If you like tuning down, then you probably have realized that it can be a bit of a compromise sometimes as you tend to lose attack, snap and punch.  It’s easy to end up sounding too bassy!

Don’t worry though, Wired Guitarist has you covered.  Use these 5 tips to quickly improve your guitar tone when tuning down.  Share this article with your friends who might need help too.

1. Use the Right Strings

You walk into your local guitar store and ask for a 62 so you can tune your 7 string to drop Ab.  The confused kid working there looks at you like you’re insane…

“What do you need a 62 for!?” he asks.

You inform him it is not 1998, and ask again for a 62.  He searches through the strings they have and realizes they don’t have one, but they do have a 68 meant for a bass.

You figure you don’t want to drive all the way home without the strings you came for so you buy it.  You head home, and string the guitar up.  It sounds awful, so round, muddy and just…bassy.

Well, that’s no good.  If you are looking to tune down, make sure you purchase the right strings!

In general, the thicker strings are, the more like a bass they will sound, which isn’t optimal for guitars.

Kalium strings are good for tuning down because they are optimized for tuning low.  I highly recommend using them!  Their site isn’t the best, but don’t let that put you off because their strings are amazing.

If you want to stick to regular strings you can buy in stores then try to grab the lightest set you can get away with.  Thinner strings do sound clearer, and I personally notice a pretty big difference when using anything thicker than a 62 for my 7th string.  At first, lighter strings might feel way too loose, but give them a few hours of play time, and you might just learn to enjoy them.

By the way, this is the reason that many players prefer using a guitar with a longer scale lengths when tuning down.  Extended scale lengths mean that you have more string tension and can get away with using lighter strings.

2. Adjust Your Pickups

Raise them, lower them, tilt them.  Really just play around and see what sounds best.  Keep in mind that most manufacturers have a recommended pickup height for each pickup.  With that said, it’s just a recommendation and if you find a different height sounds better to you then roll with that!

Another cool trick you can try that works with some pickups is flipping them around.  For example, the DiMarzio Crunchlab sounds noticeably tighter if you flip it around and install it “backwards”.

3. Cut Bass/Low Mids

You’re a guitarist, not a bassist.  Cut some of the bass frequencies and low mids if you find your tone is still muddy.  Your tone might sound like it’s lacking depth/bass to it, but remember, when your tone is sitting in a mix with a bassist, that won’t matter much because they will “fill” your tone out.

If you aren’t sure what I mean, then check out these Lamb of God guitar tones (yes I know they are tuned to drop D, but this still demonstrates what I’m talking about!):

Compare that a track off the same album:

4. Turn Down Your Gain

Unless you are aiming for that awful old school 90s Suffocation style death metal tone, then there’s no real reason you should be using a ton of gain.

I like to set my gain right at where my palm mutes start getting a little chunky.  If you’re recording, you can get away with using even less gain as doubletracking will make the guitars sound thicker.

A popular tactic for high gain tones currently is to run your gain as low as possible and use a compressor as needed.  This makes chords and notes in general sound much clearer.

5. Raise Your Action

Oh no, not raising your action!

Yes, I hate to say it, but raising your action definitely sounds better in most cases, and you get more attack too.  But hey, don’t take our word for it.  Listen to Emil from Daath talk about it:

Looking for a guitar to play some low tuned metal with?  Take a look at some of our fanned fret Ibanez we have in stock here.


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