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

Theiglupickin

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As others have already stated, CAPO! I realized after many years, readjusting chords to fit my vocal range was best served by using a CAPO! Yes, depending on the chords used, it might take some getting use to if your a visual person like me that sometimes relies on seeing where I am on the fret board. Given I play various guitars I own, I cannot always feel where I am on the fret board. I've also tried one of those roller capo's and it helps when you have to go up a 1/2 or whole step in the middle of a song. Great tool but getting it adjusted right on the neck takes some trial and error to avoid fret buzz on the high E string. Anyway, good luck but experimentation always is worth the effort. Increasing tension on the neck or bridge is risky depending on the guitar, so this is easier all around!
 

fathand

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Flatt & Scruggs tuned up the whole band a half step for years to match Lester's voice, even some of their recordings. Capoing is not common on a fiddle, mandolin or upright bass and I don't think light gauge strings were common in the late 40's. Good chance Lester would have been playing a Martin with scalloped braces too.

Also if you happen to own a Gibson with 24.75" scale it is even less of a problem.
 

KC

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I don't know what y'all are so worried about. I play everything in open E tuning (EBEG#BE) and I just use whatever strings are on it & crank it up. The A and D strings (in normal tuning) go up a whole step, the G goes up a half step, the equivalent in string pressure is more or less the equivalent of a half-step raise. And I've never had a problem. If you're really worried about it, go down a string gauge, but I doubt you need to. Tune it where you want it, adjust the truss rod as needed, off to the races you go.
 

Morlll

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Just practice some with the capo and you'll get used to it more quickly then you realize.

Then you'll have the same problem taking it off when somebody else in the band sings. I'll be 69 in October, and I don't know anything or so I have been told by the younguns.
 

Yuro

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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.
Roscoe:

You have choices!

1. Learn it with different fingering half-step up.

2. Capo (Easiest)

3. Use thinner gage strings. If you use lights, try extra lights.

Most people just use a capo.
 

RoscoeElegante

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Thanks for all the suggestions, folks. (Cranky though a few of 'em are!) I figured out what to do:

Either tune a full step down and capo up from there, as that puts me back at the fret markers I'm so habituated to on these songs.
OR
Play without my glasses on, so when I do glance down at the fret board, I can't see where I am and just play by feel anyway.

You wouldn't think a geezer needing stronger glasses would be so visually stuck. But maybe that's why. As vision fades, you cling to what you can see.

I'd do the playing-with-eyes-closed-all-the-time thing, but I lose my balance if I do that for more than a few moments at a time. Ah, time's downward spirals....
 

dspellman1

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I usually have singers who need to sing a step or two DOWN from where the original was done. Transposing is possible, of course, but it's a PIA to do on the fly, especially if there's something with intricate fingering that's working down close to the nut.

So I have a solution that may sound off the wall to you. I own four Line 6 Variax guitars, one of which is the Acoustic 700. This is a guitar that *looks* like a thin line acoustic, but it's actually (under a pretty spruce top) a solid mahogany guitar with a lot of electronics in it. It models other acoustic guitars, using input from piezo saddles on the bridge, so if you want a Martin D28 or a Gibson J200, you switch to that model. Works extremely well if you're running into an acoustic amp or PA mixer that has extended range (both up and down).

But here's the part you'll find interesting. You can also change the tuning of the guitar without changing the tension of the strings. If you want to tune UP a half-step, you just set that up on the guitar and play as you would normally, and what comes out of the amp is a half step up. If you need to tune DOWN a step, set that up and play, and what comes out of the amp is a step down. If you'd rather play in DADGAD or OpenA or OpenG, etc., you simply switch to that and play as if the guitar was tuned there. What you hear acoustically will be hash, but what comes out of the amp (or through headphones) will be bang on.

The Acoustic 700 is discontinued, but available here and there used. ALL Variax guitars, including those that look like electric guitars, offer acoustic models (including 12-strings) and the ability to tune to whatever you need.
 

BlackCatBonz

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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.
Ernie Ball Rock and Blues acoustic strings. 10-52 with a plain G. I use them on my Gibson L-00, don’t lose much volume, and I could probably tune up a full step and have less tension than 13s.
 

