Getting the Classic Country Sound: Tuning Tips and Tricks

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There’s something about classic country music that just speaks to the soul. From the twang of the steel guitar to the catchy melodies and lyrics, it’s a genre that’s both timeless and distinctly American. If you’re a guitarist looking to capture that classic country sound, you may be wondering what tuning techniques and tricks you can use to make your guitar sing. Well, you’re in luck! In this article, we’ll explore the basics of tuning, including standard and alternate tunings, and then dive into some specific techniques for achieving that classic country sound. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner just starting out, we’ve got tips and tricks that will help you elevate your playing and capture the essence of classic country music. So grab your guitar and let’s get started!

The Basics of Tuning

The Basics Of Tuning
As a guitarist, tuning is one of the most fundamental aspects of playing. Without proper tuning, your guitar will not sound its best and it will be difficult to play with other musicians. There are several ways to tune your guitar, including standard tuning and alternate tunings. It’s important to understand the basics of tuning before attempting to achieve the classic country sound. In addition to tuning, factors such as string gauge and material can also impact tone and playability. If you’re interested in learning more about these factors, check out best strings for country guitar and string material, tone, and playability in country music.

1. Standard Tuning

In order to achieve the classic country sound on your guitar, you need to start with the basics of tuning. One of the most common tunings for guitar is the standard tuning, where the strings are tuned to E, A, D, G, B, E. Here’s a quick guide on how to tune your guitar in standard tuning:

  • Start by tuning your low E string to a pitch pipe, a piano or another guitar that you know is in tune.
  • Place your index finger on the fifth fret of the low E string, and pluck the string. This should produce the same note as the open A string.
  • Place your index finger on the fifth fret of the A string, and pluck the string. This should produce the same note as the open D string.
  • Place your index finger on the fifth fret of the D string, and pluck the string. This should produce the same note as the open G string.
  • Place your index finger on the fourth fret of the G string, and pluck the string. This should produce the same note as the open B string.
  • Place your index finger on the fifth fret of the B string, and pluck the string. This should produce the same note as the open high E string.

It’s important to ensure that each string is in tune before moving on to the next. And while standard tuning is a great place to start, exploring alternate tunings can help you achieve a unique sound for your country playing.

In addition to tuning, string care tips are also important to keep your guitar sounding great. Strings should be changed regularly and each player has their own preference regarding string gauge whether they tilt towards heavier or lighter ones. Finally, string bending techniques can take your country solos to the next level, but it’s important to practice these techniques carefully to avoid breaking strings or damaging your guitar.

Another important thing to bear in mind is the type of strings you use. Some guitarists prefer flatwound strings for their smoother feel, while others prefer roundwound strings for their brighter tone. Ultimately, the choice is up to you and your personal playing style.

In short, standard tuning is an important foundational skill for any guitarist playing country music. As you gain experience and explore alternate tunings, different string gauges, and techniques like string bending, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a classic country sound on your guitar.

2. Alternate Tunings

When it comes to playing guitar, you don’t necessarily have to use standard tuning to create beautiful melodies. Alternate tunings can help you unlock new sounds and styles that would not be possible with standard tuning alone. Here are a few of the most popular alternate tunings and their unique characteristics:

  • Drop D: In this tuning, the low E string is dropped down one whole step to D. This creates a fuller and heavier sound that is particularly useful in rock music.
  • Open C: This tuning is popular in blues and country music, and involves tuning the guitar to a C major chord. From low to high, the strings are tuned C-G-C-E-G-C.
  • DADGAD: This tuning is particularly well-suited to folk and Celtic music. It involves tuning the guitar to a Dsus4 chord, creating a rich and resonant sound. From low to high, the strings are tuned D-A-D-G-A-D.
  • Open G: This tuning has been popularized by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and is frequently used in country and blues music. It involves tuning the guitar to a G major chord, with the strings tuned to D-G-D-G-B-D.

