Alternate Tuning Guide for Contemporary Folk Music

This document lists alternate tunings used by contemporary singer/songwriters discussed by the subscribers of the list server. The songs listed here are all vocal songs with acoustic guitar accompaniment, the few exceptions being guitar instrumentals that appear on recordings that are predominantly vocal recordings. For information on tunings, chords and tablature for instrumental acoustic guitar music or music by artists not covered here, check the online guitar resources listed at the end of this document. There you will also find a few references to printed information on alternate tunings.

This is a single document with internal links, so you can easily copy and print the whole thing if you want to. Enjoy!

This document was last updated on 9 Feb 2000.


About This Document...

The alternate tunings listed here are arranged alphabetically by artist; and under each artist chronologically by album and then by song title. Entries for unrecorded songs (i.e. live performances of original material or covers) also appear. Since many of the artists covered here so often use alternate tunings, this list sometimes also lists songs that use standard tuning, especially if a capo is used. All tunings are listed low (6th string) to high (1st string). Capo settings, where appropriate, appear in parentheses after the tuning.

Some tunings listed here are from "official" sources; others are educated guesses of devoted fans. To distinguish these, each tuning is prefaced by a character as follows:

	*	Denotes a tuning from an "official" source.
	+	Denotes a guess that a fan feels pretty secure about.
	?	Denotes a guess that a fan is not too secure about.

References to the source of the tuning information, be it from an official source or a fan, are given by initials in square brackets. A key to the source abbreviations appears at the end of this file. If the source can provide additional information about performing the song, the initials are followed by a "+" sign. This information may be anything from brief notes about some chords to full tablature.

Some tunings are so common that they have names or abbreviations in this list:

	Std		Standard tuning, EADGBE
	Drop D		DADGBE, "Dropped D"
	Open D		DADF#AD
	Open E		EBEG#BE (can be played as Open D, capo 2)

Also, in some tunings it may be ambiguous whether a string is to be tuned above or below its normal pitch. In this case, the octave in which each pitch lies may be indicated; for reference, standard tuning is EADGBE (octaves: 223334).

In a few places, textual information about the artist's use of tunings appears in their tuning list.

Bob Bennett

The "*" tunings that are not from the BBMH songbook have been provided by Bob himself. Thanks a lot, Bob!

Matters of the Heart

A Song About Baseball
*Drop D (capo 1) [BBMH]

Mountain Cathedrals
*Open C [BBMH]

Songs From Bright Avenue

Here On Bright Avenue
*DADDAD (capo 2)

Angels Around Your Bed
*DADGAD (capo 2)

Small Graces (imminent release!)

Small Graces
*Open G

The Only Risk Worth Taking
*CGDGBE (capo 2)

Altar In The Field

Edie Brickell


Ghost of a Dog

Jonatha Brooke/The Story

Most of these tunings are partially inferred from live performances. In live performances, Jonatha Brooke (guitarist and writer for The Story) uses two guitars. One is a small-body James A. Olson SJ cutaway, custom made for her by James, a Minnesota-based luthier. This guitar stays mostly in standard tuning, although she occassionally retunes it to tunings not too different from standard tuning. The other guitar is a larger-bodied Guild with a carved back. She keeps this one tuned as follows, low to hi: Eb Bb Eb F Bb Eb. This is an open Eb sus 2. The hi string is sometimes dropped down to D, making it an open Eb maj 9 (no 3).

In this list, some tunings are denoted as "+Guild" or "+Olson", to provide an idea of the tuning based on what guitar Jonatha was seen playing at a live performance. Readers who can resolve the remaining ambiguity (eg, whether the Guild tuning has the 1st string at D) are encouraged to submit changes.

Grace In Gravity

Grace In Gravity

The Alarm Is On Love
+Olson (?1st, 3d and 4th strings tuned down)


Easier Than Saying That You're Sorry
+Guild (capo 2)

Dog Dreams
*std [BTST+]

Just One Word
+Guild (capo 5)

The Angel In The House

So Much Mine
+std [TJL+]

Barefoot Ballroom
+Guild (capo 3)

At the Still Point

The Angel In the House
+Guild (capo 3)

+Olson (capo 2)

Love Song
+Guild (capo 4)

Wendy Bucklew


Buckets of Rain
?DGDF#AD (capo 4) [AS]

Mary Chapin Carpenter

A collection of MCC lyrics, chords, and tab is available in Adam Schneider's Tab Collection (see Web Resource guide, below). Among the resources there is an extensive table listing tunings and capo settings for most of Chapin's songs (including the settings of her accompaniest and lead guitarist, John Jennings). Thanks, Adam!

State Of The Heart

Goodbye Again
+DAC#EAE (capo 4) [AS]

Shooting Straight In The Dark

Going Out Tonight
+Std (capo 5) [JP]

The Moon & St. Christopher
+DADGBC (capo 5) [AS]

Come On Come On

Come On Come On
+DGDF#GD (capo 3) [AS]

I Am A Town
+DAC#EAE (capo 3) [AS]

Stones In The Road

Stones In The Road

John Doe No. 24
+DADF#AD (capo 9) [AS]

Shawn Colvin

Fat City

Steady On

Steady On
+Open G (capo 2) [MA]

Diamond In The Rough
?DADGBD (capo 8) [DM]

Fat City

All tunings for this recording are from the "Fat City" songbook [SCFC+].

