Best Half Step Down Songs (that'll make you love E flat tuning)

35 Best Half Step Down Songs (that’ll make you love E flat tuning)

If you listen to a lot of your favourite artists and try to play along with them but your guitar sounds off, it’s probably because they’re playing all of their tracks a half step down. There are so many more tracks recorded or performed that are played using half step down tuning, you’ll probably be surprised by some of the tracks listed in this article. 

Let’s get straight into some of the best ever half step down songs starting with a classic from Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Pride And Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan

Taken from the album “Texas Flood” released in June 1983 this was SRVs first single and reached number 20 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart. It’s notated in the key of E but with Stevie’s guitar tuned a half step down in Eb tuning.

You Really Got Me – Van Halen

You really got me was first released in August 1964 by the Kinks, but this Van Halen cover was released in January 1978 and taken from their first album. It reached number 36 in the Hot 100 chart and was recorded in Eb (Half step down) tuning.

Sweet Child Of Mine – Guns ‘N’ Roses

Taken from the album “Appetite For Destruction” and released in June 1988 this track reached that coveted number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Slash prefers half step down tuning and often composes tunes in that tuning.

The Boys Are Back In Town – Thin Lizzy

First released in 1976 and re-released in 1991 “The Boys Are Back In Town” was originally taken from the album “Jailbreak”. It reached number 8 on the UK charts, number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the charts in Ireland.

Red House – Jimi Hendrix

Recorded in 1966 and released in 1967 on the debut album in the UK called “Are You Experienced” This was one of the first tracks ever released by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As with most of Jimi’s tracks, his guitar is tuned a half step down.

Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrd

The last track on side one of their 1973 debut album “Lynyrd Skynyrd” “Simple Man” has become one of Skynyrd’s most popular songs. Which was recorded in half step down tuning.

American Idiot – Green Day

Taken from the album of the same name, “American Idiot” is a protest song that proposes that the media has induced paranoia and idiocy in the general public. 

The Man Who Sold The World – Nirvana

This David Bowie album track was originally covered by Lulu in 1974 and then Nirvana started playing it live and then eventually released it as a single in 1995.

Beat It – Michael Jackson

Taken from the album “Thriller” and released in 1983 “Beat It” includes a guitar solo by Eddie Van Halen. It was the third single taken from the album and stayed at number one on the hot 100 for three weeks.

Across The Universe – The Beatles

Originally taken from the album “No One’s Gonna Change Our World” which was a compilation album of work by various artists. “Across The Universe” also appeared in a different form on the Beatles final album, “Let It Be”.

Every Rose Has Its Thorn – Poison

Taken from the album “Open Up And Say…Ahh!” released in 1988 this track was the third single from the album.  This was Poison’s only number one song, and it’s recorded in half step down tuning. It was also covered by Miley Cyrus and can be found on her 2010 album “Can’t Be Tamed”.

More Than Words – Extreme

Taken from their second album, “Pornograffitti”, “More Than Words” made number one on the Hot 100 and number two on the UK charts. Eventually the band began to hate the song because they were becoming known just for this track, but they were forced to play it at each gig because the fans wanted to hear it.

Highway To Hell – AC/DC

From the album of the same name, “Highway To Hell” tells the story of the constant touring and gigging regime that AC/DC found themselves under. First released as a single in 1979 “Highway To Hell” reached number one on the US Mainstream Rock chart.

The Boxer – Simon & Garfunkel

Taken from the album “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and released in 1969, “The Boxer”reached number 7 on the Hot 100 chart and number 6 on the UK charts.

Raining Blood – Slayer

Taken from the album “Reign In Blood” this track is one of their most popular tracks. It has featured on the video games “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” and “Guitar Hero III Legends Of Rock”.

Every Breath You Take – The Police

Taken from their 1983 album “Synchronicity”, “Every Breath You Take” was the biggest hit single in the US and Canada of 1983. Sting wrote the lyrics to this song from Ian Fleming’s writing desk on the Goldeneye estate in Oracabessa Jamaica.

