Half-step down tuning guitar


I’m a big fan of IFR & this forum! I have the book and the first two jam tracks. It has dramatically improved my ear and now I’m starting to be able to play notes by ear! I still cannot recognize chords by ear, so I’m considering starting the “Recognizing Chords by Ear”.

Anyway, I like playing along to songs on my spotify, and noticed that many of Weezer’s songs are in half-step down tuning. How should I understand this tuning in IFR framework? In principal I know that it’s just half a step down from my usual fret numbers. But if this the case, one must be able to figure out how to play these tunes in the normal tuning? Is it just that finger placement gets easier with half step down?

For example, the sweater song has a simple arpeggio the intro. I could figure out the last three by ear, but I couldn’t exactly locate the root so I looked it up, and the tabs are in half-step down: UNDONE THE SWEATER SONG TAB (ver 3) by Weezer @ Ultimate-Guitar.Com

You think I could adjust this to standard tuning using what I know with IFR, but I had a surprisingly difficult time (also the last three notes I found by ear were not near where this tab says it is).

Would be great if someone can shed a light on how to think about this tuning.

Thanks in advance!

Welcome to the forum @chipneko

I’m not sure what David Reed (@ImproviseForReal ) would say officially, but to me IFR doesn’t really have anything to do with tuning. IFR is about undertsanding the music. Putting that music onto your instrument is a separate matter.

For example, in all the guitar specific materials produced by IFR, David uses classic EADGBE tuning. I followed though those materials even though I use ‘All 4ths tuning’ (i.e. EADGCF). I just adapted where relevant.

IFR numbers don’t care where they are on the instrument. They don’t even care which instrument it is. LOL!

My suggestion would be to find, by experimentation, what’s comfortable for you.

Tab can be notoriously unreliable. I’d suggest going with your ear. Aside from anything else your ear will not be happy if you do otherwise! :slight_smile:

I think the tuning of your guitar will effect where you locate specific notes, but the IFR method mostly concentrates on locating notes relatively, either to the note you’re playing (eg a half step or whole step up or down) or to the tonal centre. If your whole guitar is tuned a half-step down, everything will be the same relatively. It will only make a difference when you compare the notes you play with another instrument or recording.

I’m guessing the tuning may have chosen either to match the singer’s vocal range, or fit with other instruments (not sure).

I’m not familiar with the IFR guitar course, but have been working with IFR for a few years now. As @DavidW says, the approach is instrument independent, but you may be referring to what you learned specific to guitar on the course.

Anyway, again as @DavidW said, be guided by your ears and not the tabs, is good advice.

That makes sense, i.e. the same idea as using a capo, but lowering all 6 strings since you can’t capo above the nut!

Another possibility is that some people simply like the sound of slightly slacker strings?

Hi @chipneko, welcome to the forum! One great advantage of the way you’re studying music with IFR is that we are totally “key agnostic”. Because we always talk about the notes and chords using tonal numbers, it makes no difference what key you want to play a song in. All of your understanding of that song is applicable to any key.

I think the problem you’re asking about isn’t really about the theory of transposing, but rather the difficulty of arranging those songs for a different key on the guitar. It sounds like you want to take a specific guitar part that somebody played in the half-step-down tuning, and you want to find a way to play these exact same notes on your normally tuned guitar. This problem has nothing to do with IFR or any other way of thinking about harmony. The problem is that those guitar arrangements probably only work in that one key on their guitar, because they probably make important use of open strings and simply cannot be reproduced exactly in any other key.

Here’s a simple example. Let’s say the guitarist from that band plays his open low E string, which in his tuning is actually a low Eb. How on earth are you supposed to play that note in your standard tuning guitar? You don’t even have that note. So you’re trying to do something that’s just not physically possible. But you can certainly play that exact same arrangement on your guitar if you’re willing to transpose all of the pitches up one half step. You just do on your guitar exactly what the Weezer guitarist did on his guitar, and it will sound the same except for the fact that the entire song will be a half step higher in pitch.

If you’re very stubbornly attached to playing those songs in the exact keys that Weezer played them in, then you’re going to have to create different guitar arrangements. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t reproduce the exact arrangements played by that guitarist if you’re not using the same tuning. So if you’re not willing to change the key, then another solution would be to continue to play the song in the exact same key that the band recorded the song in, but change your guitar part to something that you can actually play in that key. But if you want to reproduce the exact same guitar parts as played by the band, then you’ll either need to tune your guitar down a half step or agree to play the song a half step higher.

Does this make sense? Or am I misunderstanding what you’re trying to do?


Hi David and everyone else!

Thanks so much for the detailed response! It makes sense! This is exactly what I was asking – I was trying in the original pitch and it was hard for me to figure out the low notes by ear (and I found this frustrating bc I know that with IFR I should be able to no matter what tuning), but your explanation made it clear, I just didn’t have the notes! I can try it at a higher pitch.
I think it’s just that my ear is not as good for low-range notes, and this has been difficult, but now that I know this is the path I can try again.

In general I think I get it, as in IFR method, basically I need to figure out the melody in numbers (their relative distance), then I can play it in any key on any tuning.

Thanks all!

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