Using alternate tunings can take some getting used to, but the effort is definitely worth it. By experimenting with different tunings, you can add new depth and complexity to your playing. Just be sure to use the correct string gauges for your chosen tuning. You can find more information on string gauges for country music in our other article.

Tuning for the Classic Country Sound

Tuning For The Classic Country Sound
When it comes to capturing that signature twang and drawl of classic country music on your guitar, tuning is key. By adjusting your strings to specific tunings, you can access new chord voicings and open up a world of possibilities for your playing. In this section of the article, we’ll explore three alternate tunings that are commonly used in classic country music, each with its own unique flavor and style. So grab your guitar and get ready to dive into the world of Classic Country Tunings.

1. Open G Tuning

One popular tuning for achieving the classic country sound on your guitar is Open G tuning. This tuning is achieved by tuning the guitar strings to the following notes, from lowest to highest: D-G-D-G-B-D.

String Open G Tuning Standard Tuning
1st D E
2nd G B
3rd D G
4th G D
5th B A
6th D E

By tuning to Open G, you’ll immediately notice that when you strum all the strings, a G major chord is sounded. This makes for easy and intuitive chord progressions when playing in the key of G.

Tip: Try playing an open position G chord by fretting the 2nd fret of the 5th string (the B string) and strumming all the strings. This produces a different voicing than the familiar G chord played in standard tuning.

Open G tuning is especially well-suited for slide guitar playing, as it allows for easy sliding between notes on adjacent strings. Additionally, many classic country songs were written and performed using this tuning, including “Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones and “The Weight” by The Band.

Tip: Experiment with fingerpicking and simple chord progressions in Open G, and don’t be afraid to try making up your own songs in this tuning!

As with any alternate tuning, adjusting to Open G will take some practice and getting used to. But with some patience and perseverance, you can add this classic country sound to your guitar playing repertoire.

2. Double Drop D Tuning

One tuning method that is commonly used to achieve that classic country sound on the guitar is the Double Drop D tuning. This involves tuning both the low E and high E strings down a whole step to D, hence the “double drop” name. In other words, the tuning is DADGBD.

Here are some tips and tricks for using the Double Drop D tuning:

  • Experiment with chord shapes: One of the biggest benefits of this tuning is that it allows you to play some complex chord shapes with ease. For instance, you can play a D chord with just one finger by barring the second fret. Similarly, you can play an A chord by barring the 5th fret. This opens up a lot of possibilities for improvisation and experimentation.
  • Get comfortable with power chords: Double Drop D tuning is also great for playing power chords (root-fifth octave). The lower D note makes for a fuller, richer sound that can really drive a song forward. You can play power chords on the low D and A strings for a heavy, distorted sound.
  • Try fingerpicking: The Double Drop D tuning is also great for fingerpicking styles, as the open tuning allows for a lot of flexibility and versatility. Experiment with different fingerpicking patterns and techniques to find what works best for you.

As with any tuning, it may take some time to get used to the different intervals and fingerings. Take it slow and practice regularly to get comfortable with the Double Drop D tuning. Ultimately, this tuning can open up a world of possibilities for your playing and help you achieve that classic country sound.

3. DADGAD Tuning

When it comes to getting that classic country sound on your guitar, tuning is a crucial element that shouldn’t be overlooked. The DADGAD tuning is an alternative tuning that is a favorite of many country guitar players. This tuning can give a unique and interesting sound to your playing, and works particularly well for fingerpicking and slide guitar. Here are some tips on how to use the DADGAD tuning:

  • Understand the tuning: As the name suggests, DADGAD tuning involves tuning your guitar to D-A-D-G-A-D instead of the traditional E-A-D-G-B-E. This produces a more open and drone-like sound that is perfect for country music.
  • Experiment with chord shapes: One of the main benefits of DADGAD tuning is that the fingerings for some chords become easier. For example, a D chord can be played using just the open D, G and A strings. Experiment with other chord shapes to find new and interesting sounds.
  • Try fingerpicking: The open strings in DADGAD tuning make it a great option for fingerpicking. Experiment with different picking patterns to get the most out of the tuning.
  • Use a slide: The open tuning of DADGAD lends itself particularly well to slide guitar playing. The open strings can be used to create a drone effect while the slide moves up and down the fretboard.
  • Combine with other tunings: DADGAD tuning can be combined with other alternative tunings to create even more unique sounds. Try experimenting with open tunings like open G or open D and see what sounds you can come up with.

