Non-Pedal Steel Guitar Tunings
(Pedal Steel Tunings)

E13TH

1 - G#
2 - E
3 - C#
4 - B
5 - G#
6 - E
7 - D
8 - B or E

Used By Don Helms (Hank Williams), Little Roy Wiggins (Eddy Arnold And George Morgan) And Speedy West (With The 4th String Tuned T A# And A Pedal To Raise It To B (Would Then Be Called F# 9th Tuning)

Half Chromatic &
Half Diatonic

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - B
4 - A
5 - G#
6 - G
7 - F#
8 - F
9 - E
10 - C#

Tuning Used By Eddie Alkire

C6

*Each steel guitar tuning is a unique tool as an extension of your personality, but the C6th tuning is a Swiss-knife for chords.

1 - G
2 - E
3 - C
4 - A
5 - G
6 - E
7 - C
8 - A

Extended C6th Tuning with Low A Bass String. High G works perfect for Herb Remington's song, Sweetning.

E13

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - B
4 - G#
5 - F#
6 - D
7 - G#
8 - E

Used By Leon McAuliffe

A6

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - E
6 - C#
7 - A
8 - F#

Used By Herb Remington
And Other Western Swing Players

E7

1 - E
2 - B
3 - G#
4 - E
5 - D
6 - B
7 - G#
8 - E

Used By Most Players In The Early Years And Is Still A Good Tuning For Hawaiian And Country Playing

A6

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - E
6 - C#
7 - Bb

Used By Bobby Koefer

E13 + 9TH

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - B
4 - G#
5 - F#
6 - D
7 - G#
8 - E

Used By Bobby Koefer

Cm6

1 - G
2 - Eb
3 - C
4 - A
5 - G
6 - Eb
7 - A

Used By Bobby Koefer

D9
(Root Omitted)

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - G
5 - E
6 - C
7 - A
8 - F#

Tuning Used By Joaquin Murphey

A6

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - E
6 - C#
7 - A
8 - C

Used By Marty Rifkin.
Good For Western Swing And Has An A Minor On The 8th String. The 8th String Is The Same Gauge And Pitch As The 6th String

E13

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - G#
4 - E
5 - Bb
6 - F#
7 - D# HIGH
8 - F# HIGH

Used By Herb Remington In The 40's And 50's. He Used Smaller gauge Strings On The 7th And 8th Strings. This Is the Forerunner To The E9th Pedal Tuning Used Today

D MAJ 9TH A6TH

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - D
6 - B

Used By Slim Yamaguchi
(Mark Chestnut)

 C6 + 13th

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - G
5 - E
6 - C
7 - Bb
8 - C

This is a Great Versatile C6th tuning. The "Bb" gives a dominant 7th. The "A" note with the Bb Gives a 13th.

E13TH

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - B
4 - G#
5 - E
6 - D
7 - G#
8 - B

Used by Jerry Byrd on "Blue Hawaiian Moonlight." A very Nice Strum Tuning.

E9TH

1 - E
2 - B
3 - G#
4 - F#
5 - E
6 - D
7 - G#
8 - B

As Used by Jerry Byrd on "Blues Guaranteed." A Nice Strum Tuning. Jerry Does Some Nice 8-string strumming in This Song.

C13th

1 - G
2 - E
3 - C
4 - A
5 - G
6 - E
7 - C
8 - Bb

As used by Junior Brown. The "Bb" note gives you a dominant 7th. The "A" note gives you the 13th in a C scale. I like the Bb a lot.

 

Lloyd Green Tuning Seminar
(MP3, 21:54 minutes long, Texas Steel Show, October 1992)

Slide Rules (tunings for non-pedal steel guitars, book available, by Andy Volk)


Major Verses Dominant 7th chords

The following chart below is invaluable. It's a jpeg and you're welcome to download and share it with others. In fact, everything on this website is free for you to share. I use it all the time in studying or figuring out chords and tunings. Something amazing, that I recently learned, and had always wondered, is what's the difference between a Major 7th and a Dominant 7th chord? And why do they call it a dominant 7th?  I think this is something good to know as a musician, since we use 7th chords all the time.

It's quite easy. Whoever named everything in the music world decided to call the first note of any scale a TONIC. They called the 4th note of the scale a SUB-DOMINANT. And they called the 5th note of any scale a DOMINANT. That's key information to understand why they call it a “dominant 7th” chord. Who knows why someone called a tree a tree, or a cloud a cloud; but this is just music language. So having said that...

In ANY particular scale, if you start at the 5th note (which is the DOMINANT note in the scale) and find your 1-3-5-7flat, then you'll find a natural dominant 7th chord in ANY scale. Pretty neat, huh? By the way, the only difference between a Major 7th and a Dominant 7th is that a dominant 7th note is flatted a half-note. Always, that's just a rule in music. When musicians refer to a 7th chord, they always mean a dominant 7th unless otherwise stated. So take for example the key of F. If you start at the 5th note (i.e., the DOMINANT), then your 1-3-5-flatted7th would be respectively, C- E - G - Bb. Thus, you have a natural C dominant 7th chord occurring in the key of F, beginning with the DOMINANT 5th note. So that's why they call it a “dominant 7th chord.” Every key has a natural dominant 7th chord; and every dominant 7th chord comes from some particular key. The chart below shows all the relationships. If none of this makes any sense to you, it's ok, just remember that a dominant 7th means to flat the 7th note a half-tone.

