HAAALP with lowered tunings

mbenigni

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TGF Recording Artist
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This almost went into the Gear Rants file - something along the lines of "Is the SG Gibson's longest running practical joke?", or some other hot take along those lines. Long story short, I've been trying to make an Epi Tony Iommi SG reasonably functional for about a year (in between bouts of giving up on it), and it's just not happening. To say this guitar has issues with tuning stability would be a laughable understatement. Forget about getting through a song, you can literally play a chord on this guitar and listen to it go out of tune in real time. If you actually play the thing for a few minutes (i.e. bending strings, etc.), it will go WILDY out of tune. I never imagined I could have this kind of trouble with a guitar WITH A FIXED BRIDGE.

But to be fair... it is a 24 fret guitar with a thin neck, and - crucially - I need it to work in C# Standard tuning. After months of polishing nut and saddles, playing around with the truss rod, etc., stability is "sorta OK" in E Standard - not what I would call great. In C#/Db, forget it. I'm better off staying in E and using a digital detune algorithm - any digital detune algorithm. Sad.

So, two questions, I guess:

-Is the SG, in fact, a big practical joke? The tuning question comes up frequently on the internet. How is a 60-ish year-old design still sucking this hard? If the SG is not a joke, can you offer a noob advice on how to set one up? I'm a total Strat-whisperer - I can make the cheapest Strat run like a top. But I am totally out of my element here.

-Do you have any advice (e.g. regarding strings) for lowered tunings? I think Epi set this guitar up for 8's, Tony's famously light gauge. But there's just no way he was playing 8's on the albums where he's this low. (I can't find any specifics on this anywhere.) I think I brought the guitar up to 10's to maintain his feel but also get a reasonable handle on the tuning. Next stop would be 11's? And a friend recommended strings that are specifically designed for detuning, e.g. Dunlop Heavy Core(?) But I'm skeptical that this would make a substantial difference - especially on unwound strings. Which is like, half the guitar. And it's not like Tony had these specialized strings in 1975 or whatever.

Chasing my tail. Ugh.
 
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I love SGs, I don't think it's a joke at all. But, I haven't used one in the way you are.

I'm usually not a fan of any drop tuning on guitars shorter than 25.5" scale because I don't like the timbre.

9 times out of 10 tuning problems like this with a Gibson style guitar are caused by the nut.
 
This.
Do a good research about string gauge and down tuning.

I like .010" in Standard E on a 25" scale, anything that strays from that is sooooo weird to play for me and intonation suffers.
This is cool:

When I played in metal bands in C# standard for years; I used skinny top heavy bottom Ernie Balls. FWIW.
 
I love SGs, I don't think it's a joke at all. But, I haven't used one in the way you are.

I'm usually not a fan of any drop tuning on guitars shorter than 25.5" scale because I don't like the timbre.

9 times out of 10 tuning problems like this with a Gibson style guitar are caused by the nut.
I have a Graphtec nut on the bumblebee and I LOVE it.
 
I lived in dropped C# with mine, with 10s. I wouldn’t say tuning stability was a strength :ROFLMAO: but it wasn’t bad enough to throw from the roof.
 
I think these "old wive's tales" of guitarists playing on 7s tuned down to B standard are a little suspect. Or I am the least delicate techniqued guitar player ever. I have to be VERY mindful when playing 9s to have an even touch versus "hey guys get out the vice grips while I do 3 step bends on the low E first fret" :wat
 
I can’t recommend Music Nomad’s Tune-It and a Graphtech self-lubricating nut enough. The Tune-It is basically nut sauce, I use that stuff like Frank’s, I put that sh*t on everything, even my Evertune guitar and it’s exactly why I can dive bomb on a vintage-style Strat bridge without it going out of tune.

That said, I have zero experience with Gibsons and even less than zero experience with SG’s, mostly because when I was a little kid I was on one of those sit and spins and all I remember is spinning around until I got so dizzy I started puking while the “Hell’s Bells” video was on TV and I’ve always associated the SG with that incident.
 
My biggest 'Nope' with SGs is the lack of finish choices. I LOATHE the AC/DC finish. Gross.
 
This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I had one of these super limited run SGs in rose gold finish with two-tone nickel and gold hardware and I loved it:

sctmqnxmnp8nhft6et2y.jpg



It was a promo thing for Guitar Center, I heard there was only 1 per state (or maybe 1 per store) for a big sales event. I never should have sold it
 
This may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I had one of these super limited run SGs in rose gold finish with two-tone nickel and gold hardware and I loved it:

sctmqnxmnp8nhft6et2y.jpg



It was a promo thing for Guitar Center, I heard there was only 1 per state (or maybe 1 per store) for a big sales event. I never should have sold it
I'm not really a tea guy, but that is definitely my cup of black-as-a-moonless-night coffee!!!!!
 
I lived in dropped C# with mine, with 10s. I wouldn’t say tuning stability was a strength :ROFLMAO: but it wasn’t bad enough to throw from the roof.
This being the case, something else must be borked. Cheap tuning machines, bad string angles off the nut, something. Tuning stability is, "put it in the fireplace; I can't be bothered to walk up to the roof" bad. Guitar is lucky it looks so cool...
 
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Get a GOOD setup. Put some heavier strings on it. I LOVE an SG that is balanced. Finding one that is balanced is a crap shoot, however.
It's hard to swallow the idea of anybody setting it up any better than I can, myself. I've been setting up all my own guitars for ~30 years, and I've been good at it for about 20. It's hard to even trust anyone else. But this guitar has me completely dumbfounded. I don't want to just start taking shots in the dark (e.g. better tuning machines) that may or may not help. I have considered a new nut (I've always liked Graphtec/ Ebanol) but I would probably have to have a professional cut it properly for me.

In the meantime, I guess I will go for heavier strings and a gallon of lube and see where that gets me. (I had some SuperVee Nut Evolution around here, but can't seem to turn it up.) Thanks for the string gauge calculator!
 
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I like .010" in Standard E on a 25.5" scale, anything that strays from that is sooooo weird to play for me and intonation suffers.
Ah yes, I forgot to mention intonation. I managed to get the guitar mostly intonated, but the G string is still significantly out. You run out of screw on the saddle before you can get it where it needs to be.

I'm pretty sure (but not entirely sure) that this guitar is 24.75" scale length, like other SG's.
 
Alright, I ordered the Nomad's Tune-it and the Trivium 10-52 set. Not much heavier up top, but a bit more on the bottom. We'll see whether there's anything to the "heavy core" claims, or whether it's just so much snake oil.
 
Ah yes, I forgot to mention intonation. I managed to get the guitar mostly intonated, but the G string is still significantly out. You run out of screw on the saddle before you can get it where it needs to be.

I'm pretty sure (but not entirely sure) that this guitar is 24.75" scale length, like other SG's.

Yeah, that's from trying to get such low tunings out of a 24.75" scale length. And the super light strings only make it worse.

It's very possible that a Nashville bridge just doesn't have enough room to intonate strings that skinny tuned that low.

You can flip the saddles around to get a little more room
 
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