Nashville Tuning and High Strung Tuning -- Is there a difference?

Aceguitar1

Gretschie
Mar 30, 2011
404
Atlanta, GA
Hey everyone! I'm genuinely curious about whether most people differentiate between Nashville tuning and high strung tuning? For most of my life, I never made a distinction; and from the looks of it, Wikipedia and most string companies don't seem to either.

However, more and more I'm hearing people refer to these two phrases separately in recording settings. For context, I do quite a bit of studio work, and in the past few years, producers, engineers, and other session guys keep using these terms to mean one tuning or the other, and not interchangeably. So, I made a video explaining the difference according to those folks who choose to differentiate.

I realize this is quite the nitpicky, but I honestly find this kind of stuff super interesting! Haha.

 

Highroller

Country Gent
Jun 11, 2015
2,004
Portland, OR
I used to keep an old Takamine acoustic set up Nashville style for years. Never heard of the difference concerning the G string until just now, so that's kind of interesting!

Great for rythym playing, a little nutty if you go to play some scales and hit that point where it jumps the octave mid-scale! LoL! Definitely gotta watch what you're doing! I'd imagine keeping the standard G on there might smooth that out a bit.

However, rightly or wrongly, I always thought of it as "the way to get a 12-string sound without a 12-string". Once I got one, the need for a Nashville tuned guitar sort of evaporated and I put that guitar to other uses.

No denying it's fun to experiment with and can sound great! To anybody that's never tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot!

... and thanks for posting the vid. Good job!
 
Last edited:

Aceguitar1

Gretschie
Mar 30, 2011
404
Atlanta, GA
I used to keep an old Takamine acoustic set up Nashville style for years. Never heard of the difference concerning the G string until just now, so that's kind of interesting!

Great for rythym playing, a little nutty if you go to play some scales and hit that point where it jumps the octave mid-scale! LoL! Definitely gotta watch what you're doing! I'd imagine keeping the standard G on there might smooth that out a bit.

However, rightly or wrongly, I always thought of it as "the way to get a 12-string sound without a 12-string". Once I got one, the need for a Nashville tuned guitar sort of evaporated and I put that guitar to other uses.

No denying it's fun to experiment with and can sound great! To anybody that's never tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot!

... and thanks for posting the vid. Good job!

Thank you!! You're right about it sounding nutty for some single note stuff, as well as fingerstyle for that matter! Haha.

I can definitely see why folks would think that it's a shortcut to the 12-string sound (and I'm sure for some people that was their reason for doing it!).

However, I think my response to that rationale would be this: The reasoning goes a bit deeper than that when you hear it on most recordings (especially pro recordings). For example, a major label session in the 1990's with a $1 million recording budget at a premier Nashville studio surely would have had equal cartage access to a twelve string as they would a Nashville or high strung guitar. The choice was made to go with one of these tunings over a twelve string guitar for a reason -- most of the time that reason came down to how the guitars were intended to be used in the mix.

That said, if someone wanted to get a 12-string sound without investing in another guitar for that reason, I could certainly see using Nashville tuning to somewhat "fake it"!
 

Highroller

Country Gent
Jun 11, 2015
2,004
Portland, OR
Oh, no doubt. In a pro recording environment you're playing with a completely different set of rules. Decisions are made purely on auditory merits, and a Nashville tuned guitar still has a more open sound than a 12.

But it's a relatively small percentage of players that reach that level. I'm thinking more along the lines of the "average" guitarist, maybe the weekly coffee shop gig or the casual jam. In those environments, I think the main appeal of Nashville tuning is that is does provide a sort of fake 12-string sound. And it does it without the tuning hassles of a real 12 and for the price of the strings.

I often read here and on other forums about people getting 12-strings and then not playing them. Always a shame to read that, but maybe those people that didn't bond with their 12-strings might like a Nashville tuned guitar instead. It's close to a 12, but kinda easier. Ha!

Anyway, for them, might be worth a try. Who here doesn't have an old acoustic sitting around they can convert for fun ?! Most of us all have extras, right? 😜
 

Emergence

Gretschie
May 25, 2022
396
New York
I have an acoustic that doesn’t get much use and I have more strings than I know what to do with so I gave Nashville a try. Here’s what I found.

Lighter gauge strings work well enough for the new 4, 5, and 6. What I got was a guitar for strumming. I play mostly finger style so none of my habitual patterns worked. It took a few songs to train myself not to think I was playing in the wrong key. Cross picking took a but of getting used to but I could make it work. That’s something I’d used finger style in place of for speed. Drone strings an octave up sounded cool.

But playing alone, I missed the bottom. I’m thinking Nashville can work in the studio or with a band but it’s not the best fit for single guitar vocal accompaniment except to make the odd song sound different. I might have thought differently back in college, 1967 to 1971, when I mostly strummed in coffee houses. Different to be different might have worked back then and everyone listening had a good buzz on. I’m not sure this makes sense for a 72 year old guy who’s different enough on his own. I’ll leave my Nashville string guitar as it is for a bit. I don’t need it for anything else. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
 

wildeman

I Bleed Orange
May 10, 2015
16,119
norcal
So, my take is this, high strung is just the string gauges, you can still put it in any tuning you want, my FG160 is in high strung open E right now. Nashville is a tuning.
 

Henry

I Bleed Orange
Apr 9, 2014
18,707
Petaluma
I would expect this type of tuning to be used more often in a band context when you don't care, or even want to avoid, too many low notes from a rhythm guitar. I would think singer songwriter, coffee shop, home players would use it less as it would give you a less full sound.
 

MrClint

Gretschie
Nov 27, 2017
300
Lake Balboa, CA
High-strung acoustic is a great addition to a track or live session where a 12 string kind of sound would work well. Give it a try. It's just a string change and if you're lucky there won't be any buzzing due to the lighter gauge. I did pop a few strings when bending though. Good luck!
 


Top