Nothing has been changed in the following chord chart. So for the key of C we find that the 7th note is a B note. So we flat it to a Bb to give us a C dominant 7th chord. Take a look at the key of F though and you'll find, starting at the 5th (DOMINANT) note, that the 7th note from there is already flatted for us to Bb. It's a naturally occurring C dominant 7th chord in the key of F. Again, that's why they call it a dominant 7th chord, i.e., because it is found in a scale that begins on the 5th (or DOMINANT) note of any particular scale.

Music Chord Structure Study Chart

Tunings Used By Jerry Byrd And Others

C6

*Each steel guitar tuning is a unique tool as an extension of your personality, but the C6th tuning is a Swiss-knife for chords.

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - G
5 - E
6 - C
7 - A
8 - G

Here's an awesome video performance by Doug Beaumier playing the instrumental song “Teardrop” along with a Band-In-A-Box track. He's using the above tuning. “Teardrop” was originally performed in 1959 by Santo & Johnny.

C6 + A7

*Jerry Byrd used the C6th + A7 extensively. The 7th chord is often used as a passing chord. Jerry also does a lot of melodic work by using strings 1 and 6 together with bar slants.

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - G
5 - E
6 - C#
7 - C
8 - A 

E9

1 - E
2 - B
3 - G#
4 - F#
5 - E
6 - D
7 - B
8 - G# or E (usually G#)

*The "Admirable Byrd" LP and can be played on the E9th pedal steel guitar, which is a chromatic tuning. Of course, don't use the pedals or knees. The first seven (1-7) strings above are identical to the bottom seven open strings on the E9th pedal steel guitar. Most of Jerry's E9th tabs use a G# on string 8, but a couple switch strings 7 and 8 (i.e., G# on 7, and B on 8). On "Blues Guaranteed," Jerry uses the above tuning.

C# minor 7

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - G#
4 - E
5 - D
6 - B
7 - G#
8 - E

C DIATONIC

*Don't underestimate this tuning. Here's a steel solo to blow your mind. Jerry Byrd used his new diatonic tuning in 1960 to record "Next To Jimmy" by Ferlin Husky.

1 - E (high)
2 - C
3 - B
4 - A
5 - G
6 - F
7 - E (low)

B11

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - D#
6 - C#
7 - A
8 - F#

 

Tunings Used By Tiny Murphy

Neck #1

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - G
5 - E
6 - C
7 - A
8 - F#

Neck #2

1 - G
2 - E
3 - C
4 - A
5 - G
6 - Eb
7 - C
8 - A

Neck #3

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - G
5 - E
6 - D
7 - Bb
8 - F

 

Tunings Used By Leon McAuliffe

Neck #1

1 - G
2 - B
3 - D
4 - E
5 - D
6 - C
7 - B
8 - A


Neck #2

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - B
4 - G#
5 - F#
6 - D
7 - G#
8 - E


Neck #3

1 - E
2 - C#
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - E
6 - C#
7 - A
8 - F#


Neck #4

1 - E
2 - C
3 - A
4 - F#
5 - F
6 - D#
7 - G# HIGH
8 - D



6 String Steel Tunings

Miscellaneous 6 String Non Pedal Tunings

Dobro G

1 - D 016
2 - B 020
3 - G N28w
4 - D N36w
5 - B N36w
6 - G N56w

A
(High Bass)

1 - E 014
2 - C# 017
3 - A 022
4 - E 030w
5 - C# 034w
6 - A 042w

C# Minor 7th

1 - E 014
2 - C# 017
3 - G# 024
4 - E 030w
5 - B 038w
6 - E 056w

E7

1 - E 015
2 - B 020
3 - G# 024
4 - E 030w
5 - D 034w
6 - E 056w

E
(Low Bass)

1 - E 015
2 - B 020
3 - G# 024
4 - E 030w
5 - B 038w
6 - E 056w

C6

1 - E 014
2 - C 018
3 - A 022
4 - G 024w
5 - E 030w
6 - C 036w

C6 With Added 7th

1 - E 014
2 - C 018
3 - A 022
4 - G 024w
5 - E 030w
6 - C# 036w

C# Minor 7th

1 - E 014
2 - C# 017
3 - G# 024w
4 - E 030w
5 - D 032w
6 - B 038w

8 String Steel Tunings

Miscellaneous 8 String Non Pedal Tunings

C 6TH

1 - E 014
2 - C 018
3 - A 022
4 - G 024w
5 - E 030w
6 - C# 034w
7 - C 036w
8 - A 042w

A Major 6TH

1 - E 015
2 - C# 017
3 - A 022
4 - F# 026w
5 - E 030w
6 - C# 034w
7 - A 042w
8 - E 056w

E7TH

1 - E 015
2 - B 020
3 - G# 024
4 - E 030w
5 - D 032w
6 - B 038w
7 - G# 046w
8 - E 056w

E13TH

1 - E 014
2 - C# 017
3 - B 020
4 - G# 024w
5 - E 030w
6 - D 034w
7 - B 038w
8 - G# 046w

E9TH

1 - E 014
2 - B 017
3 - G# 024
4 - F# 026w
5 - D 032w
6 - B 038w
7 - G# 046w
8 - E 056w

B 11TH

1 - E 014
2 - C# 017
3 - A 022
4 - F# 026w
5 - D# 032w
6 - B 038w
7 - F# 050w
8 - B 056w

