In today’s article I’ll be going over famous alternate tunings used by guitar players such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, as well as Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, in the tune Kashmir.
Jimi Hendrix’s tuning
Jimi Hendrix was a legendary guitar player with a terrific sound that could be identified in just a few notes. Fourty years after his first hits, many guitar players still admire him and try to learn his tunes as well as get closer to his tone.
It is worth mentioning here than on top of being a left-hander (but playing on regular right-handed guitars), Hendrix used to play in Eb tuning, which is different to the standard E tuning. He started tuning so early in his career due to the fact that he was playing in rhythm and blues clubs with horn players, and those tend to play tunes in the keys of Eb or Bb most of the time.
Eb tuning is fairly similar to standard tuning, since they are in fact the same tuning, with a semitone difference. To tune a guitar in Eb, simply lower each string by a semitone, which would give:
- E flat (low E)
- A flat
- D flat
- G flat
- B flat
- E flat (high E)
Stevie Ray Vaughan
A huge Hendrix fan, Stevie Ray Vaughan also liked to play in E flat tuning. But ‘SRV’ even took it further: he’s also gone for very thick strings (13-58 vs. standard 10-46), which helped him reach his beefy sound.
When switching your guitar to a new tuning, you’re changing the force being applied by the strings on the neck. If you’re only going to occasionally switch from E standard tuning to E flat tuning, then that might be fine; but if you’re looking to keep a new tuning in the long run, then check that with a guitar tech who’ll let you know if your neck should be adjusted for that.
Jimmy Page’s tuning in the song Kashmir
Jimmy Page is one of the top guitar players from the 70’s; he was sought after in London studios, known as one of the 10 best guitar players in the world, and founding member of one of the most known rock bands: Led Zeppelin. In Kashmir, one of the band’s most iconic songs, it is the guitar riff’s exotic power that give the song such an edge.
In order to tune a guitar to play Kashmir, follow these steps:
- lower the low E string till it’s a D. It should sound the same as the 4th string.
- do the same but with the high E string,
- lower the B string to A.
The final result is the following, from the lowest string to the highest:
A bit of music theory
This tuning is called Dsus4 open. A tuning is said to be open when a particular
chord can be played by simply strumming the open strings. In this case, Dsus4.
But in fact any sus4 chord could be played with a bar chord at other frets:
Esus4 at the 2nd fret (
222222), Fsus4 at the 3rd fret (
A chord is said to be sus4 when it has a fourth and a fifth, but no third. With Dsus4, the notes are: D (tonic), G (fourth) and A (fifth); which are indeed the notes of that tuning’s open strings!