How risky is it to tune acoustics up a half-step?

RoscoeElegante

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Hey, all. Hope this finds you well.

So as I begin rehearsing for some down-a-now-visible-road shows I notice that I can sing quite a few of my songs "better" a half-step up from the keys in which I originally wrote them.

So snapped neck/lifted bridge-wise, how risky is it to tune your acoustics a half-step higher?

I'd just use a capo at the first fret except for

A) I'm so old that I'm ossified into where I expect the inlayed markers to be. I don't watch the fretboard too much, but when I do, being a fret up from where I expect to be instantly disorients me. And I doubt I can train myself to not look at the fretboard at all while performing. Many of these songs I've played for 10 years+ in a given key, and I generally don't play in flat or sharp keys. Capoing a G to A, sure. But a G to an Ab? My fingers and voice can do that. My eyes can't.

B) A few songs have a drop D on the low E string--meaning I capo at the 2nd fret but leave the low E uncapoed, so playing in "D" shapes = E, with that low, open E ringing. If I'm playing a half-step up, I'd need a second capo at the first fret, making an F note, to mimic leaving the regularly-tuned low E string open. I'd rather not trust two capos at once, especially since you always gotta fiddle a bit to re-tune capoed/uncapoed guitars.

My acoustics are a late-90's Sigma D-18 that seems rock-solid, and I-dunno-the-era 2nd-hand Martin D-15M that I had to fix when I got it (cracked body sides and cracks behind bridge). I use medium (.013-.056) strings.

Thanks for your advice.
 

Chiogtr4x

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I think you'd be fine going up a Half-Step if you stuck to 12-53 lights - may need a truss rod adjustment

* BTW also, 80/20 strings identically gauged to phosphor bronze strings, offer a little less overall string tension than the PB strings. Just a little 'give' that you can feel

I use John Pearse lights ( both 80/20's and phosphor bronze) on either a Martin D-1 or a Blueridge 000/OM
( I go back and forth, depending on how my aging fingers feel)
and the Pearse 80/20 strings sound and feel great- not overly bright/zingy, nice 'give', sound good for a long time, even when they get mellow...
I just bring this up as I just don't care for Martin or D'Addarios 80/20's ( their PB's are fine)- something about the Pearse strings!
 

985plowboy

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I personally would not as a permanent solution.
I agree that you should switch to 12’s or 11’s or even 10’s if you want to try.


But dude seriously, it isn’t that hard to get used to playing with a capo.
Also, I’m confused as to why you’d need a second capo.
Tune to drop D, or any tuning for that matter, add a capo at the fret of choice and the interval stays the same.
 

Frontier9

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How about:
Capo on second fret, tune down a half step.
Dots will be in the familiar places up to the "7th fret" with an extra dot on the first fret, which I would assume wouldn't throw you off.
As far as the 5 string capo is concerned, try one of these new-fangled Spider capos and just flip the 6 string lever back when you need to use that open E string.
 
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howardlo

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I have played primarily acoustics since I began playing in 1957 and would NEVER tune up a half step (with any gauge strings, especially 13’s). Either get used to playing with the capo on the first fret (not that hard to do after a bit of time) or as previously suggested tune down a full step and capo at the second fret.

My classicals have no fretboard markers and are no problem.
 
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RoscoeElegante

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I personally would not as a permanent solution.
I agree that you should switch to 12’s or 11’s or even 10’s if you want to try.


But dude seriously, it isn’t that hard to get used to playing with a capo.
Also, I’m confused as to why you’d need a second capo.
Tune to drop D, or any tuning for that matter, add a capo at the fret of choice and the interval stays the same.
Thanks, 985plowboy. I don't like thin strings, but I may have to go that route.

As mentioned, I play with capos a lot. I just don't want two on a guitar, as fiddling to compensate for how they throw things off pitch is a pain, I'm used to these songs being at here and there on the fretboard, not the space in between (when you're 60 too, you'll understand!). Plus, our gig moves fast, as these songs segue into another, so I don't want to be flipping capos around/switching guitars unless I have to. With almost all the songs I sing suddenly sounding better a half-step up (and no, I didn't shrink my underwear, as one of my teen sons theorized), a half-step-up guitar would work best.

So by second capo, what I mean is, let's say that I'm playing in standard tuning, in the key of F, in the 2nd position. So the D-shaped chords starting at the 5th fret, if I've got that "position" thing right. I capo at the 3rd fret. But since I want a ringing low F, I capo also at the 1st fret to make the standard low E an F. Yes, I could tune that low E up to the F, but that's extra stress on a stubborn string.