D 9TH

1 - E 014
2 - C 018
3 - A 022
4 - F# 026w
5 - D 034w
6 - C 036w
7 - A 042w
8 - F# 050w

E 7TH
(HIGH G#)

1 - G# 010
2 - E 014
3 - B 020
4 - G# 024w
5 - E 026w
6 - D 032w
7 - B 038w
8 - G# 056w

C 13TH

1 - E 014
2 - C 018
3 - A 022
4 - G 024
5 - E 030w
6 - C 036w
7 - Bb 040w
8 - G 048w

E 9TH

1 - E 014
2 - B 020
3 - G# 024
4 - F# 026w
5 - E 030w
6 - D 032w
7 - B 038w
8 - G# 046w

Tunings for Various Top Notch Steel Guitar Players
Top is 1st (or thinnest) string!
Jules Ah See
E13th C13th B11th
E E E
C# C C#
G# A A
F# G F#
D E D#
B C B
G# Bb F#
E C B
Alan Akaka
C13th B11th
E E
C C#
A A
G F#
E D#
C B
Bb F#
C B
Eddie Alkire
E Harp
E
C#
B
A
G#
G
F#
F
E
C#
Barney Isaacs Jr.
C13th B11th E13th A13th
E E E E
C C# C# B
A A G# A
G F# F# G
E D# D E
C B B C
Bb A (F#) G# G
C B E C
Bobby Black
C6th+A7
E
C
A
G
E
C#
A
B
Harry Brooker
E13th
E
C#
B
G#
E
D
B
E
Cindy Cashdollar
A6th C6th E13th
E G E
C# E C#
A C B
F# A G#
E G F#
C# E D
A C G#
F# A E
George de Fretes
D6th
D
B
A
F#
D
B
A
F#
Hanalei DeWilligen
D13th
D
B
A
F#
D
C
John Ely
C13th B11th A Diatonic D9th E13th
E E E E E
C C# C# C C#
A A B A B
G F# A F# G#
E D# G# E F#
C C# F# C D
Bb A F A G#
C B D D E
Ken Emerson
G6th
D
B
G
E
B
G
Roger Filberto
E7th
E
B
G#
E
D
B
Herbert Hanawahine
C13th E7th A11th A11th (2nd tuning)
E G# F# F#
C E D D
A B B B
G G# G G
E E E E
C D C# C#
Bb B A G
C E A A
Rudy Wairata
D6th
D
B
A
F#
D
B
A
F#

George “Keoki” Lake

A Major 6th/7th

E
C#
A
G
F#
E
C#
A
Don Helms
E6th B11th E13th E13th
G# E G# G#
E C# E E
C# A C# C#
B F# B B
G# D# G# G#
E B E E
C# A D D
A F# B E

Keaau Waugh

C6th
G
E
C
A
E
C
David Kelii
G11th C6th D9th
E E E
C C C
A A A
F G F#
D E E
B C C
Sol Hoopii
C# Minor F#9th A Major C# Minor 7
E E E E
C# C# C# C#
G# G# A G#
E E E E
B A# C# D
E F# A B
David Kelii
G11th C6th D9th
E E E
C C C
A A A
F G F#
D E E
B C C
Bobby Koefer
A6+F#7 C Minor 6th E13th
E G E
C# Eb C#
A C B
F# A G#
E G F#
C# Eb D
A# A G#
    E
Leon McAuliffe

*Santo & Johnny used the A6th, as well as Cindy Cashdollar and Billy Hew Len. It is a popular Western Swing tuning. The A6th is nothing more than a C6th with a high G, tuned three half-steps lower. Cool huh?

A6 E13th ? Bass Tuning
E E (root) E D
C# C# (6) C# B
A B (5) A G
F# G# (3) F# E
E F# (9) F D
C# D (b7) Eb C
A

G# (3)

Ab (High) B
F# E (root) D A

In his helpful book "Slide Rules," Andy Volk says that Leon used the G6th tuning on his 1st neck (high to low: G B D E D C B A). I couldn't help but notice it resembles Jerry's C Diatonic tuning.

Ralph Kolsiana

*A Hawaiian swing player, Ralph invented this tuning in the 1940's.

E13th
G#
E
C#
B
G#
E
D
B

 

Bill Leavitt
*Tabs & tracks are available.
C9 + A7 C9 + A7 C9 + A7
D G B
C Eb D
Bb D C
G C Bb
E Bb G
C# G E
  E C
  C# E
Joaquin Murphey
C6th+A7 C6th+D9th
E E
C C
A A
G G
E E
C# C
A A
B F#
Dick McIntire
F#9th
E
C#
G#
E
A#
F#
Sammy Mitchell
E13th
E
C#
B
G#
E
D
B
E
Greg Sardinha
C13th B11th
E E
C C#
A A
G F#
E D#
C C#
Bb B
C  
Herb Remington
A6th F#13th
E E
C# C#
A G#
F# E
E A#
C# F#
A D# (High)
A (Low) F# (High)

*I used to be intimidated by Herb's A6th, thinking it was Western Swing, a different animal than Hawaiian. Then one day I realized that I had been playing his tuning all along. The A6th is nothing but the C6th tuning with a high G, lowered by three half-steps. Wallah!

Casey Olsen
C6th B11th
E E
C C#
A A
G F#
E D#
C C#
Bb B
C
Dick Sanft
Cmaj9th#11 C13th
F# E
E C
D A
B G
G E
E C
G Bb
C C
Benny Rogers

*The tuning below is simply two half-notes higher than standard C6th with a Bb on string 6.