Song 2 – Blur

Taken from the album “Blur” and released in 1997, “Song 2” was intended as a joke and not a hit single. The story goes that the band recorded it in such a way as to sound not good enough to be included on the album, but the record company realised just how commercially successful it could become. The song’s title relates to its position on their playlist, it never received a real title so song 2 remained its title.

Mama Said – Metallica

Taken from Metallica’s sixth album “Load”, “Mama Said” is a departure from the usual Metallica sound, it has a far more country feel than any of their other work. It has never featured in any of their live shows although James Hetfield has performed it solo with just a steel-string acoustic guitar and no drums or bass.

Say It Ain’t So – Weezer

Released as their third single from the album “Weezer” “Say It Ain’t So” reached number 7 on the US Alternative Airplay chart in 1995.

Basket Case – Green Day

Taken from their third album “Dookie”, “Basket Case” stayed at number one on the US Alternative Songs chart for 5 weeks in 1994. Billie Joe Armstrong, guitarist and vocalist with Green Day said this track is about his struggle with anxiety. Apparently before he was diagnosed with a panic disorder he thought he was going mad.

The Ballad of Jayne – L.A. Guns

Taken from their 1989 album “Cocked And Loaded” “The Ballad Of Jayne” is reported to have been written about Jayne Mansfield. It just goes to show even glam rock can be recorded in half step down tuning.

Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Taken from the album “Willy and the Poor Boys” and released in 1969, “Fortunate Son” soon became an anti war song. Taken up by the opposition to the Vietnam war and also used in support of the soldiers fighting it. It reached number 3 on the hot 100 chart.

Everyday – Buddy Holly

“Everyday” reached number 3 on the Billboard top 100 chart in 1957 when it was first released. Sadly Buddy Holly’s career was cut short after the fatal plane crash. This song has been covered by many artists over the years including;

  • Bobby Vee
  • John Denver
  • James Taylor
  • Bridget St. John
  • Don McLean
  • Fiona Apple
  • Nikki Richards
  • Elliot Murphy
  • And Many More

Into The Now – Tesla

The title track from their fifth studio album which was released in 2004.The guitar work on this sounds intricate but is not that hard to learn to play. It was recorded in half step down tuning.

Patience – Guns ‘n’ Roses

Taken from the album G’N’R Lies, “Patience” was released as a single in 1989 where it reached number 4 on the Hot 100 chart. This track begins with an open G major chord but as the guitar is tuned a half step down, it’s actually a F# chord but it would never sound as good as a barre chord which possibly explains why the guitar was tuned down a half step.

Man In The Box – Alice In Chains

Taken from the album “Facelift”which was their debut studio album, “Man In The Box” was released as a single in 1991. “Man In The Box” according to the band’s guitarist Jerry Cantrell is about “how government and media control the public’s perception of events in the world or whatever, and they build you into a box by feeding it to you in your home, ya know. And it’s just about breaking out of that box and looking outside of that box that has been built for you”.

All Star – Smash Mouth

From the second album “Astro Lounge” , “All Star” made number 1 on the US Adult top 100 chart in 1999. This was their most famous track and has also been used in numerous memes.

Here Without You – 3 Doors Down

Taken from their second album, “Away From The Sun”, “Here Without You” was released in July 2003 and reached number 5 on the Hot 100 in November 2003. The half step down tuning into Eb is evident in the sad tone of this song.

Reckless Love – Cory Asbury

Taken from the album of the same name, “Reckless Love” was Cory Asbury’s first number one on the US Hot Christian Songs chart. Cory explains the words by saying; “When I used the phrase, ‘the reckless love of God,’ when we say it, we’re not saying that God Himself is reckless, He’s not crazy. We are, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. But what I mean is this: He’s utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His own actions with regard to His own safety, comfort and well-being. … He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself on the line, He simply puts Himself out there on the off-chance that you and I might look back at Him and give Him that love in return. His love leaves the ninety nine to find the one every time and to many practical adults that’s a foolish concept. Well, what if He loses the ninety nine in finding the one, right? What if finding that one lost sheep is and always will be supremely important?”

