String)
Now it’s beginning to get a little ugly in here, and fans of standard E tuning should be weary of what’s to come. Drop-A tuning is basically the seven string equivalent of Drop-D, but much lower of course. One of my favorite bands who use this tuning effectively is Fear Factory. It’s not an easy task to keep such a low tuning sounding tight with a kick drum, but Dino Cazares manages to achieve a tight sound with fierce accuracy all while maintaining such a low growl.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine one day we would see eight string guitars in heavy metal. The first time I heard Meshuggah, I was convinced they were using bass strings on their guitars. While that part was true, I had no idea what was to come. Ibanez introduced the eight string not too long ago, and it has since become a hugely popular trend in heavy music today. Unfortunately the majority of people trying to perfect this sound under such intense distortion fall flat of anything sonically recognizable. That’s why Meshuggah are absolute masters of their craft, and pioneers of guitar tuning. They continue to push the limits, and prove that sound can only be limited by your own creative walls.