The DADGAD tuning is a versatile and unique tuning that is worth exploring if you want to achieve that classic country sound on your guitar. With a little experimentation and practice, you can incorporate this tuning into your playing and create your own unique sound.

Advanced Techniques

Advanced Techniques
Now that you’ve got the basics of tuning for country music down, it’s time to take your playing to the next level with some advanced techniques. By incorporating techniques such as string bending, capo use, and playing behind the nut, you can add a new dimension to your playing and really capture that classic country sound. While these techniques may take some practice to master, the effort is well worth it when you hear the results. So, let’s dive in and explore some advanced tips and tricks to elevate your country guitar playing.

1. Bending Strings

Bending strings is a crucial technique in achieving the classic country sound on your guitar. It involves pushing or pulling a string to alter its pitch, creating a vocal-like effect. Here are some tips and tricks for perfecting your bending technique:

Technique Description
Pre-bending Before plucking the string, bend it up to the desired pitch. This can create a more pronounced bend and is often used in blues and rock as well as country.
Vibrato Once the string is bent to the desired pitch, shake it back and forth rapidly to create a shimmering effect. This is often used at the end of a phrase or solo to add emphasis and emotion.
Unison Bends Bend one string to match the pitch of another. This can create a harmonizing effect and is often used in country and western swing.
Bend and Release Bend the string up to a desired pitch, then release it back to its original pitch. This can create a twangy effect and is often used in country ballads.

To master the bending technique, practice slowly at first and gradually increase your speed. It’s important to also pay attention to your intonation and make sure your bend matches the desired pitch. Incorporate bends into your playing to add depth and emotion to your classic country sound.

2. Using a Capo

One of the best ways to achieve the classic country sound on your guitar is by using a capo. For those who aren’t familiar, a capo is a small device that clamps down on the strings of your guitar, effectively shortening the length of the strings and raising the pitch.

Using a capo has a number of different benefits, such as allowing you to play in different keys without having to relearn your chord shapes, and helping you to achieve a brighter, more resonant tone. Here are some tips on how to use a capo effectively:

Tip Description
Choose the right capo There are several different types of capos out there, so it’s important to choose one that works best for you. Some capos are designed to fit certain types of guitars, while others allow you to adjust the pressure of the clamp to suit your playing style.
Experiment with placement Depending on the sound you’re going for, you may want to experiment with different capo placements on the neck of your guitar. Placing the capo closer to the nut will give you a brighter, more treble-heavy sound, while moving it further up the neck will produce a darker, more mellow tone.
Don’t rely on the capo too much While using a capo can be a great way to change the key of a song, it’s important not to rely on it too heavily. Make sure you’re still practicing and learning chord shapes in different keys so that you can become a more versatile player overall.
Experiment with different chord shapes One of the great things about using a capo is that it allows you to play the same chord shapes in different positions on the neck of your guitar. This can open up a whole world of new possibilities when it comes to creating interesting chord progressions and exploring different musical styles.

By using these tips and experimenting with different capo placements and chord shapes, you’ll be well on your way to achieving that classic, twangy country sound on your guitar. Just remember to use the capo as a tool, rather than a crutch, and keep practicing to become the best player you can be.

3. Playing Behind the Nut

Another advanced technique you can use to bring out the classic country sound on your guitar is playing behind the nut. This may seem like an unusual technique, but it can help you create unique sounds.

Here’s how to play behind the nut:

Step 1: Place your left hand on the neck of the guitar, with your fingers on the fretboard.