I think tuning down a full step and then capoing two frets higher than standard tuning would be is the answer here. Especially since I'm leery of thinner strings, as we've never gotten along.

Thanks, everyone, for your input. Take care.
 
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RoscoeElegante

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With light strings I suspect the Sigma may survive (usually thick tops), but all bets are off on the D-15 - because I believe the braces are scalloped.
Yeah, that seems a daintier guitar, for sure. If I have to cope with capoes galore, that's better than harming a guitar, which is only a little less evil than hurting a dog....
 

RoscoeElegante

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How about:
Capo on second fret, tune down a half step.
Dots will be in the familiar places up to the "7th fret" with an extra dot on the first fret, which I would assume wouldn't throw you off.
As far as the 5 string capo is concerned, try one of these new-fangled Spider capos and just flip the 6 string lever back when you need to use that open E string.
Thanks! Thiis actually occurred to me while I was cooking the kids' supper. And no, I can't explain why it didn't before, other than I'm trying to wrap my mind around singing a half-step higher as an older man. What's up with that? Helium in my Geritol....?

This would still leave me needing to use a 2nd capo for a dropped low E, as it doesn't just drone open. I fret it at various places, as well at play it dropped, etc.
 

nashvillebill

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Thanks, 985plowboy. I don't like thin strings, but I may have to go that route.

As mentioned, I play with capos a lot. I just don't want two on a guitar, as fiddling to compensate for how they throw things off pitch is a pain, I'm used to these songs being at here and there on the fretboard, not the space in between (when you're 60 too, you'll understand!). Plus, our gig moves fast, as these songs segue into another, so I don't want to be flipping capos around/switching guitars unless I have to. With almost all the songs I sing suddenly sounding better a half-step up (and no, I didn't shrink my underwear, as one of my teen sons theorized), a half-step-up guitar would work best.

So by second capo, what I mean is, let's say that I'm playing in standard tuning, in the key of F, in the 2nd position. So the D-shaped chords starting at the 5th fret, if I've got that "position" thing right. I capo at the 3rd fret. But since I want a ringing low F, I capo also at the 1st fret to make the standard low E an F. Yes, I could tune that low E up to the F, but that's extra stress on a stubborn string.

I think tuning down a full step and then capoing two frets higher than standard tuning would be is the answer here. Especially since I'm leery of thinner strings, as we've never gotten along.

Thanks, everyone, for your input. Take care.
Umm, I'm 65 and using a capo wherever I need it is not a problem.
 

TwangerWannabe

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I've been using a capo for decades and playing in drop D on some stuff, others standard tuning and never encountered a problem with fret markers, etc. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel why not just do what 99% of people do and simply use a capo, suck it up and get used to it?

I'm confused as to how the OP states that a capo on the first fret would get him all confused, then later mentions he uses capos all the time. A bit of a contradictory statement right there, or else during all these years he's only been capo'ing his guitars on even numbered frets?!

If you have a key change for a song that you used to play in one key and now that's changed you jsut need to practice it in the new key. Sure it will feel forcing at first, but if you've been playing for a long time it shouldn't take you long to get used to it. What do you do when you play with a singer who plays in a key different than the one you're used to? Do you tell them you can't do that because you can only capo on frets where the dots line up for you?
 
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tomasz

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It will depend on how well your guitar is coping with the current set, but general rule of thumb for me would be to go a number down on an accoustic. If you plan to tune up: if your guitar is fine with 13s, go with 12s. Check the force difference, of your favourite sets. The manufacturer should have table similar to this one:


Additionally, you can also look at string tension calculators, to help you estimate the forces:
 

Havins

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I'd use a Morpheus Capo. I have a Drop Tune and it works perfectly. Amazon has them for about $100. Other members of the band may want to get one also.
 

RoscoeElegante

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I'm confused as to how the OP states that a capo on the first fret would get him all confused, then later mentions he uses capos all the time. A bit of a contradictory statement right there, or else during all these years he's only been capo'ing his guitars on even numbered frets?!
The dots, people, the dots. I'm so habituated to playing certain songs on certain places on the fretboard that if I'm capoing at an odd place, glancing down throws me off--on certain songs. Of course I've practiced getting over this. But because it's problematic--on certain songs--I asked the question.
 

Guitarteach

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I retune mine lots of ways, some with 3 strings up a tone or more. Never had an issue. I use a medium gauge. I’d not do it with heavy. So just drop a gauge if worried.

But a capo can sound nice just to effectively move the nut. I like the capoed tones around 3rd to 5th fret a lot.
 




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