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Rakotomavo

Bb-F-C-G-C-E • OVERVIEW • Used by Germain Rakotomavo – a Malagasy master known for fusing the folk repertoire of Madagascar’s valiha (tube zither) with more traditionally guitaristic ideas, from jazz chords to the fingerpicking patterns of Chet Atkins & Merle Travis.   In Rakotomavo’s words, EADGBE “doesn’t sing. It’s for playing chords”. His tuning adapts […]

 

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Godzilla

Db-Ab-Eb-E-B-E • OVERVIEW • Jagged, uneven sequence used on Godzilla by Canadian-Mi’kmaq acoustic star Don Ross. Blends high-end clarity with a touch of bassy slack – ideal for his rhythmic thumb-slapping style.   Brings out tantalising, part-resolving harmonies, mixing perfect intervals (5ths & 4ths) with more dissonant combinations (minor 2nds & 6ths). Features an ultra-rare ‘perfect […]

 

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Dracula

C-G-C-F-Bb-D • OVERVIEW • A deepened tuning showcased on Dracula and Friends (Pt. 1) by Mi’kmaq-Canadian fingerstyle virtuoso Don Ross (who thankfully deviated from his original career plan: he was once enrolled in priesthood training at at San Damiano Friary, set to become a Franciscan monk…).   Robust interval pairs, set in neat descending order (perf. […]

 

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G Standard / Terz

G-C-F-Bb-D-G • OVERVIEW • The small, cute ‘Terz guitar’ (or ‘chitarrino’), 10-20% shorter than a Strat and tuned a minor 3rd higher, enjoyed wild popularity in early 19th-century Europe. According to scholar and modern Terzmaster Dr. James Buckland, audiences hailed the tiny axe for its “brilliant tone, fast response, and ability to project through orchestral […]

 

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F Standard

F-Bb-Eb-Ab-C-F • OVERVIEW • By accident and design, countless guitarists have ended up tuning a semitone sharp of standard. Raises overall tension by ~12% – giving a fantastic volume boost – but limiting bends, barres, and general fluency, especially on steel-string acoustics.   Works best on lighter-strung, shorter-scale guitars – e.g Les Pauls will handle […]

 

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Magic Farmer

C-F-C-G-A-E • OVERVIEW • Another wide-spread tuning from steel-strung magician Michael Hedges, showcased on The Magic Farmer (1984) – the final track of Aerial Boundaries. The pensive, gently-paced composition was a dedication to flautist Mindy Rosenfeld, his then-partner and the mother of his children (‘Rosenfeld’ means ‘field of roses’ in German).   Degrees 1, 3, […]

 

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Cabbage

C-A-Bb-A-G-E • OVERVIEW • C-A-Bb-A-G-E is surprisingly tasty, if rather impractical. Forms a ‘crunchy’ C13 chord…with the root(s) at the bottom. Seems silly, and it definitely is – but it’s essential to playfully shuffle things up sometimes. Anyway, J.S. Bach did much the same, famously ‘signing’ his name in The Art of Fugue as Bb-A-C-B (read […]

 

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José González

D-A-D-F#-B-E • OVERVIEW • A blend of ‘Open D + Standard‘ (or ‘Drop D + Lute‘) used by Swedish singer-songwriter José González and others. The lowest four strings provide a solid, stable Dmaj voicing (1-5-1-3), while the high-end pair add ambiguity and intrigue (maj 6th & 2nd) – forming a wide-spread D6/9.   Great for ‘vertical’ […]

 

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Gambale

A-D-G-C-E-A • OVERVIEW • A restrung, Nashville-style arrangement of the ‘standard’ 5>5>5>4>5 pattern – the whole guitar is raised up by a fourth, and the top two strings are then lowered by an octave. In relative terms: akin to capoing at 12fr, but only across 6-5-4-3str.   Developed by fusion virtuoso Frank Gambale for to […]

 

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Lefty Flip / Mirrored

E-B-G-D-A-E • OVERVIEW • Spare a thought for left-handed guitarists everywhere – though they can count Hendrix, Iommi, Cobain, McCartney, and many other six-stringed innovators among them, this comes as little solace whenever there’s only a ‘normal’ guitar lying around to jam on at a party.   This ‘mirror of standard’ is an intriguing workaround: […]