Step 2: Slide your hand up the neck so that it is behind the nut. The nut is the small rectangular piece at the end of the neck that supports the strings.

Step 3: Pluck the strings with your right hand. You’ll notice that the sound is muted and has a unique quality.

Step 4: Experiment with sliding your hand up or down the neck to create different sounds.

Playing behind the nut can help you create unique sounds that are characteristic of classic country music. This technique can be used to add depth to lead lines or to create interesting accompaniments.

Remember to experiment with different hand positions and fingerings to get the sound you want. Like all advanced techniques, playing behind the nut requires practice and patience to master.

So, try incorporating this technique in your playing and surprise your audience with new and unique sounds!


Despite following all the tips and tricks for tuning your guitar to achieve that classic country sound, you may encounter some issues with your instrument. These problems may prevent you from achieving the desired results, but don’t be discouraged. With patience, perseverance, and a willingness to troubleshoot, you can address these issues and get back to playing your guitar like a pro. In this section, we’ll explore some common problems and their solutions, so you can overcome any obstacles that come your way. Let’s dive into the world of troubleshooting!

1. Intonation

When it comes to achieving the classic country sound on your guitar, intonation is a crucial factor. Intonation refers to the accuracy of the pitch of each fret on the guitar’s neck. If the intonation is off, the guitar will sound out of tune even when played in standard tuning.

To check your guitar’s intonation, start by tuning each string to pitch using an electronic tuner. Then, use a guitar tuner app on your phone or another electronic tuner to compare the pitch of the 12th fret harmonic to the pitch of the 12th fret note.

If the pitch of the fretted note is sharp compared to the harmonic, the string needs to be lengthened by adjusting the saddle towards the tailpiece. If the pitch of the fretted note is flat compared to the harmonic, the string needs to be shortened by adjusting the saddle towards the neck.

Make small adjustments to the saddle and recheck the intonation until each fret is accurately in tune. Keep in mind that changing string gauges or tunings will affect the intonation, so it may need to be adjusted again in the future.

Here’s a helpful table to guide you through adjusting your guitar’s intonation:

Issue Solution
Sharp fretted notes Adjust saddle towards tailpiece
Flat fretted notes Adjust saddle towards neck

Taking the time to properly intonate your guitar will make a big difference in the overall sound quality and playability of your instrument.

2. Buzzing Strings

One common problem that may arise when trying to achieve the classic country sound on your guitar is the issue of buzzing strings. This can be frustrating and may affect the overall quality of your playing.

There are several common causes of buzzing strings and each requires a different solution. Refer to the table below for a summary of the causes and solutions:

Cause Solution
The string is too loose Tighten the string or adjust the tuning
The string is too low (touching the frets) Raise the string action by adjusting the saddle or bridge
The frets are uneven or worn Have a professional technician level and crown the frets or replace them
The neck is bowed or warped Adjust the truss rod or have a professional technician perform a neck reset

If you are experiencing buzzing strings, it is important to address the issue as soon as possible. Ignoring it can lead to further damage to your guitar and may ultimately affect your playing experience.

Remember that proper maintenance and regular check-ups can help prevent buzzing strings and other playing issues. Taking care of your instrument will ensure that you continue to achieve the classic country sound on your guitar with ease and precision.

3. Action and Setup

When it comes to achieving the classic country sound on your guitar, having the right action and setup is crucial. Action refers to the distance between the fretboard and the strings, while setup encompasses all aspects of the guitar’s configuration, including the string gauge, truss rod adjustment, and bridge height.

The Importance of Action and Setup
Having the proper action and setup can greatly impact the overall sound and playability of your guitar. If the action is too high, it can be difficult to press down on the strings, resulting in intonation issues and a less than desirable tone. On the other hand, if the action is too low, the strings may buzz against the frets, causing unwanted noise.

Checking and Adjusting Action
To check the action on your guitar, use a ruler to measure the distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the 12th fret. For higher strings, a measurement of 3/64 inches is a good starting point, while lower strings should have a measurement closer to 4/64 inches. If your action is too high, adjustments can be made by adjusting the truss rod or bridge height.