*Drop D (capo 4)

Tennessee (Shawn Colvin and John Leventhal)
*CGDGBbD (capo 7)

Tenderness On The Block (Warren Zevon & Jackson Browne)
*Open G (capo 5)

Round Of Blues (Colvin and Larry Klein)
*Std (capo 6)

*Drop D (capo 3)

Orion In The Sky (Colvin and Larry Klein)
*CGDGCD (capo 2)

Climb On (A Back That's Strong) (Colvin and John Leventhal)
*Std (capo 1)

Set The Prairie On Fire (Colvin and Elly Brown)
*Drop D (capo 2)

Object Of My Affection (Colvin and John Leventhal)
*Open G (capo 4)

Kill The Messenger
*Drop D (capo 5)

I Don't Know Why
*Std (capo 2)

Cover Girl

Every Little Thing (He) Does Is Magic (Sting)
+DADF#AD (capo 1) [DM]

Satin Sheets (Willis Alan Ramsey)
Open G (capo 5) [JP]

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go (Bob Dylan)
Std (capo 5) [JP]

Billy Crockett

Red Bird, Blue Sky

Wake Up Song
?D#G#C#F#A#D# (std, down 1/2-step) [TJL]

Thankful Boys and Girls
+C#F#C#F#A#C# (open G, down 1/2-step) [TJL]

Ani DiFranco

Transcriptions of some of Ani's songs are available at the Righteous Babe Records web site.

Not A Pretty Girl

+EEBABD (capo 2) [LM]

Out Of Range

Out Of Range
*GGCGD(D?) [Reported in May/June 1995 Performing Songwriter; only 5 strings listed!]
Unrecorded songs and covers

+AADGAD (6th string is the A below the usual E) [LM]

Cradel And All
+EEBGBD [communicated by LM]

Kat Eggleston

First Warm Wind

First Warm Wind
+DADGAD (capo 4) [TJL+]

Bob Franke

All tunings are from The Songs of Bob Franke; see [SOBF] below for further information. All altered tunings listed in that book appear here; tuning and capo information for a few of Bob's most famous songs that use standard tuning is also included.

One Evening In Chicago (1982)

Bob Franke's Dream Come True

Hard Love
*Std (capo 3)

That's What the Waltz Is For
*Drop D (capo 2)

Thanksgiving Eve
*Std (capo 3)

For Real (1986)

For Real
*Std (capo 3)

Beggars to God

Brief Histories (1989)

A Still, Small Voice
*Drop D (capo 1)

Nectar of Life
*CGDGED (capo 3)

In This Night (1991)

*Open D

The Man Behind the Curtain
*CGDGBD (capo 5)

After the Fall
*Drop D (capo 1)

Greg Greenway

A Road Worth Walking Down

Free At Last
+Open D [TJL+]

A Road Worth Walking Down
*Open G [BTST+]


Lay Down This Weight
+CGDGBD (capo 2 or 3) [DAB]

A Road Worth Walking Down
*Open G [BTST+]

Nanci Griffith

One Fair Summer Evening (live video/CD)

Love At The Five And Dime
+Open G (capo 3) [TJL; JP; AS]

Working In Corners
+DGDGAD (capo 2?) [TJL]

Adam Schneider has compiled a list of tunings for songs from Flyer.

Richie Havens

[PB] reports that Richie Havens primarily uses Open D, sometimes tuning the F# down to F to get an open D minor. Sometimes he tunes the 1st string down to a C to get an open major or minor dominant seventh.

Michael Hedges

Stropes Editions maintains a complete list of Michael's tunings, and also sells top-quality transcriptions of a number of Michael's instrumental compositions. Many of the tunings below were submitted by Hedges fans before Stropes Editions existed, but all tunings have been verified using the Stropes Editions database.
Watching My Life Go By

Face Yourself
*B F# C# D A D

I'm Coming Home

Woman of the World
*DADEBA [BM] (1st string is *lower* than 2nd)

Watching My Life Go By

I want you

The Streamlined Man

Out on the Parkway


All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
ASCII tab for a version in DADEAE is archived at OLGA [PLK]

Running Blind


i carry your heart (words by e. e. cummings)
[PS] suggests using the "more amenable" CGDFGC (full step higher)

Road to Return

Sister Soul
C# G# C# F# G# C

+BbFCEbFBb (as above, 1/2 step up) [TR]

Follow Through
*B F# C# F# F# F#
?CGDGAE (as on the *Windham Hill Live* video) [TJL]

Strings of Steel

Pinball Wizard (The Who)
*B F# C# E A A
?CGCFBbBb (live?) [MG]

Come Together (Lennon/McCartney)

She Drives Me Crazy
*CCDF#AD (octaves: 233334) [RC]

Michael Hedges's String Gauges

[From: Matt Guthrie (]

Michael uses D'Addario strings. They're all electric strings since they sound better with the Sunrise pickup and the EMGs in the electric harp-guitar. NW = nickel-wound and PL = plain. I'm not sure what the "S" is before the string types for the harp-guitar.

