The Ultimate Guide to 9 String Guitar Tuning: Methods and Expert Advice

Introduction to 9 String Guitar Tuning

The day I first encountered a 9-string guitar, I thought I’d seen it all in the world of extended-range instruments. Little did I know, this behemoth would challenge everything I understood about guitar tuning. As the editor of ‘Acoustic Guitar’ magazine, I’ve had the privilege of witnessing the evolution of guitars firsthand. But the 9-string guitar? It’s a whole new frontier.

From the moment I laid my hands on those nine taut strings, I realized that mastering the art of 9 string guitar tuning would be both a daunting task and an exciting journey. The sheer range of sonic possibilities was overwhelming, yet intriguing. In this guide, I’ll share my insights and experiences, unraveling the mysteries of tuning this formidable instrument. Whether you’re a curious beginner or a seasoned pro looking to expand your horizons, join me as we explore the intricate world of 9-string guitar tuning, from standard methods to experimental approaches that push the boundaries of what’s possible.

Standard Tuning for 9 String Guitars

AEAEADGBE Tuning Explained

AEAEADGBE Tuning Explained

As a graduate of the New England Conservatory’s contemporary improvisation program, I’ve explored countless tuning variations. The AEAEADGBE tuning for 9-string guitars has particularly captivated me. This tuning expands on the standard 6-string format by adding three lower strings, creating a rich, resonant foundation. The doubled A and E strings provide a unique tonal quality, allowing for complex harmonic structures and extended bass lines.

In my experience, this tuning excels in genres ranging from ambient to progressive metal. The additional low-end offers thunderous power chords, while the familiar high strings maintain playability for lead work. I’ve found that alternate picking techniques and two-handed tapping are particularly effective with this tuning, opening up new avenues for sonic exploration. As we delve deeper into 9-string guitar tunings, you’ll discover how AEAEADGBE serves as a versatile foundation for both traditional and experimental playing styles.

Fretboard Notes in Standard Tuning

Fretboard Notes in Standard Tuning

As I explore the fretboard notes in standard tuning for a 9-string guitar, I’m reminded of the intricate patterns I’ve developed for my book, “Color Your Chords.” The expanded range of a 9-string guitar introduces a fascinating new dimension to these patterns. The lower C# and F# strings extend the bass range significantly, creating a rich tapestry of tonal possibilities.

I’ve found that visualizing the fretboard as a series of interlocking shapes helps navigate the complexity. The 9 string guitar fretboard notes follow the same logical progression as their 6-string counterparts, but with additional depth. This expanded range allows for unique chord voicings and extended scale runs that were previously impossible. By understanding these patterns, players can unlock new creative potential and develop a more intuitive relationship with their instrument.

Alternative Tunings for 9 String Guitars

Drop A Tuning

Drop A Tuning

As a transcriber for Premier Guitar, I’ve encountered numerous drop tunings, but Drop A tuning on a 9-string guitar stands out for its versatility and power. To achieve this tuning, simply lower the lowest string from C# to A, maintaining the standard tuning for the remaining eight strings. This creates a perfect fifth interval between the two lowest strings, ideal for power chords and heavy riffs.

Drop A tuning expands the guitar’s range, allowing for deeper, more resonant tones that are particularly effective in metal and progressive rock. It’s become a favorite among extended-range guitarists for its ability to blend low-end heaviness with intricate higher register work. In my experience, this tuning offers a unique balance, enabling players to explore new sonic territories while maintaining familiar fingering patterns higher up the neck. The added low A opens up possibilities for crushing rhythm parts and thunderous bass lines, perfect for creating a massive wall of sound in modern heavy music.

Open G Tuning

Open G Tuning

As an avid explorer of alternative tunings, I’ve found that Open G tuning for 9 string guitar offers a unique sonic landscape. To achieve this, I tune the strings to G-D-G-B-D-G-B-D-G, creating a rich, resonant G major chord when strummed open. This tuning has opened up new compositional possibilities I never thought possible on a 9-string instrument.

The additional bass strings in Open G provide a thunderous foundation, while the higher strings offer crystalline harmonics. I’ve discovered that this tuning excels in fingerstyle arrangements, allowing for complex chord voicings and intricate melodic lines. It’s particularly effective for slide guitar work, producing a warm, bluesy tone that’s reminiscent of Delta blues played on a 6-string, but with added depth and complexity. By experimenting with partial capos and alternative fingerings, I’ve unlocked even more tonal possibilities, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on this unique instrument.

