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• Ali Farka Touré tuning •

G-A-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • Associated with late Malian legend Ali Farka Touré (1939-2006), one of the Sahara Desert’s many towering guitar masters. The 6str is raised by a minor third, up to a G – which can then be used as a drone behind open-toned melodic lines in Gmaj (and its associated modes).   Touré’s […]

 

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• Teardrop tuning •

D-A-D-A-B-E • OVERVIEW • Simple in design, this tuning expands the range of 3-4-5-6str, opening up two perfect 5ths in the process (6>5str and 4>3str). The open chord – a ‘suspended‘ Drop D variant – has an ambiguous character, leaving room for varied explorations.   Demonstrated superbly by José González on his booming nylon-string cover […]

 

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• Fuji tuning •

Bb-G-D-G-G-D • OVERVIEW • An unorthodox Gmin inversion I came across while browsing the GTDB site for little-used layouts, submitted under the name ‘Fuji’ by a nameless user in an undated post. Tried it, loved it, included it here…   In the words of its anonymous creator: “Here’s one I made up…I like to lumber […]

 

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• Oud (Arabic) tuning •

E-A-Db-Gb-B-E • OVERVIEW • The Arabic oud (fretless lute) is slightly larger than its Turkish cousin, and consequently takes deeper tunings. This interval pattern transposes a common tuning, popular in Syria and the surrounding region (…to jam with the original depth, move everything down 4 semitones: C-F-A-D-G-C).   Note the guitar-like circle of fourths (across […]

 

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• Oud (Turkish) tuning •

E-A-B-E-A-D • OVERVIEW • The Turkish oud (fretless lute) can take many different tunings. Often, the highest four courses (string-doubles) are set to B-E-A-D, while the deepest two tend to be set bespoke for the makam (melodic framework) in question (n.b. Also see my transposition of a common Arabic Oud tuning: E-A-Db-Gb-B-E).   This layout […]

 

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• Bağlama (‘Saz’) tuning •

G-G-D-D-A-A • OVERVIEW • The bağlama is a three-course lute of variable neck length, popular in Turkish folk music (n.b. nearby cultures call similar variants the saz, while other local names include kopuz, irisva, balta, and bulgari). Played with a hard cherrywood pick, the frets, often made of fishing line, are moveable – opening up […]

 

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• Equilibrium tuning •

G-A-D-E-A-E • OVERVIEW • Showcased by solo acoustic master Erik Mongrain on Equilibrium, the architectural title track of his 2008 second album. 6str is slackened to a super-low G, over an octave below the neighbouring 5str: removing around 66% of its tension, and thus risking high levels of low-volume buzz (without a restring). Read on for […]

 

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• AirTap! tuning •

F-A-C-F-C-F • OVERVIEW • Used by Montreal acoustic genius Erik Mongrain to facilitate the virtuosic ‘lap-tapping’ techniques of AirTap!, an oldskool viral favourite (uploaded way back in 2006: YouTube’s early days). Like playing piano, bass, & drums on the strings – all at the same time…   The interval structure matches our ‘classic’ Gmaj shape […]

 

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• Kabosy (‘Leonard’s C’) tuning •

 C-G-D-G-B-D • OVERVIEW • The kabosy is a small box-lute played in Madagascar, likely descended from the Arabic oud (thus implying it is also a much-removed cousin of the European guitar and lute). Often made from scavenged materials such as scrap metal, fishing line, and bicycle brake cables, most designs have 4-6 strings, set over […]

 

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• Rakotomavo tuning •

Bb-F-C-G-C-E • OVERVIEW • Deep tuning by Germain Rakotomavo – a Malagasy master known for fusing the folk repertoire of Madagascar’s valiha (tube zither) with more guitaristic ideas, from jazz harmonies to the picking patterns of Merle Travis. This layout adapts a pattern common to the Antananarivo region and elsewhere (“I raise the B up […]