Martin D-28:
E - NW056 (1.42mm)
A - NW046 (1.17mm)
D - NW034 (0.86mm)
G - NW026 (0.66mm)
B - PL017 (0.43mm)
E - PL013 (0.33mm)

Lowden/Martin low-strung guitar:
E - NW064 (1.63mm)
A - NW049 (1.24mm)
D - NW038 (0.97mm)
G - NW030 (0.76mm)
B - NW020 (0.51mm)
E - PL015 (0.38mm)

Kline harp-guitar:
E - SNW046 (1.17mm)
A - SNW036 (0.91mm)
D - SNW026 (0.66mm)
G - SPL017 (0.43mm)
B - SPL013 (0.33mm)
E - SPL010 (0.25mm)
All five harp strings are NW064 (1.63mm).

[Clarification from: Chifuru 'Chief' Noda]

The "S" prefix I believe stands for "Steinberger-type", meaning the string has a ball at both ends of strings so that it can be anchored on a head-less design.

Indigo Girls

A collection of Indigo Girls lyrics, chords, and tab is available in Adam Schneider's Tab Collection (see Web Resource guide, below). Among the resources there is an extensive table listing tunings and capo settings for most of the Indigo Girls' songs (both Amy's and Emily's settings). Thanks again, Adam!

Phil Keaggy

Phil provided the "*" tunings; thanks, Phil!

What A Day

I Will Sing
*EG#EG#BC# (open E6) [PKNL, TJL+]

Love Broke Thru

As The Ruin Falls (words from a poem by C. S. Lewis)
+DGCFAD (std, down a full step) [TJL]

Wild Horse
+DGCFAD (std, down a full step) [TJL]


Just the Same
+Drop D [TJL+] (for the live acoustic version)

Ph'lip Side

Spend My Life With You
+Drop D [TJL]

Town To Town

Life, Love and You
*Open G

Way Back Home

It Could've Been Me (Phil Keaggy and Sheila Walsh)
*Open G

Maker of the Universe
+DGCFAD (std, down a full step) [TJL+]

Here and Now
+DGCFAD (std, down a full step) [TJL+]

Unrecorded Songs


Patty Larkin

In the Square

I'm Fine
?std (capo 3) [TJL]


?Drop D (capo 2) [TJL]
?DADGAD (capo 2) [TB]

Metal Drums
*std [AG Mar/Apr 92, with music]

Time Was
?Drop D (capo 3) [TJL]

Solo Flight
?Drop D (capo 3) [TJL]

Chained To These Lovin' Arms
*Drop D [BTST+]

Angels Running

Good Thing
?CGCGCD (capo 5) [TJL]

Might As Well Dance

Booth of Glass
+CGCGCD (capo 5) [TJL]

Winter Wind
+Drop D (capo 3) [DK+, TJL+]

Mary McCaslin

Mary McCaslin maintains a web page describing some of her tunings. She not only presents tunings and identifies the songs she plays in those tunings; she also discusses a bit of "theory" behind her tuning choices, and presents chord charts.

Thanks, Mary!

Billy McLaughlin

McLaughlin fan Mark Dalton maintains his own Billy McLaughlin Web Site which includes a page of Billy McLaughlin's Favorite Tunings, sorted both by tuning and by CD/song. Stropes Editions also maintains a list of Billy's tunings.

Michael McNevin

Second Hand Story

Second Hand Story
+Open G (capo 4) [TJL+]
Note that the solo acoustic version on the Waterbug American Impressionist Songwriters CD is played capo 3.

Joni Mitchell

Howard Wright has collected over 90 of Joni Mitchell's tuning. Howard's complete collection is at the Guitar Tunings page at the Official Joni Mitchell web site.

An amazingly well-organized and comprehensive collection of Joni tunings and guitar chords and tab can be found at The Joni Mitchell Discussion List Guitar Page. Started by Sue McNamara, this site is now run by Marian Russell, Howard Wright, and Mark Domyancich, and includes contributions by many guitarists from around the world. Tunings and transcriptions are easily accessible via a form.

Many of Joni's tunings, as well as chords and tablature for some songs, have also been archived in acoustic/j/joni_mitchell/tunings at OLGA mirrors; if you can find an operating mirror, that's where to look (a good way to track down such tab sites is via the GuitarNotes Music Page). Most such material is probably more easily accessible at the sites mentioned above.

Carrie Newcomer

The "*" tunings were provided by Carrie herself, by way of fan Amy Skalinder (
An Angel At My Shoulder

Only One Shoe

Hold On
?DADGAD (capo 4) [DM]

The Bird or the Wing

Holy Ground
*std (capo 2)

The Bird or the Wing

Tenderly with You

The Love Letter

The Yes of Yes

Wisdom is Watching

I'm Not Going to Let You Break My Heart

Closer to Home
*Open D

The Prelude


Ellis Paul

The "starred" tunings were all obtained from Ellis. He refers to the DADGF#D tuning ("3000 Miles" live version, "Drop Of Your Name", "All My Heroes Were Junkies") as "McNevin tuning," having "stolen" it from Michael McNevin. Note that the 3rd string is higher in pitch than the second string in this tuning; Ellis notes that he prefers a slightly thicker-than-normal 2nd string (0.018) to facilitate dropping it to F#.