Custom and Experimental Tunings

Custom and Experimental Tunings

As a guitarist with a master’s degree in Contemporary Improvisation, I’ve delved deep into the world of custom tuning for 9 string guitars. My experiments have led me to discover some truly innovative approaches that push the boundaries of traditional tuning. One of my favorites involves alternating between perfect fifths and perfect fourths, creating a unique harmonic landscape that’s both challenging and rewarding to navigate.

Another experimental tuning I’ve developed involves tuning the lowest three strings to create a resonant drone, while the upper strings follow a more conventional pattern. This approach opens up fascinating possibilities for combining Eastern and Western musical traditions. I’ve found that these custom tunings not only expand the sonic palette of the 9-string guitar but also inspire new compositional techniques and improvisational strategies, encouraging players to think beyond conventional harmonic structures and explore uncharted musical territories.

Tuning Methods and Techniques

Using Electronic Tuners

Using Electronic Tuners

In my extensive experience with electronic tuners, I’ve found them indispensable for 9-string guitars, especially when dealing with Helix low tuning. These devices are crucial for maintaining precision across such a wide range of strings. I’ve tested numerous models, and for 9-string guitars, I strongly recommend strobe tuners or high-precision chromatic tuners that can accurately detect those ultra-low frequencies.

When using an electronic tuner, I always ensure it’s calibrated correctly, typically to A440Hz. For the lowest strings, I’ve discovered that some tuners struggle, so I often use harmonic tuning as a complementary method. This involves tuning to the 12th fret harmonic, which produces a clearer signal for the tuner to detect. Remember, the goal is to achieve perfect intonation across all nine strings, from the highest to the lowest, ensuring your instrument is ready for any musical challenge.

Tuning by Ear

Tuning by Ear

Tuning by ear is a skill I’ve honed over years of musical training, and it’s particularly valuable when setting up a 9-string guitar. While electronic tuners are convenient, relying solely on them can limit your musical growth. I’ve found that developing a keen ear for pitch enhances my overall musicianship and allows for more nuanced tuning adjustments.

To tune by ear, I start with the lowest string and work my way up, using octave relationships and harmonics as reference points. This method is especially useful for the extended range of a 9-string guitar, where precise intonation is crucial. With practice, you’ll begin to recognize even slight pitch discrepancies, enabling you to make micro-adjustments that can significantly improve your instrument’s resonance and playability.

Mastering this skill not only ensures your guitar stays in tune during performances but also deepens your connection with the instrument, ultimately enhancing your musical expression.

Popular 9 String Guitar Models and Their Tunings

Popular 9 String Guitar Models and Their Tunings

In my years as a guitar journalist, I’ve had the privilege of getting up close and personal with some of the most innovative instruments in the industry. Nine-string guitars have always fascinated me, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in guitar design and sound. The Ibanez RG9 stands out as a true game-changer in this realm. Ever wondered why some guitarists swear by the Ibanez RG9? Discover how different 9-string models are shaping the sound of modern music.

The Ibanez RG9’s stock tuning of C#-F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E offers an incredible range, allowing players to explore both deep, thunderous lows and shimmering highs. I’ve found that this tuning works exceptionally well for progressive metal and djent styles. However, some players prefer to experiment with the Ibanez RG9 tuning, dropping the lowest string to a bone-shaking low C for even more depth.

Another model that’s caught my attention is the Schecter Hellraiser C-9. Its slightly shorter scale length compared to the RG9 makes it more accessible for players with smaller hands. In my experience, its stock tuning of C#-F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E (identical to the RG9) produces a slightly warmer tone, perfect for genres ranging from prog rock to ambient soundscapes.

Historical Perspective on 9 String Guitars

Historical Perspective on 9 String Guitars

In my years of researching guitar history for various publications, I’ve come across some fascinating tales. Did you know that 9-string guitars have roots in the Mississippi Delta blues? Let’s explore the surprising history of these unique instruments. My deep dive into this niche area revealed that the 9-string guitar’s origins are intertwined with the innovative spirit of blues musicians seeking new sounds.

One figure who stands out in this history is Big Joe Williams, a blues legend who pioneered the use of a modified 9-string guitar. His unique approach to Big Joe Williams 9 string tuning involved adding three extra strings to a standard 6-string guitar, creating a rich, full-bodied sound that became his signature. This unconventional setup allowed Williams to blend bass lines, rhythm, and lead parts in a way that was previously impossible on a standard guitar.

