PreSonus Blog

Friday Studio One Tip: Virtual “Nashville Tuning”

Nashville tuning is a popular sound for rhythm guitar parts, and not just in country music: a few hit songs with Nashville tuning include Wild Horses (Rolling Stones), Dust in the Wind (Kansas), Gimme Danger (Iggy Pop), Phase Dance (Pat Metheny), Hey You (Pink Floyd), Wicked Game (Chris Isaak), and many others. It’s not an alternate tuning in the standard sense, because the strings are still tuned (low to high) E A D G B E. Instead, it adapts a 12-string set of strings, or string sets dedicated to Nashville tuning, to a conventional six-string guitar. The first and second strings are the usual E and B respectively, but the lower four strings are tuned an octave higher than standard tuning.

So what does this have to do with Studio One? Well, the downside to Nashville tuning is that you really need to dedicate a guitar to it; you’ll have to adjust the intonation (maybe the truss rod too), and besides, you don’t want to have to change strings all the time. Granted, after playing with Nashville tuning, you might want to dedicate a guitar to it—but in the meantime, we can create a similar effect with Studio One. Although the sound isn’t technically the same, it produces much of the same result: a bright, present rhythm sound (somewhat like a 12-string, but less dense), that’s mostly layered with a companion guitar part. Here’s how to do it.

 

  1. Copy your rhythm guitar track, and select it.
  2. Type F4 to bring up the Inspector.
  3. Set Transpose to 12 (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Tune your copied guitar part up an octave.

 

 

That’s pretty much all you need to do, but here are some notes on how to apply Nashville tuning.

 

  • Studio One produces amazingly good octave-above sound quality, but it’s not perfect. Another issue is that with physical Nashville tuning, the 1st and 2nd strings aren’t transposed up an octave. This shouldn’t really matter much, because if you can hear the Nashville-tuned guitar prominently, you’re missing the point—it’s to add texture. However, you might want to roll off the highs somewhat, and give a little upper midrange boost, so the sound sits a bit better in a mix (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Optional EQ settings for the Nashville-tuned track.

 

  • Often, Nashville tuning is layered with a standard guitar part. Due to slight detunings between two different guitars, you’ll sometimes hear some “shimmer,” like with a 12-string guitar or by adding a chorus unit. However, because the Nashville-tuned track in Studio One is a copy of the original guitar track, the layering is perfect. If you don’t want perfect layering, raise the Inspector’s Tune control by around 10 or 15 cents to add some detuning. (For some reason, I find tuning slightly sharp sounds better than tuning slightly flat).

 

It’s really that simple, and the bright sound can add a lot to a mix—listen to the audio example, which plays a rhythm guitar part, and then layers the virtual Nashville-tuned guitar part. The copied part is mixed a little than usual to get the point across, but even so, it still sounds pretty cool:

  • A lot of these tricks come about from asking “what if?” and seeing what happens. Of course, you never see the experiments that don’t pan out 🙂

  • BillEdstrom

    Very cool trick Craig. You always have interesting ideas for working with guitars!