Ellis calls DADEBD tuning ("Conversation With A Ghost", "Look At The Wind Blow") "Ellis tuning," it being a favorite original creation of his.

On his 1998 release, Translucent Soul, Ellis uses a high-strung guitar---a guitar strung with only the high strings of a 12-string guitar set. This is known as "Nashville tuning" when the strings are in standard tuning, but Ellis usually uses it in D tunings, but three half-steps down from D (in the key of B).

Many capo settings are observed from live performances, and are sometimes a fret below the settings used for studio performances.

Thanks, Ellis!

Say Something

Conversation with a Ghost
*DADEBD (capo 4)

Look At The Wind Blow
*DADEBD (capo 6)

Just the Jester Fool
+std (capo 3?) [DAB]

+std [DAB]

Thin Man
*Open D

Washington D.C.
*std (capo 1)

New Light on your Halo
+std [DAB]

Friday Night
*std (capo 3)


Jumpin' a Train

Say Something


All Things Being The Same
*Open D (capo 1)

3000 Miles
Studio version: *DADGBD (capo 5); i.e., double-dropped D
Live version: *DADGF#D (capo 4)

Here She Is
*Open D (capo 2)

Autobiography of a Pistol
*std (capo 1)

+Open D [DAB]

Last at the Table
*EADGBD (capo 1); i.e., high dropped-D

Last Call
*CGDGBD (capo 1); i.e., open G with a C bass

Who Killed John Lennon

King of 7th Avenue
*Open D (capo 2)

Looking for my Friends

Don't Breathe

Carnival of Voices

Trolley Car
+Open D (capo 2) [TJL]

+DADGBD (capo 2) [TJL]

Translucent Soul

Take Me Down

The World Ain't Slowin' Down
*Open D (high strung, 3 half-steps down)

Angel In Manhattan
*DADGBD (high strung, 3 half-steps down)

Translucent Soul

This is Boston, Not Austin (Black Wolf Records Compilation)

Paperback Man
+CGDGBD (recorded capo 4, capo 3 live) [TJL]
*CGDGF#D (recorded capo 4, capo 3 live)

Unrecorded Songs

The Ballad Of Mr. Lonely (Find Your Own Cloud)
+Open D [DAB]

*DADGBD (capo 2 or 3); i.e., double-dropped D

All Around Me I See Ghosts
*std (capo 5)

Paris In A Day
*Open D (the recorded version is quite different from the live one, and will be in *CGDGBD)

Drop Of Your Name

All My Heroes Were Junkies
*DADGF#D (capo 2)

The Marsha Clark Song
*std (capo 1)

Ashes To Dust
+std (capo 2) [DAB]

Mr. President
+Open D [DAB]

Black Shiny Shoes

Trolley Car
+Open D (capo 1) [DAB]

Pierce Pettis

Big Times In A Small Town (Compilation)

Nod Over Coffee (Mark Heard)
*Open E [BTST+]

Willy Porter

Dog Eared Dream

Angry Words
?Drop D (capo 2 and capo{3456} 4) [SW1]

?Std (capo 3) [SW1]

?Drop D or ?DADGAD (no capo) [SW1]


Chuck Pyle

Endless Sky

Endless Sky
*Drop D (capo 3) [BTST+]

Dana Robinson

These tunings were obtained from Dana (thanks, Dana!).

Elemental Lullabye

*DADGAD (capo 2)

Child's Game
*Open G

Lynne Saner

Lynne provided these tunings herself (thanks Lynne!). She cites Joni Mitchell's "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" as the inspiration for her altered Open G tuning, CGDGBD.

A Child Once

Restless Thief

A Child Once

Helium Wings (upcoming release)

*Open D

Good Enough
*CGDGBD (capo 3)

They Call the Wind Maria
*std (capo 2)

The Thousand Shades of Grey
*CGDGBD (capo 2)

Ferris Wheel
*DADGAD (capo 5)

Big Love
*std (capo 3)

How This
*std (capo 2)

White Flag
*DADGAD (capo 4)

Going Home
*CGDGBD (capo 3)

*DADGAD (capo 3)

The Road From Here to There
*CGDGBD (capo 6)

This is Boston, Not Austin (Compilation by Black Wolf Records)

*Open D

Martin Sexton

Note: Martin Sexton plays some of his songs in DGCFAD tuning, that is, standard tuning down a full step.

In the Journey

In the Journey
+Open G [TJL+]

Silence Now

Performing Songwriter Editor' Choice, Vol. 2

Caught In The Rain
+Open G [TJL]

Martin Simpson

The "starred" tunings were verified through a student of Martin's.

Red Roses


Any Spare Change
+DGDGAD (capo 4) [TJL+]

Icarus (Anne Lister)
*CGCGCD (capo 3) [TJL+]

The Turtle and the Asp
+DADGAD (capo 2) [TJL+]

Smoke and Mirrors

Hard Love (Bob Franke)
*CGCGCD (capo 3 or 5) [TJL+]

Troll For Trout

These tunings were provided by Troll For Trout guitarist/writer Michael Crittenden. The band has two guitarists, and many of their arrangements have each guitarist playing with a different capo setting on electric or acoustic, and often in different tunings. You can find out more about the music of this Grand Rapids, MI band by visiting the Troll For Trout Web Page or by sending email to Michael at

Perfect Existence

*std (Gibson J45) and *EBEF#BC# (Seagull Model 6)
The slide solo is in Open E (EBEG#BE)

Rushes and Ripples
*EBEF#BC# (capo 7; Seagull Model 6) and *std (capo 4; Strat)

Falling At Your Feet
*std (Seagull) and *EBEAF#D (12 string, "Nashville" style---upper octaves only)

International Harvester

Poppy Fields (Get it Back)
*DAEAAE (Seagull Model 6), Strat std.