D13th
F#
D
B
A
F#
C
David “Feet” Rogers

*David was steel guitarist with "Sons Of Hawaii." The 6th string is one octave lower than the 5th string.

D Major
F#
D
A
F#
D
D (Low, root note)

Kayton Roberts

*Kayton calls the F13th his "crazy stuff" neck, so he can do speedy west stuff. Cool!

F13 C6th+A7
F E
D C
A A
F G
G E
Eb C#
C A
F A (Low bass)
Bud Tutmarc

*This tuning is commonly referred to as the "Sacred Steel" tuning, popularized by Bud Tutmarc and others. The 6th string is one octave lower than string 5, providing a nice bass sound.

C# Minor
E
C#
G#
E
B
E
E (an octave lower than 5)
Billy Robinson

*Listen to an MP3 of Billy playing "Crazy" using the extended C6th tuning.

Extended C6th
D
G
E
C
A
G
E
C
A
F
Henry Allen
C6th+A7
E
C
A
G
E
C
Bb
G

*In my opinion Henry Allen best demonstrates the musical beauty of using a Bb on the C6th. It defines his steel playing as he really makes extensive use of the Bb in his recordings. Great musicianship!

Don Helms
E13th
G#
E
C#
B
G#
E
D
B or E
Bobby Lee
E13 A6th C6th *** E6
F# E E E G#
G# C# C D

E

E A A C# C#
C# F# G A B
B E E F# G#
G# C# C D E

E

A A B D
D F# G A B

***Bob calls this his “new Hawaiian” tuning. Very interesting!

Tau Moe
E13th 8-string E13th 6-string *C6th + Maj 7th
E E E
C# C# B
B G# A
G# E G
E D E
D B or E C
B   E
E   C

*As told to John Marsden in July of 1967 (used on his twin neck).

Billy Hew Len

A7th
E
C#
A
F#
E
C#
Bb
G
Noel Boggs
E13th
E (root)
C# (6)
G# (3)
F# (9)
D (b7)
B (5)
G# (3)
E (root)

Mike Neer

A7th A6th
E E
C# C#
A A
F# F#
E E
C# C#
Bb A
G A

*Mike Neer has some great advanced tabs and top quality backing tracks for Coconut Grove (A7th), Sweetnin' (A6th - Mike tabs it exactly like the original song) and other cool songs. The above A7th tuning provides some awesome chord expansion for C6th fans. You've got to try it!

   

More Tunings

Junior Brown

G
E
C
A
G
E
C
Bb

Junior brown is nothing short of amazing. He is famous for inventing his own instrument combining a lap steel guitar with a regular guitar.

Interesting Tuning

I Accidentally Found this messing around (try it!)

E (1st string, high)
B
G
E
E
C
Bb
C

*MP3 of me playing this tuning! (just some ideas). I raise the 2nd string behind the bar, by gently pulling with all three fingers. Using three fingers makes it much easier to pull.

David J. Stewart

B11th C6th C6th Low
E E E
C# C C
A A A
F# G G
D# E E
C# C C (Low bass)
  A  
  G  

*I generally use the C6th, as I can play it by ear. I do also like to use other tunings frequently, for specific songs, like the F# minor 9th for "Paradise Isle," B11th for "Sand" or Herb Remington's A6th for "Sweetnin'" and "Yes, He's Gone!"

Frans Van Oirschot

D6th

D
B
A
F#
D
B
A
F#

Vance Terry

A6th

E
C#
A
F#
E
C#

Bobby Ingano

C6th C6th
E G
C E
A C
G A
E G
Bb E
  Bb

C6th with added top G

By just adding a top G, you now have a major triad chord on strings 1,2 & 3. Jerry Byrd liked a high G on his 7-string Rickenbacher lap steel. The G gives a nice Western Swing sound. In fact, Herb Remington's A6th tuning is nothing more than the C6th with added G tuned down three half-tones. Pretty cool huh?

Duke Ching

I met Duke Ching many years ago in Joliet at the 1993 HSGC. I asked him about his 32-string 4-neck Fender, and he said he uses a B11th on his 1st Neck toward him, then C6th, E13th and finally, C minor 7th. I wish I had got the individual strings, but I had only been playing a year and was only interested in pedal steel at the time.

"Sacred Steel"

*Here's a common string arrangement of the "Sacred Steel" tuning. Bud Tutmarc's tuning is similar. There's a really weird history behind this tuning. Interesting!

E
C#
B
G#
E

E (Low)

*String 6 is an octave below string 5.

Andy Volk

E13th C13th B11th
E E E
C# C C#
B A A
G# G F#
F# E D#
D C C#
G# Bb A
E C B (low)

*Andy Volk's E13th is the Leon McAuliffe version). The 8th string is almost an octave below the 7th string.

Andy Volk (6 string tunings)

Andy interestingly says that over the years he pared down his tunings and got rid of all the eight-string guitars. Now, as of 2008, he just plays 6-string: C6th, C6th/A7, D major, and Dmai7 (and once in a blue moon, A6th or C Diatonic). Here's a cool B11th song and tablature book by Andy.