I Miss You – Blink 182

Taken from their self-titled album, “I miss You” was apparently inspired by the song “Love Cats” by the Cure”. It reached number one on the billboard modern rock tracks chart and number 8 on the UK charts.

One – U2

Taken from the album “Achtung Baby”, “One” was released in 1992 as a benefit single with the profits given to AIDS research. It reached number one in Ireland, Canada and the US Hot 100. 

Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana

Written by the great Leadbelly, this is Nirvana’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” You can hear the sadness of the words which are echoed in the half step down tuning of the guitars.

Nobela – Join The Club

From the 2016 album of the same name is the title track, “Nobela” which was recorded in half step down tuning. The song is about trying to be happy whilst all the while pining for a love that is probably never going to happen.

Little Wing – Jimi Hendrix

From the album “Axis:Bold As Love” and released in the UK on December the 1st 1967 and in the US on January the 15th 1968. “Little Wing” is reportedly about Jimi’s mother. Most of Jimi Hendrix’s material was originally played in half step down or Eb.

Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan

This old blues classic originally written in 1955 by Larry Davis received the SRV treatment in this 1982 version which was released in 1983 from the album of the same name. He played it in the key of G but with his guitar tuned down a half step. Most of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s songs were played with half step down tuning.

Why Tune Your Guitar A Half Step Down?

Tuning the guitar a half step down is beneficial for a number of reasons, these reasons include;

  • Creates a unique sound
  • Easier on the fingers
  • Allows the use of thicker gauge strings
  • Puts less strain on the singer

Creates A Unique Sound

Tuning your guitar strings down by a half step makes them sound heavier, darker almost, in some cases, but definitely heavier. This means you can create a completely different sound to any of your contemporaries and all you needed to do was tune your guitar a half step down.

Easier On The Fingers

Guitar strings produce sound because they’re under tension and by tuning them down a half step you have lowered that tension. That means the strings offer less resistance and therefore are easier to play. Your fingers won’t have to work so hard to hold the strings down to play the desired note.

Allows The Use Of Thicker Gauge Strings

If you were to use strings that were too thick and tune the guitar to the standard tuning, the thicker strings would prove too strong for the guitar’s neck and could cause damage. Tuning the strings at a lower pitch means they are under less tension and are less likely to put any parts of the guitar under stress.

Puts Less Strain On The Singer

Because every tune you now play is a half step lower than it should be, the singer doesn’t need to reach those really high notes. Every high note has been flattened by a half step (or semitone), which allows the vocalist an easier stretch than having to go that extra half step.

How To Tune The Guitar A Half Step Down

Playing The Guitar

You will need a decent guitar tuner for this, either a physical tuner, or you can go online and get a free guitar tuner either online or you can even download a free guitar tuning app. Then you simply pluck the low E string and decrease the tension of the string until the tuner registers Eb. Then move onto the A string and detune until the app shows Ab and so on. Follow our handy chart for a full list of notes.

Original NoteNew Note
EEb
AAb
DDb OR C#
GGb OR F#
BBb
EEb

Which Artists Are Well Known For Using Half Step Down Tuning?

As you can see from our 35 tracks above, there is a wide choice when it comes to artists using half step down tuning. But there are a few artists who almost always use half step tuning these include;

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Slash
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Jimi Hendrix

So pretty much every SRV, Slash, Van Halen or Hendrix track you listen to will have been played in half step tuning.

Frequently Asked Questions

Did Jimi Hendrix tune his guitar down half step?

Jimi Hendrix pretty much always detuned the strings on his guitar by a half step or Eb tuning as it is sometimes called.

Why do musicians tune half step down?

Musicians tune half step down for a number of reasons; to create a darker tone, to loosen string tension (making bends easier), to be in a key the vocalist can reach or just to change the harmony of the song.

Is All Along the Watchtower A half step down?

All Along The Watchtower was composed and recorded in half step down tuning or Eb as it is also known.

What was Eddie Van Halen tuning?

Eddie Van Halen used Eb or half step down tuning.

One comment on “35 Best Half Step Down Songs (that’ll make you love E flat tuning)

  1. Motorhead Whorehouse Blues, listen to the lead, that’s why you tune down a half step. Just saying.

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