*EBEF#BC# (Seagull Model 6), Strat std.

*Std. (Seagull), Std. capo 5 (Martin J-45), Slide guitar Open G
Rancho Relaxo

Rancho Relaxo
*DAEABE (capo 1)

*Eb Bb Eb Ab Bb Eb (capo 3)

David Wilcox

Official tunings for songs from Wilcox's three A&M recordings are from the article, "Tuning In: The Guitar Secrets of David Wilcox," by James Jensen, in the Nov/Dec 1994 issue of *Acoustic Guitar* magazine. These have GSDW as their reference.

There is a songbook available that provides not only tunings, but also chord diagrams and tablature for many of Wilcox's songs. The full reference appears in the reference section below [DWSB]. Songs included in the songbook are noted here by an asterisk following the title. The Completely Unofficial David Wilcox FTP Site hosts some tablature or chords for other Wilcox songs; see the reference section for connection information.

Wilcox sometimes uses capos that are modified to allow some strings to ring thru uncapoed (see interview exerpts at the end of this section). In this list, use of such a capo is indicated by noting the strings capoed in curly braces.

You'll find an alternative list, sorted by tuning, at Bill Boroson's David Wilcox Guitar Tunings page.

Nightshift Watchman

The Nightshift Watchman
*Open G (capo 5) [reported on WLIST; perhaps 6th is C??]
?Open C [TJL+]

Come Away to Sea
?DADGBD (capo 2) [TJL]
?CGCFCE (capo 4) [GSDW; a tuning mentioned in passing]

High Hill (song and tuning by Jaime Morton)
+CGDGAD (capo 4) [DW]

Do I Dare
+DADGAD (capo ?) [TJL+]

Sunshine On The Land
+Drop D (capo 1) [DW]

How Did You Find Me Here?

Eye of the Hurricane*
*Open C (capo 3) [AG Mar/Apr 92 with tab; GSDW]

Language of the Heart*
*Db Ab Db Gb Ab Db (ie, DADGAD 1/2 step down) [MOB; TJL+; GSDW]

Rusty Old American Dream*
*Open C (starts capo 2, ends capo 3) [GSDW]

How Did You Find Me Here*
*DADEAD (capo 6) [GSDW]

Leave It Like It Is*
*std (capo 4) [GSDW; TJL+]

Saturday They'll All Be Back Again
*std (capo 4) [GSDW]

Jamie's Secret
*Drop D [GSDW]

It's Almost Time*
*CGDGBD (capo 1) [GSDW; TJL+]

Just A Vehicle*

Common As The Rain
*Drop D [GSDW]

The Kid
*CGDGBD (capo 1) [GSDW]

Home Again (For the Very First Time)

Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion*
*EAC#EAC# [AG Mar/Apr 92; GSDW]

Farther to Fall*

Going Somewhere
*Drop D [GSDW]

Wildberry Pie
Two discrepant tunings published:
*Open D (capo{345} 6 and capo 1) [MOB; AG Mar/Apr 92]

Let Them In
Wilcox himself doesn't remember this tuning! AG editors guess: +CGCGCD [GSDW]

Distant Water*

Top of the Roller Coaster
Two discrepant tunings published:
*EBbDFBbC (capo{12345} 5 and capo 1) [MOB]
*EbAC#EAB (capo{12345} 4) [GSDW]

Covert War*
Two discrepant tunings published:
*CADGBE (capo{12345} 6 and capo 1) [PS Sep/Oct 93; GP 4/92]
*CGDGAD (capo{12345} 6 and capo 1) [MOB; GSDW] or (capo{12345} 7 and capo 2) [DWSB]

Advertising Man
*std [GSDW]

Last Chance Waltz
*Drop D [GSDW]

She's Just Dancing
Two discrepant tunings published:
*D#AC#EAC# (capo{12345} 6 and capo 1) [MOB; AG Mar/Apr 92]
*EbAC#EAB (capo{12345} 6 and capo 1) [GSDW]

Chet Baker's Unsung Swan Song*
Two discrepant tunings published:
*CADGBE (capo{12345} 5) [PS Sep/Oct 93; GP 4/92]
*CGDGAD (capo{12345} 5) [MOB; GSDW]

Mighty Ocean

Big Horizon

New World*
+Open C (capo 6) [GSDW; listed capo 5, but definitely capo 6]

Someday Soon
This bizarre tuning is accomplished by using special strings. The 6th string is a double-wound bass string that is so big the holes in the peg and bridge had to be enlarged to fit it. This is tuned to the G *below* the usual open low E. The 5th string is a normal *6th* string, tuned to the C below the usual open low E. The first string is replaced with an electric guitar string and tuned up to the G above the usual open hi E.