Andy says, “Like a lot of players, I got caught up in trying to play in multiple tunings without really getting deeply enough into any of them. Once I narrowed it all down, my playing improved. Unlike almost everyone else, I found that eight-string tunings were a kind of trap for me. Instead of opening doors, they seemed to close them so I went back down to 6 strings.”[1] Here are Andy's tunings as of 2008, from high to low:

C6th C6/A7 D Maj D Maj 7
1  E
2  C
3  A
4  G
5  E
6  C
1  E
2  C
3  A
4  G
5  E
6  C
1  D
2  A
  3  F#
4  D
5  A
6  D
  1  C#
2  A
  3  F#
4  D
5  A
6  D

Jerry Byrd's Tunings

Jerry most often worked using the C6th tuning, which he invented in 1938. Then the E9th tuning. Then I'd say B11th. F#min9 was less frequently used, as it is a specialty tuning, and beautiful. Jerry loved the Diatonic, which he invented. It's really interesting, but I've never enjoyed it like the C6th. If you're new to lap steel, try them all, but make C6th your primary tuning to start, then go from there. Here is Jerry playing the beautiful song "Estrellita" in B11th tuning. And "Kawohikukapulani" in the beautiful E9th tuning.

C6th+A7 C Diatonic B11th C6th+A7 E9 F#min9 E13
E
C
A
G
E
C#
C
A (Low)
E
C
B
A
G
F
E
E
C#
A
F#
D#
C#
B
B (Low)
E
C
A
G
E
C#
E
B
G#
F#
E
D
B
E
E
C#
G#
E
A
F#
B
G#
E
C#
B
G#
E
D
G#
B

Note that Jerry Byrd's ADMIRABLE BYRD album was all recorded in the E9th tuning.
CHIME IN is one of my favorite songs, all played using harmonics.


Bud Tutmarc's C# Minor Tuning

One of the most popular old-timey tunings is the C#minor (Bud Tutmarc's favorite tuning), which interestingly uses the exact SAME first 4 strings as the F#9th tuning; namely, (highest string to lowest) E - C# - G# - E

The C#m uses a B on the 5th string, and then an E on the 6th; whereas the F#9th uses a nice low A# on the 5th string, and a low F# for the 6th string. I like those low notes, which really makes a 6-string sound like a larger neck.

My point is that some steel players get frustrated because of so many tunings, but if you compare them like I just did, then you will realize that it's not really a big deal to use various tunings. When I retune from C6th to F#9th to play Paradise Isle, I know that I also have a C#m tuning ready to go on strings 1 through 4.

Playing the E9th pedal steel has really helped me to understand the different non-pedal tunings. Open you have an E9th (the 1st and 7th strings are the 9ths, i.e., F#). Using the A and B pedals produces an E13th tuning. Lower the 8th string a half tone, keeping pedals A and B down, and now you have a B11th Tuning. With all those tunings you can play anything! Check out Bud Isaacs playing Hawaiian style on an old Fender 8-string pedal steel, on the classic song Hawaiian Sunset.

By the way, Hawaiian is not a particular tuning, it is a style of playing, utilizing different techniques and learned to avoid using the pedals. Authentic Hawaiian cannot have the "twang" of the pedals. Don't get me wrong, some of the best Hawaiian steel guitar I've heard is on E9th pedal steel, but it's Country/Hawaiian my friend. Here's another Bud Isaacs heart-breaker, Melody of Love. He really captures what the E9th is supposed to sound like in my humble opinion.

Bud isn't using some $700 guitar effects processor, no BOSS digital delay, no fancy stomp boxes or signal processing equipment. Nope, he's just playing pure and lovely uncluttered steel guitar. With all the sound-enhancing equipment being used today (which we've come to expect), and I think we've lost the art and science of true stereophonic sound.

Kids today have no idea of what real stereophonic music sounds like. People go buy a 5-piece surround sound speaker system with a woofer, and think that's the best sound available; but the best amplification system in the world is worthless if the music being played wasn't recorded reel-to-reel analog, or the old LP records which captured the genuine music and vocals of the musicians and singers. I can explain digital very easily. It's all 1's and 0's. So your music gets chopped off at the high and the low.

Now digital has far more superb editing capabilities that make it irresistible to use. I love all the great aspects of digital recording; such as removing hiss, undo/redo, and graphic equalizers. But as far as the quality of sound, digital just doesn't have the analog warmth that comes from tube amps, reel-to-reel recordings and the old technologies. Those big capacitors, transistors, rectifiers, diodes, and cool solid state electronic components were awesome compared to digital. The old tube amps are even better. I'll take a tub amp anyway over solid state, That's just me.

Here's a list of the most popular non-pedal steel guitar tunings (and a bunch more)...

So many tunings... so little time!!!


The 'Bill Leavitt Tuning'

William “Bill” George Leavitt was born in Flint, Michigan on October 4, 1926 and died in Framingham, Massachusetts on November 4, 1990. In 1948, Bill went to Berklee College Of Music, Boston and was the 3rd guitar student they had ever admitted. Graduating in 1951 he worked as an arranger and guitarist for many singers including Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Page and Andy Williams. He also co-authored Les Paul's and Mary Ford's 1953 hit tune “My Baby's Comin' Home.” In his later years Bill invented the “Leavitt lap steel guitar tuning” (from low to high: C#, E, G, Bb, C and D). I have worked much with the tuning and it is truly amazing. The tuning hasn't caught on simply because there hasn't been much recorded with it, but it is really cool. ~David J. Stewart

Tabs and tracks are available from Mike Ihde for the Bill Leavitt tuning
(Mike has over a hundred elaborate tabs written by Bill for his tuning. I call it the “Bb diminished 9th tuning.”