String Gauge and Truss Rod Adjustment
The string gauge you choose can also affect the action and setup of your guitar. Heavier gauge strings will require more tension and may result in a higher action. Conversely, lighter gauge strings will require less tension and may result in a lower action. Truss rod adjustments can be made to help alleviate any issues with the neck bowing due to the string tension.

Bridge Height and Intonation
The bridge height can also impact the action and overall sound of the guitar. If the bridge is too high, it may cause the action to be higher than desired. If it is too low, the strings may buzz against the frets. Adjusting the bridge height can also help with proper intonation, or the ability for the guitar to be in tune across all frets.

Action too high Action too low
Difficult to press down on strings
Less than desirable tone
Strings may buzz against frets
Unwanted noise
String gauge heavier String gauge lighter
Requires more tension
May result in higher action
Requires less tension
May result in lower action
Bridge too high Bridge too low
Action may be too high
Intonation may be off
Strings may buzz against frets
Intonation may be off

Having the right action and setup is essential in achieving the classic country sound on your guitar. By checking and adjusting the action, choosing the appropriate string gauge, and adjusting the bridge height for proper intonation, you’ll be on your way to playing like a country pro in no time.


In conclusion, mastering the classic country sound on your guitar requires a combination of proper tuning, expert techniques, and troubleshooting skills. By experimenting with different tunings, such as open G, double drop D, and DADGAD, you can achieve the desired sound that defines classic country. Additionally, advanced techniques like string bending, using a capo, and playing behind the nut can further enhance the quality of the sound you produce.

However, despite your best efforts, you may still encounter problems such as poor intonation or buzzing strings. It’s essential to take the time to troubleshoot and address these issues to ensure your guitar produces the best possible sound.

Overall, learning how to achieve the classic country sound on your guitar is a worthwhile endeavor that can bring joy and satisfaction in your music-making. By following these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of classic country guitar playing. So practice, experiment, and have fun as you become a master of the classic country guitar sound!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How important is tuning when playing classic country music on the guitar?

Tuning is crucial when playing any genre of music on the guitar, but especially so when trying to achieve a specific sound like the classic country sound.

2. Can I use a tuner app on my phone to tune my guitar?

Yes, tuner apps are a convenient tool for tuning your guitar. However, it’s always a good idea to have a physical tuner as a backup.

3. What is open G tuning?

Open G tuning is when you tune your guitar so that the open strings form a G chord. This tuning is commonly used in the blues and country genres.

4. Can I use alternate tunings for more than just classic country music?

Absolutely! Alternate tunings can be used in virtually any genre of music and can add a unique and interesting sound to your playing.

5. How do I adjust the intonation on my guitar?

Intonation can be adjusted by using the saddle on the bridge of your guitar. Use a tuner to check the pitch of each string at the 12th fret, and make small adjustments to the saddle as needed.

6. What is buzzing on my guitar and how can I fix it?

Buzzing occurs when a string vibrates against a fret or other part of the guitar. This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as low action, a warped neck, or loose frets. Bring your guitar to a professional for diagnosis and repair.

7. What is playing behind the nut and how can it enhance my playing?

Playing behind the nut is when you press down on the strings behind the nut while playing. This technique can create a unique and atmospheric sound that can add depth to your playing.

8. Should I use light or heavy gauge strings for classic country music?

The choice between light or heavy gauge strings ultimately comes down to personal preference. However, many players prefer heavier gauge strings for the typically twangy sound of classic country music.

9. Can a capo be used in combination with alternate tunings?

A capo can absolutely be used in combination with alternate tunings. Experiment with different positions along the neck to find the sound that you’re looking for.

10. Do I need to take my guitar to a professional for setup?

While it’s possible to set up your guitar on your own, it’s recommended to take it to a professional for the best possible results. They can adjust the action, intonation, and more to ensure that your guitar plays and sounds its best.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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