That's What the Lonely Is For*
*CGDF#AD (capo 2) [GSDW; TJL+]

Show the Way*
*Open C (capo 5) [GSDW (listed capo 6); TJL+]

Block Dog
*Open C [GSDW; JP notes recorded version is 1/2 step lower: BF#BF#BD#]

Break In the Cup
*CGDGAD (capo 3) [GSDW]
?DGDEGD (capo{12345} 3) for old live performances [TJL]

It's The Same Old Song
*Open C [GSDW]

Farthest Shore*

Strong Chemistry*
*DADGAD [GSDW; tab included]

Make It Look Easy
*BGCGCD (capo 3) [GSDW]

Please Don't Call

Big Mistake
*std (capo{345} 5, capo 3) [GSDW]

All The Roots Grow Deeper
*Drop D

Hold It Up To the Light
*Open C (capo 1) [GSDW; no capo setting listed]

Missing You
*CGDGBD (capo 2) [GSDW]

Big Times In A Small Town (Compilation)

Little Piece At A Time
*Open C [BTST+]

Unrecorded Songs and Covers

Seeds (Pat Alger)
?Open D (capo 6) [TJL]

Give Yourself to Love (Kate Wolf)
+Drop D [TJL+]

Johnny's Camero
*Drop D or *Open C, depending on location in the set [MOB]

The Long Road (Cliff Eberhardt)
+AADF#AD (Open D with 6=A) [TJL+]

Somewhere Over New York City (Jim Infantino)
+std [DW]

Old (Peter Nelson)

Blow 'Em Away (Chuck Brodsky)
+DADGAD (capo 2) [DW]

Comments on Wilcox's Tunings and Capo Usage

----David Wade [DW] notes:

Keep in mind that DW plays the same same song in different tunings often. I've heard him come on out on stage and say,"I wanted to start the set with this song, but it's in a real weird tuning, and I didn't want to start in that tuning, so I started playing around backstage with the song in another tuning and said 'Hmm...that'll work!', so here's the song in the new tuning."

----Excerpt from Acoustic Guitar, Mar/Apr 92 (Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers):

These days he uses a dizzying number of tunings, mostly variations of open C, open G, and open D. As examples, he mentions DADGAD, D minor (DADFAD), DADEAD, and open G with a lowered sixth string (CGDGBD)---and that's just the beginning. He likes EAC#EAC# for classical-style pieces, such as "Burgundy Heart-Shaped Medallion" on *Home Again*. Wilcox says one of his current favorites is a variation of open C: CGDGAD....

As if the tunings aren't enough to keep him on his toes, Wilcox has experimented since 1978 with cutting capos to let some strings pass through.... His discovery of Kyser capos allowed him to cut capos so that he could let not only a bass string pass through, but also treble strings. Now he has four Kysers: one standard; one that barres all the strings except the sixth; one that barres all the strings except the first and second; and one that barres only the third, fourth, and fifth strings. On some songs ("Covert War," for instance) Wilcox plays chords where he straddles a cut capo with his left hand, fretting some notes above the capo in standard fashion as well as *below* the capo on the sixth string, which passes through the cut section of the capo....

On stage, one would expect Wilcox' ever-changing tuning and capo combinations to cause plenty of waiting and retuning agony for the audience, but it's not so. The Kyser capos rest on the headstock of his guitar and go into place with a one-hand swoop, and Wilcox is surprisingly agile in changing tunings on stage. "I started playing in a concrete stairwell where you could really hear the guitar," he recalls. "I remember, I would hear it be a little out of tune, and I would try moving one string and moving another.... You know how when you are starting, whenever you tune, you tune strings higher, so that the guitar gradually gets sharper and sharper. I could hear it so well, and I just had the time to really listen, not to concentrate on what my fingers were doing. It's more than just matching tones---you listen for that harmonic to really kick in, listen for the tones to really reinforce each other.

"The interesting thing is, if I play one guitar for a couple of weeks, I can learn how to tune that guitar really fast. But if I play another guitar, I have to start over because it's slightly different. And I'm talking about even the same kind of guitar. I have these two Larivee guitars. If I switch from one to the other, I can't tune as fast."

Excerpt copyright 1992, String Letter Press.

----Excerpt from Guitar Player, April 1992 (James Rotondi):

Wilcox favors composing from open tunings, an inheritance from influences like Joni Mitchell, John Martyn, Nick Drake, and James Taylor. To keep his material fresh, he likes to sample the unknown: "If I'm writing something just with what I know, the song can come out relatively unmoving. But if I make up a new tuning and get really lost, I can find a new way home, and I'll have the surprise, the joy, of hearing brand-new things."

... His plucks, hammer-ons, pull-offs, strums and slaps on his custom-built Olson acoustic strung with D'Addario Bluegrass strings display his patience with phrasing and reverence for the guitar's tonal possibilities. "In every tuning there are certain chords that really ring," David says. "At a certain capo position there will be this resonance where the guitar is just the right size. My current favorite tuning is BAEG#BE...."

Excerpt copyright 1992, Guitar Player Magazine.