Jerry Byrd's Diatonic Tuning and Other Tablature is Available from Scotty's Music
Jerry Byrd went from using C6th his entire music career to mostly using his Diatonic tuning (treble to bass: E - C - B - A - G - F - E) in the years before he passed away in 2005. I've never got into the Diatonic tuning much, but it is genius. I had memorized DANNY BOY at one time and could play it through on the Diatonic tuning. I can only play the C6th tuning by ear, having learned it's scales (and E9th pedal steel too). Scotty's Music in St. Louis sells Jerry's arrangement (and about a dozen other songs in the Diatonic tuning).

You can obtain Jerry Byrd's awesome instruction course and Jerry's recordings from Scotty's Music in St. Louis, Missouri.

I highly recommend Jerry Byrds primary instruction course, which contain over 100 pages of instruction

Scotty's also sells over 100 professional tablature arrangements by Jerry Byrd in C6th and other tunings, including E13, B11th, A7th, D9th. It's well worth the money. Song of the Islands in C6th by Jerry Byrd comes with 4 different intros you can play. Many of Jerry's songs are tabbed out exactly as played on the original album, but others you'll have to figure out on your own from his earlier recordings.
 

Taro Patch Open G Tuning
I'm not into the Taro patch tuning, as I've pretty much found everything I need using th C6th, D9th and B11th tunings; but open G is definitely a beautiful and popular tuning and I want you to know about it (it may be just what you're searching for and more comfortable for your style). The Taro patch tuning falls very well for all the chimes work.

Having made a brief introduction, here's a free 12-page course on the TARO PATCH OPEN G TUNING by Kona Bob on the Big Island helping others learn acoustic and dobro style Hawaiian guitar (although you can use them for electric as well). Most Hawaiian steel guitar you here on albums is C6th or B11th (mostly C6th).
 

High Bass G and A Tuning and Others
From the Taro Patch G tuning, the High Bass G tuning evolved on acoustic steel guitar. Eventually many players, like Sol Hoopii raised the strings two half tones to form the High Bass A tuning. The High Bass A tuning evolved from a G tuning popular with acoustic steel guitar players. Sol Hoopii invented the C# tuning (treble to bass: E, C#, G#, E, B, E) and first recorded with it in 1929 on his acoustic steel guitar. The C# tuning would eventually become Sol's main tuning on electric steel guitar and many Western Swing players would follow using the tuning.

High Bass A was the most popular Hawaiian tuning used on acoustic Hawaiian guitars prior to the mid 1930's (and still today with acoustic steel and dobro players) until electric lap steels were first introduced. The HIGH BASS A tuning was used extensively by Sol Hoopii and others prior to 1935. When the electric steel guitar was born, C# tunings became very popular instead.

When electric steels came out, the High Bass A didn't sound as nice as the Low Bass A tuning. Today, like on the standard C6th tuning (the BEST tuning for Hawaiian music), the strings go from treble to bass and sound very nice. The F#m9th tuning has some really low bottom strings and is one of my favorites to play Paradise Isle, Sweet Someone, and May Day Is Lei Day In Hawaii.

Dobros are tuned in what was originally called by Hawaiian guitarists G high-bass (treble to bass: D - B - G - D - B - G). The old A LOW BASS tuning was adapted to high bass (treble to bass:  E, C#, A, E, C#, A) and transposed to G. This is the standard acoustic steel tuning. Hawaiian players often used other tunings for more complex chords. A 1930's Gibson catalog, featuring several models of steel guitar, lists a chart of tunings, and suggests the use of an E7th tuning for advanced players. This tuning is (treble to bass: E, B, G#, E, D, B) with use of the 2nd string up to C# sometimes instead of a B note.

All of the tunings below are listed from the high string (treble) to the low string (bass)

Sol Hoopii Played in a number of variations on E major as well as a Low A Bass and High A Bass. Sol Hoopii switched to electric lap steel around 1935 and developed a beautiful C# minor tuning, shown here from treble to bass (E, C#, G#, E, D, B) which allowed more sophisticated chord and melody work than the open A or open G tunings in use at the time.

Sol Hoopii's Tunings
Strings are listed from 1st string (smallest) to bottom (thickest). The last tuning listed, F# minor 9th, was also used by Dick McIntire, a beautiful strum tuning for songs like, “Sweet Someone,” “May Dei Is Lei Day In Hawaii” and “Paradise Isle”). The F# minor 9th gives you two tunings in one: C# minor on the first four strings, and then F# minor 9th on all the strings strummed together.

  1 2 3 4 5 6
A Low Bass E C# A E A E
A High Bass E C# A E C# A
E Major E B G# E B E
C# minor (Bud Tutmarc) E C# G# E D B
F# minor 9th E C# G# E A# F#

Bud Tutmarc was a personal friend and probably the biggest fan, to my understanding, of Sol Hoopii, particularly because as Christians they both loved Gospel hymns on the steel guitar. Check YouTube for some of their videos (Bud always uses the C# minor tuning, as noted above). Here's Sol Hoopii from 1943. Here's an audio of Bud playing Lovely Hula Hands (you'll hear his beautiful “P-tah” that he does). Every steel guitarist needs to hear Bud Tutmarc's albums, and his unique “P-tah” that he does with his fingers (which is his musical signature). Every musician has their own musical signature, unique from all the rest. It's that certain sound that immediately let's you know who the steel guitarist is (if they've developed their skills enough to let the instrument become an extension of their personality). That takes hard work! I can listen to most steel recordings and tell you who is working the steel guitar. Lloyd Green is unmistakable, my favorite. So also is Jerry Byrd unmistakable. You need to hear Marty Robbins singing with Jerry Byrd backing him... Wowza!