P Thought

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I'd postpone the engagement until I had all my songs transposed to a more comfortable key, and practiced for performance, which would be never. Either that or I'd octavate my voice in the spots I couldn't reach.

That's how I roll.
 

Freeman Keller

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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.

There are several parts of the answer to your question. First, the tension on a guitar string is a function of the square of the frequency that it is tuned to. If you want to compare a string's tension at two different frequencies you multiply by the square of the frequencies. At concert pitch a high E string is tuned to 329 hz, at F it is 349. The ratio squared is 1.125. For the sake of simplicity lets say the ratio is the same for all of the strings tuned up one semi tone.

A normal set of medium strings has a total tension of about 189 pounds depending on scale length. If you tuned those up one semi tone the total tension would be 212 pounds. We'll come back to that

A normal set of light gauge strings has about 165 pounds of tension. Tuning those up to F puts you at 185, right at the same tension as the mediums.

So if you want the same feel as you fret and the same tension on the top of the guitar simply drop down one standard string gauge and tune up one semi tone. It will feel just like the mediums at concert.

In my humble opinion 212 is a lot of tension for a normal steel string acoustic guitar. On a well built guitar there should be no damage, but I think you are pushing it. Not to mention the 12 percent more tension is going to be unpleasant to play.

Note that adding a capo does not increase the tension because at the same time the frequency is going up by the square, the effective scale length is being shortened, which is also an inverse square function.

So short answer - just tuning up one semitone might damage the guitar and certainly does note help it, going one gauge lighter and tuning up will have no effect.
 

KokoTele

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Notes from a repairman:

Most good acoustics are braced lightly enough that they will eventually need a neck reset and (often) develop a belly in the bridge area, even in normal tuning. Increasing the string tension makes that happen faster.

I've seen a handful of Sigmas, and they tend to be overbuilt a bit. Not a lot, but a bit.

I've seen what seems like thousands of the -15 series Martins and they are not overbuilt.

Sigmas aren't usually good candidates for a neck reset since the cost will rival the value of the guitar. It's considerably less work on the -15 series, so it might be worthwhile. (I'd probably charge around $200.) If the bridges belly, they're both good candidates for a Bridge Doctor to correct it. (1/2 hour of labor, plus the cost of the part.)
 

Swirling Snow

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What KokoTele said.

Your Martin lifetime warranty covers medium gauge strings, but no thicker. They have a little bit of experience with repairing old guitars... a little bit more experience than anyone else, in fact. :) What they will pay for is a very good guide to what is a long-term risk.

Myself, I'd drop to a lighter set of strings. Your guitars tops will thank you and so will your finger joints.
 

travisbrown

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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.

No, intervals are different. The OP indicated he didn't really mean Drop-D. It's "Drop E" by raising everything else a half step and gives you standard pattern access to the low E. Sort of a pseudo drop D where you don't have to change from standard tuning. So your transposed barre chords, cowboy chords are still all same shape but you get a low drone for a D 1st pos. shape.

You use two capos to move that up the neck.

"Drop E": E(BEAC#F#)

Shubb, Keyser (and probably others) make shorter capos for this type of double-capoing.
 

travisbrown

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So snapped neck/lifted bridge-wise, how risky is it to tune your acoustics a half-step higher?
You will get raised action immediately and a bellied top later. The Sigma would probably fare better than a presumably lighter-braced Martin. And the string tension would overall be unpleasant for playing.

Go up a gauge in string, tune down to Eb, then capo II. Though if you are using 13-56, might be just fine. Try a few different gauges to find the tension you like.
 

1Mudman

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With 12-54s i like tuning down to C# and the others a 1/2 step. Sounds better than Drop D to me. I have a couple guitars with big strings and have had no problems with neck movement in the several years Ive done it. I will loosen a turn if Im not going to play the guitar for a few weeks.
 

Stuart_P

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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.
What about one of these? I down tune a whole step abd then use a regular capo and just cover 5 strings for drop D but kyser make a special short capo. https://kysermusical.com/products/k...ustic-guitar-capo?_pos=2&_sid=b8df5d794&_ss=r
 




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