----Excerpt from Performing Songwriter, Sep/Oct 1993 (Lydia Hutchinson):

To make sure he stays in the learning mode, Wilcox composes in a dizzying number of tunings. "They free me from preconceived notions about technique," he explains. And just to keep things even more interesting, he experiments with cutting Kyser capos to let some strings pass through. In the past, Wilcox has used up to four capos that sit on his headstock, gliding them into place with the swoop of his hand.... These days, however, his capos have gone into hibernation while he challenges himself to find those new sounds without them....

LH: With all of the tunings that you use, is there a trick to tuning quickly?

DW: It comes little by little when you learn your way from one tuning to another, and gradually make paths in the forest in terms of how you think about getting from one to another. But a lot of it is just, like anything, dividing it into its simplest components and taking the time to focus on each component. If you want to be able to switch from one tuning to another really fast, you can pretty much learn it in your wrist. You learn how much you crank each string and study how many turns it might take for a certain string to go from this pitch to that pitch. You know, a quarter turn for this and a half turn for that. So if you just kind of learn that, it comes out very close and you just strum it through and adjust it here and there.

Excerpt copyright 1993, Performing Songwriter Magazine.

Brooks Williams

Tunings listed here for the songs on BW's first two albums are taken from the official lyric sheets, available from:
    Red Guitar Blue Music
    PO Box 644
    Northampton, MA  10161

Tunings for songs on later albums appear in the liner notes to those albums. They are all listed at A guide to the music and musings of Brooks Williams, a web site maintained by Clark Weatherby.

North From Statesboro

Faces of Light
*DADGAD (capo 2)

Frenzy at the Feeder

Aquainted With the Night

Good Man Down

Postcard From Gulfside

On the Rollin' Sea (Joseph Spence)
*Drop D (capo 2)

Big Blue Wonder

*Open D

Promises/What the Builder Left Behind
*DADGAD (capo 2)

Pavillions (Until the Time Is Right)

We Will Dance Someday
*DADGAD (capo 2)

Over the Hill (John Martyn)

*Drop D

Bush Pilot


Blues to Stay
*DADGAD (capo 2)

How the Night-Time Sings

Blues is First
*Drop D (capo 1)


How the Night-Time Sings
*Drop D (capo 2)

Los Padres
*Open D

Happy All the Time (adapted from Joseph Spence)
*Drop D (capo 4)

Hard Love

What Do I Need to Do?

Look What the Cat Dragged In


Dusty Road

The Monte Vista
No tuning listed

Streets of Heaven
*Open D

Reina's Lullaby

When I Reach

Weather the Storm
*DADGAD (capo 2)

Great Dream of Heaven

Back To Mercy

See liner notes

Inland Sailor

See liner notes

Dar Williams

The Honesty Room

When I Was A Boy



Bob Bennett: Matters of the Heart (c) 1982 by Cherry Lane Music Company, Port Chester, NY, Book Number A0055PV, $5.95 (probably o/p). Contains music with chord diagrams, a few in alternate tunings.

Big Times in a Small Town --- Christine Lavin Presents The Vineyard Tapes (c) 1993 by Cherry Lane Music Company, Port Chester, NY, ISBN: 0-98524-799-2, $19.95. This book contains piano arrangements and chord diagrams (some in alternate tunings).

The David Wilcox Songbook (c) 1994 by CPP/Belwin, Inc., Miami, FL. ISBN: 0-910957-53-3, $17.95. This book contains lead sheets with chord diagrams in alternate tunings, and tablature.

Shawn Colvin --- Fat City (c) 1993 by Cherry Lane Music Company, Port Chester, NY. ISBN: 089524-736-4, $14.95 This book contains lead sheets with chord diagrams (many in alternate tunings).

The Songs of Bob Franke (c) 1992 by The Folk Project. A compilation of music for Bob's songs, compiled by fans in The Folk Project, "an organization of musicians, dancers, and other enthusiasts based in northern and central New Jersey." Melodies, lyrics, tunings, and chord names (but not diagrams) are provided for all four recordings listed above, and for Bob's Epiphany Cantata. Notes on the songs, and a discography, are also included. For copies, send $15.00 plus $2.00 for postage to:
	Telephone Pole Music Publishing Company
	106 Winona Street
	Peabody, MA 01960


For further information about these and other periodicals that cover folk music, see the Guide to Folk Music Periodicals on FolkBook.

AG --- Acoustic Guitar Magazine
PS --- Performing Songwriter Magazine
GP --- Guitar Player Magazine

Newsletters, Fan Clubs, and List Servers

MOB --- Midnight Ocean Bonfire (David Wilcox Newsletter)
PKNL --- Phil Keaggy Newsletter
TR --- Taproot, the Michael Hedges listserver
WLIST ---, David Wilcox listserver

Guitar-Toting Fans

MA --- Mike Allinger (
PB --- Peter Beck (
DAB --- Daniel A. Borer (st941968@PIP.CC.BRANDEIS.EDU)
TB --- Travis Brown (
RC --- ??? (
MG --- Matt Guthrie (
BJ --- Brian Jarboe (
DK --- David Kamerer (
JTL --- Jon Lea (
TJL --- Tom Loredo (
LM --- Leigh Marble (
BM --- Billy McLaughlin (performer, helped with Hedges tab book)
DM --- Delano Mirales (
JP --- Josh Pincus (
PS --- Phil Schappert (
AS --- Adam Schneider (
DW --- David Wade (
MW --- McClain Watson (
SW1 --- Stan Wood (
SW --- Steve Wimmer (
PLK --- Paul K? (
MSW --- Steve W? (

Online Acoustic Guitar Resources

These sites contain chords and tablature for acoustic and electric guitar music, some of which is in altered tunings.