Here's some helpful tabs for the F# minor 9th tuning mentioned previously, just to get you started. The low strings produce a wonderful sound. I've learned to tune it by ear. Once I raise string 2 from C to C#, and then lower string 3 from A to G#, and then lower string 4 from G to E, I can hear what comes next for the other three bottom strings. It's a beautiful tuning, but limited for playing chords. I've tabbed out “Paradise Isle” for you in this tuning. And here are a few other tabs also...

E_____7~~5_________________________8____3___4___5___6___7___7__8__9__10________
C#____6~~5_______3~~~~~4~3________8~____3_______5___5_______6__8__9__10________
G#____5~~5______3~~~~~4~~3_______8~~________3___4___4___6______________________
E______________3~~~~~4~~~3______8~~~___________________________________________
A#____________3~~~~~4~~~~3_____8~~~~___________________________________________
F#___________3~~~~~4~~~~~3____8~~~~~___________________________________________
 
 
E_____8__9__10__7~~5___4___3________________2~~3__________10__9___8____________
C#____8__9__10__6~~5___4___3___0~1___2~~3___2~~3___7~~8___________8____________
A____________________________________2~~3___2~~3___7~~8___10______8___6~10~14__
F#___________________________________2~~3__________7~~8_______________6~10~14__
D#_________________________________________________7~~8________________________
C#_________________________________________________7~~8________________________
 

Jerry Byrd (1920-2005) is one the most influential lap steel players of all times, with his development of the C6th tuning as well as providing the world with many of the Hawaiian lap steel standards that we hear today. Jerry was the best and he knew it, standing head-and-shoulders above the rest. Jerry single-handedly saved the steel guitar from extinction in Hawaii. Try as they may, no steel guitar players have matched the excellence of Jerry's masterful steel guitar techniques and style. It's great to have such a challenge and an example to follow. I am grateful for the dozens of albums which Jerry recorded throughout his career, leaving us a legacy to learn from.

Here are nearly all of Jerry Byrd's tunings throughout his career (I'm sure there's more), which include 6, 7 and 8 string necks. Enjoy!

STRING: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
A Major:  E - C# - A - E - C# - A
E Major:  E - B - G# - E - B - E
E 7th:  E - B - G# - E - D - B
C# min:  E - C# - G# - E - D - B
C6th/A7:  E - C - A - G - E - C# - C - A
F#min9:  E - C# - G# - E - A# - F# - C# - G#
C diatonic:  E - C - B - A - G -  F - E
B11th:  E - C# - A - F# - D# - C# - A

Here are some more tunings used in Hawaiian style lap steel guitar...

STRING:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8
A6th:  E - C# - A - F# - E - C# - A - F#
F Maj7th:  E - C - A - F - E - C
D9th:  E - C - A - F# - E - C#
A13b9th:  E - C# - A - F# - E - C# - Bb - G
E6th:  E - C# - B - G# - E - D - E - G#
E13th:  E - C# - G# - F# - D - B - G# - E
C13th:  E - C - A - G - E - C - Bb - C

And the most commonly used 6 string tuning.

STRINGS:  1  2  3  4  5  6
C6th: E - C - A - G - E - C

Herb Remington used the A6th extensively, as on the song Sweetnin', which is a C6th dropped three half tones. The lower strings aren't as tight and provide a fatter tone. The A6th is super popular in Western Swing. For years I had no idea that Western Swing (like Tom Morrell and Herb Remington) were using the same tuning as me (C6th), just dropped three half-tones with an added G on top (that is, a high G on C6th). I could never get used to that high G, so I just use E (as many players do). If you want to get your C6th to sound more like Western Swing, then add the high G (or in the case of A6th, a high E). I've never seen an A6th tuning without the high E, but with C6th it is optional. The added high string gives you a nice major chord. Jerry Byrd used a 7-string pre-WWII Rickenbacher on many of his earlier recordings, and he used a high G. 

STRINGS:  1  2  3  4  5  6
A6th: C# - A - F# - E - C# - A
A6th (8 string tuning): E - C# - A - F# - E - C# - A - F#

Dobro Open G (Drop E) Tuning
One of my favorite dobro players is Greg Booth from Anchorage, Alaska, who has shared hundreds of wonderful videos on YouTube of his awesome performances. One of my favorites is Greg's solo performance of Somewhere Over The Rainbow (tuning low to high: E, B, D, G, B, D).

E - B - D - G - B - D

Greg calls this his “Drop E Tuning,” which is the standard G tuning with the bottom G dropped to an E note instead. Nice! And here is a heart-puller by Greg called (one of my favorites), MAIDEN'S PRAYER. Greg does some nice trills in there, as well as some great open string work to raise the eye-brows of the listener (as Jeff Newman used to say on pedal steel guitar). You can see and hear some really great banjo bluegrass style licks and open string work in this arrangement.
 

Dobro, Open D (Old Timey) Tuning
Probably THE MOST popular dobro tuning is 'Open G' (which is my favorite).  A great song to learn and play on this tuning is AMAZING GRACE. The 'Open D' tuning' is very different from the 'Open G' tuning, not just another key. 'Open D' tuning has that pure old-timey, back country, dirt roads, bluesy, weeping willow tree, southern country and back-hill Tennessee and Kentucky sound. Whew, that about said it all. The tuning is easy to remember, just spell “DAD” twice, but adjust the third string to F#. Tune your dobro to this tuning and you'll instantly recognize the classic dobro sounds you've heard all your life.

