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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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• 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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• 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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• 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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• Yvette’s Dadd9 tuning •

D-A-D-F#-A-E • OVERVIEW • A melodious Open D variant, which retains Standard’s high E1str tone to give a spacious Dadd9. Pleasingly, the 6-2str intervals are arranged in descending order of width, narrowing in neat sequence as you go towards the treble (7>5>4>3: 5th > 4th > maj. 3rd > min. 3rd) – until you encounter […]

 

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• Charango tuning •

G-G-C-E-A-E • OVERVIEW • Mimics a common tuning of the charango: a small 10-string lute found in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and elsewhere in the Andean region. A distant cousin of the guitar, the charango’s strings are paired into 5 ‘courses’ (like a 12-string) – and tuned to cluster within the span of a single […]

 

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• Jack’s Chikari (‘Sitaristic’) tuning •

Ḋ-Ḋ-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • My fellow British-based Indian raga explorer Jack Jennings replaces his Strat’s 6+5str with super-light gauges, both tuned to high D tones, in imitation of a sitar‘s chikari: two unfrettable ‘rhythm strings’ on the top side of the large Indian lute, used to add groove and textural colour to the main melody […]

 

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• Road tuning •

E-A-D-E-B-E • OVERVIEW • Nick Drake’s beautifully concise tuning for Road (from 1972’s Pink Moon) – itself a beautifully concise track – is a glorious way to spark up fresh inspiration. Plus, it’s only a single peg-slacken away from Standard…   The ‘suspended‘ open chord is fairly easy to settle into, as the ‘new’ 3str […]

 

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• Black Crow tuning •

Bb-Bb-Db-F-A-Bb • OVERVIEW • Deep-sided tuning used by Joni Mitchell for Black Crow, track seven of her 1976 Hejira album – surely among the funkiest drum-less songs of all time (…just the trio of Joni, Jaco Pastorius on bass, and Larry Carlton on electric). Much of the percussive spice instead comes from her own low […]

 

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• Ten Years tuning •

D-E-C-A-D-E • OVERVIEW • One advantage of tuning via spelling is that you will always stumble upon some melodiously counterintuitive combinations. ‘Decade’ is a fantastic example of this, placing a wide middle between narrow outer intervals (‘major & minor 6ths sandwiched by major 2nds’). Take account of the uneven tension profile – e.g. between the super-slack […]