Witnessing the evolution of these instruments firsthand has been a privilege. From their humble beginnings in the hands of blues innovators to their adoption by modern progressive metal guitarists, 9-string guitars have come a long way. Their journey reflects the ever-expanding boundaries of musical expression and instrument design.

Genres and Music Styles Utilizing 9 String Guitars

Genres and Music Styles Utilizing 9 String Guitars

In my years covering diverse musical landscapes for Premier Guitar and Acoustic Guitar, I’ve witnessed firsthand the evolution of the nine-string guitar’s role across genres. From djent to avant-garde jazz, 9-string guitars are pushing the boundaries of musical genres. How is this instrument reshaping the sound of modern music? This extended-range instrument has become a cornerstone in progressive metal, where bands like Animals As Leaders and Meshuggah harness its lower registers to create earth-shaking riffs and intricate polyrhythms.

But the nine-string guitar’s influence extends far beyond metal. In the realm of experimental jazz, I’ve seen virtuosos like Charlie Hunter use the instrument’s expanded range to simultaneously cover bass lines, chords, and melodies. The nine string guitar music scene is also flourishing in ambient and post-rock genres, where artists like Yvette Young craft lush, layered soundscapes that were previously impossible with standard six-string guitars.

What fascinates me most is how the nine-string guitar is blurring genre lines. I’ve encountered folk musicians incorporating its deep, resonant tones into traditional compositions, and electronic producers integrating its unique timbre into their tracks. As players continue to explore its potential, I’m excited to see how this instrument will further reshape our musical landscape, inspiring new techniques and pushing creative boundaries across all genres.

FAQs About 9 String Guitar Tuning

What is the standard tuning for a 9 string guitar?

The standard tuning for a 9 string guitar is C#-F#-B-E-A-D-G-B-E, from lowest to highest string. This extends the range of a standard 6 string guitar by adding three lower strings.

What are some alternative tunings for a 9 string guitar?

Some alternative tunings for a 9 string guitar include:
1. Drop C# tuning: C#-C#-F#-B-E-A-D-G-B
2. All fourths tuning: C#-F#-B-E-A-D-G-C-F
3. Open C tuning: C-G-C-G-C-E-G-C-E
These alternative tunings offer different sonic possibilities and can inspire new playing techniques.

How do I tune a 9 string guitar?

To tune a 9 string guitar:
1. Use a reliable tuner that can detect low frequencies
2. Start with the highest string (E) and work your way down
3. Tune each string to its corresponding note in your chosen tuning
4. Double-check the tuning after you’ve finished, as adjusting one string can affect others
5. For the lowest strings, use thicker gauge strings to maintain tension

What are some challenges when playing a 9 string guitar?

Some challenges when playing a 9 string guitar include:
1. Wider neck requiring greater hand span and finger strength
2. Increased string tension, especially on lower strings
3. Potential for muddiness in the low end if not properly EQ’d
4. Learning new chord shapes and scale patterns
5. Adapting playing techniques to accommodate the extended range

What type of music is best suited for a 9 string guitar?

9 string guitars are particularly well-suited for:
1. Progressive metal and djent
2. Experimental and avant-garde music
3. Jazz fusion
4. Ambient and atmospheric styles
5. Any genre that benefits from extended range and complex harmonies
However, creative musicians can adapt the instrument to various styles beyond these genres.


As we conclude this journey through the world of 9-string guitar tuning, I’m struck by the incredible versatility and potential of these extended range instruments. From standard AEADGCFAD to experimental tunings, the 9-string guitar opens up a vast landscape of sonic possibilities. My experience has shown that mastering these tunings requires patience, practice, and a willingness to explore.

As we push the boundaries of what’s possible on a guitar, one question remains: what’s next for extended range instruments? This thought excites me as both a journalist and educator. The evolution of 9-string guitars has already revolutionized genres from progressive metal to ambient music. Looking ahead, I envision even more innovative tuning methods and playing techniques emerging, further expanding the guitar’s musical horizons.

Ultimately, the key to success with 9-string guitars lies in understanding their unique tuning intricacies and embracing the creative opportunities they present. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a curious beginner, I hope this guide has inspired you to explore the fascinating world of extended range guitars tuning.

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