It's a beautiful tuning to learn and play, and you'll instantly recognize it's famous sound in many Bluegrass recordings...

D - A - D - F# - A - D

The 'Open D' is very versatile, mostly used in Bluegrass, blues and gospel. 'Open G' is better for melody work for Country and Gospel music, as evidenced by MAIDEN'S PRAYER

Kona Bob and Shirley's Website

Tunings Master List (every steel guitar tuning you can imagine)

Note that Jerry Byrd's ADMIRABLE BYRD album was all recorded in the E9th tuning. CHIME IN is one of my favorite songs, all played using harmonics.


Here's a few .JPG images that I made with Microsoft Publisher, showing the individual notes per fret on the C6th tuning. I made various charts for the different C6th tunings, so you can copy the one(s) you like to your desktop or website. Please feel free to copy anything from my website. I want to share freely with others. The following charts will help you figure out different chords on the various frets. I think it's a very helpful tool for steel guitarists. The C6th tuning is excellent because of it's broad chord availabilities. These charts will work well with the preceding chord information.


 


 

And always remember to C# or you'll Bb!

C6TH CHORDS


Ralph Mooney's Unique Pedal Steel Copedent

Above: In the song Rainy Day Woman” (YouTube video) by Waylon Jennings you can see Ralph Mooney in Action. Ralph converted his lower C6th neck into what you see above.


Billy Robinson's Extended C6th Tuning

The following YouTube video is by a wonderful gentleman named Billy Robinson, a legendary steel guitarist, whom I had the privilege of meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee back in 1992 at a steel guitar convention. I first heard him play the song, Candy Kisses, a classic. Anyway, the following video is nothing less than amazing. Billy is using a 10-string, non-pedal, extended C6th tuning [ (D-G-E-C-A-G-E-C-A-F) ... D being the 1st string (highest on top) and F the 10th, or lowest string on bottom. You can hear Billy perform “Crazy” using this interesting extended tuning...

D - G - E - C - A - G - E - C - A - F

Billy Robinson's  Extended C6th Tuning

String No.

C6th Tuning

Billy's String Size

Standard String Size

1st

D

.017 P

.017 P

2nd

G

.012 P

.015 P

3rd

E

.015 P

.016 P

4th

C

.016 P

.017 P

5th

A

.018 P

.020 P

6th

G

.024 W

.030 W

7th

E

.028 W

.035 W

8th

C

.036 W

.040 W

9th

A

.042 W

.045 W

10th F .050 W .055 W
Billy never pulls the 2nd string to raise it, but he does the 1st
Tune both “A” notes a little flat.

I've never seen such incredible bar slants like he does in here. He uses a 12 string bar I believe. The song is named, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH IT HURTS ME, a classic steel guitar favorite. This'll make the dogs howl for sure! Enjoy!) More Billy Robinson Videos. This is real music folks.



Maurice Anderson's Extended C6th Tuning

Here's Maurice Anderson from Texas performing, Tiny Bubbles. Reece is playing a 12-string non-pedal steel guitar.

Maurice Anderson's Extended C6th Tuning

The following is Maurice's 12-string extended C6th tuning...

12 String C6th


Kayton Robert's C6th Tuning With Low A

Here below is one of my favorite steel guitar artists, Kayton Roberts playing a 1941 Dual 8-string Fender along with his loyal wife playing a Wurlitzer organ, performing the Hawaiian classic, Mapuana, in an up-tempo arrangement. I have more information about Kayton and his steel guitar on the “Helpful Advice For Steel Guitarists” page. Here's Kayton's own words about his tunings...

“Well, my main tuning is C6th, that’s my bread and butter neck. It has a little variation. Staring with the first string on the small end: E, C, A, G, E, C#, A, A (an octave lower). You will notice that I have two A’s together...the second is real low for that boom effect. It’s almost like a big third more than anything else. I use it only occasionally when I’m doing some thump style. Getting back to that C#, normally if you’re playing this C6th tuning and you rake across it, it will sound out of tune. But, if you rake across the strings and leave the second string out, then you’ve got a whole new tuning...and you see that second string there, the C, if you pull that a half step, it will fall right in tune with that tuning. You can really play some jazzy sounding stuff with it. It makes a whole new ball game. It’s like having a dual tuning. And on the other neck I’ve got a special tuning...it’s for rides and special things. The first string is F, D, A, F, G, Eb, C, F, but I couldn’t remember these if I didn’t right them down. I keep a list at home in case someone calls and wants to know. Don’t mind sharing these cause I don’t have any secrets. Of course, Hank doesn’t like notes played on the high register, so I’m usually limited to playing on the lower end.

...In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, he gave man so many good things to enjoy. He gave us a steel guitar to play if we choose to. This to me, is the most expressive instrument in the world. It fulfills a special hunger in my life and it won’t hurt you, as a lot of bad things in this world will. I met my wife Iva Lee while playing the steel guitar, our children followed, altogether they are my most treasured possessions!”

SOURCE: Steel Guitar World magazine, Jan/Feb, 1993 issue

Kayton is using the C6th Tuning, which he tunes [from high to low:
E, C, A, G, E, C#, A, A (low bass on 8th string, an octave lower than string 7)]