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May 2014
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DIY: How to Convert a Flattop to Nashville Tuning

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DIY: How to Convert a Flattop to Nashville Tuning

It’s a safe bet that every Nashville session player owns a high-strung guitar. Flattops configured this way are essentially half of a 12-string guitar, with strings 6–4 tuned up an octave. When you strum a guitar in this “Nashville tuning,” you get shimmering chords with lots of deliciously close intervals that are impossible to finger in standard tuning. But the high-strung guitar isn’t limited to Nashville studios—many guitarists bring a high-strung flattop onstage to add glistening tones to their live shows. While Nashville tuning simulates a 12-string, it’s much easier to tune and play, and it takes up considerably less space in a mix.

Fortunately, it’s easy—and cheap—to explore these jangly sounds. Switching a guitar from traditional to high-strung tuning requires only a basic knowledge of stringing and setup, and it only takes a few minutes, too. If you fall in love with the ringing timbres after trying it out on your axe, you can optimize the guitar for Nashville tuning by installing a new nut. Best of all, you can always return the guitar to its original state by simply reinstalling the old nut. Because it’s reversible, this is the perfect mod for acoustic guitarists.

Let's hear it first, then see how it's done:

The clip includes a number of short passages that illustrate the sound of simple open chords, basic strumming, more elaborate fingerpicking, natural harmonics, and even dropped-D riffage. In each case, the left-hand fingering and right-hand picking are straightforward—the ear-grabbing, close-interval voicings, octave jumps, and jangly timbres are all automatically generated by the Nashville tuning.

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