Web Servers

Adam Schneider's Guitar Files
Contains collections of guitar chords and tablature for songs by Suzy Bogguss, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Indigo Girls, Nanci Griffith, Mary Karlzen, Christine Lavin, Suzanne Vega, and Lucinda Williams; as well as miscellaneous entries for other artists.

Guitar Music Archive Search
A web-based search engine and index for the On Line Guitar Archive (OLGA) mirrors described below. A great way to access OLGA.

FolkBook: An Online Acoustic Music Establishment
The place on the web to find out about contemporary singer/songwriters performing acoustic music. Hosts this list and links to other acoustic guitar resources.

Anonymous FTP Archives

Dean Gaudet's Acoustic Guitar Archive
This site archives acoustic guitar tablature posted to the USENET guitar news groups listed below. The original archive was at in the directory /pub/u/dgaudet/guitar. This site has recently been phased out, and the archive has been moved to OLGA and its mirrors. A README and Index file document the archive.

OLGA: On-Line Guitar Archive
This archive was originally known as The Nevada Guitar Archives, due to its location at the University of Nevada's anonymous ftp server, infamous for being hard-to-access. Fortunately, there are now a number of mirrors around the world that make the resources of this huge archive more accessible. The archive contains guitar music (chords or tablature) for thousands of songs, and other guitar-related information, including some lessons and software for a variety of platforms. The original archive had a predominantly electric focus; but Dean Gaudet's Acoustic Guitar Archive is now part of OLGA. README files will guide your explorations and provide information about submissions. I believe The Music Archives (see below) mirrors this site pretty closely.

The Nevada Archive itself is at in /pub/guitar. One of the most popular and accessible USA mirrors is AOL's OLGA Mirror at; an accessible European mirror is at Adam Schneider has compiled a web-accessible list of links to OLGA mirrors. Finally, the Guitar Music Archive Search site (mentioned above) provides a web-capable search engine for OLGA.

The Music Archives---Guitar Directory
The Music Archives. Connect by anonymous ftp to; guitar music is in /pub/music/guitar. This is a general music archive, containing lyrics, discographies, music, and other resources of interest to musicians and lovers of music. Numerous README files will guide your explorations and provide information about submissions.

The Completely Unofficial David Wilcox FTP Archive
This site hosts tablature and chords for Wilcox songs, many of them copied from posts to the David Wilcox list server. Some Lyle Lovett songs are archived there, too.

USENET Newsgroups (RMMGA)
The USENET news discussion group on acoustic guitar, with many daily posts of queries, answers, and comments on all facets of the acoustic guitar, including posts of tablature. and
More general guitar tablature groups, focussing more on electric guitar, but occassionally including acoustic guitar music. RMMGA was formed in part as an acoustic-focussed alternative to these groups.

Printed Resources On Alternate Tunings


"50 ways to leave standard tuning"
Mark Hanson, Frets Magazine, Oct. 1986.

Books and Booklets

The Alternate Tunings Guide for Guitar by Mark Hanson; Amsco Publications, NY (1991); US ISBN 0.8256.1251.9; $4.95
A small-format booklet (sized to fit in a guitar case) describing about eight common tunings: Standard, Drop D, DADGAD, Open D, Open G, G6 (DGDGBE), and Lute and Viheula tuning (EADF#BE). Describes how to tune the guitar to get in each tuning, and provides a scale fingering and several chord fingerings in each tuning, as well as a discography. The booklet also includes a list of several dozen songs that use other alternate tunings.

The Complete Book of Alternate Tunings by Mark Hanson; Accent on Music; ISBN: 52187 72648
A much-expanded version of the pocket guide mentioned above, including extensive discographies for the tunings.

Alternate Tunings for Bass by Lee Barry; Song of Apollo Publishing, P.O. Box A3914, Chicago, IL 60690
Lee's book discusses 15 unique tunings for 4-string electric bass. You can reach him online at For more information, visit his Alternate Tunings For Bass web site.

Comments, Corrections, Additions...

Please send comments, additions, or corrections to Tom Loredo ( When submitting a new tuning, please note the source (if it isn't you!), and the appropriate prefix for the tuning (?, +, or *), as described in the Introduction. Also, note whether you can provide additional information about the song (chord fingerings, tab).

I'd also appreciate any help you can provide verifying tunings labeled with a "?" or "+", particularly if you can ask the artist and get an "official" tuning.


Thanks for your interest in FolkBook, the Alternate Tuning Guide, and guitar music in general. The more folks we get singin' and pickin' and strummin' this music, the nicer the world will be!

This list got its start (in text form) in May 1994, and has been assembled with the assitance of the subscribers of the folk_music list server and the RMMGA newsgroup. Also, Bob Franke generously granted permission for including the tunings from his songbook. Thanks, folks!

This list is copyrighted (1994, 1995) by Tom Loredo, and may not be reproduced commercially without permission. Of course, the tunings themselves are not copyrighted, and can be shared freely.