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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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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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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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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: […]

 

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Overtone Stack

G-B-D-F-G-A • OVERVIEW • My ‘squeezed’ sequence of tones 4 to 9 in the harmonic series – if ‘squashed’ to 12-tone equal temperament, they spell out a 9th arpeggio as an ascent-ordered stack of thirds: 1-3-5-b7-9. Bill Sethares’ variant keeps string tension within more sensible bounds, by adding a register-jump in the middle (C-E-G-Bb-C-D). Make […]

 

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Mi-composé

E-A-Ḋ-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • Used by flamboyant 1950s Congolese guitarist Zacharie Elenga, also known as ‘Jhimmy the Hawaiian’ – after country star Jimmy Rogers (already a global icon), and Elenga’s own self-mythologised brand of thumb-and-forefinger picking (which, though formidable, had very little to do with Hawaii).   Jhimmy shot to fame in Léopoldville (now Kinshasa), […]

 

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C Wahine / Keola’s C

C-G-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • An quick-to-reach Open C variant mixing 5ths, 4ths, and 3rds. Popular in Hawaii as ‘C Wahine’ (‘woman’) or ‘Keola’s C’ after modern slack-key legend Keola Beamer. The Honolulu maestro, who has long used it to explore fresh chord voicings and mellifluous natural harmonics (ho’opapa), hails it as “one of the easiest and […]

 

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Slack Thwack A

A-A-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • Use the ‘slack thwack’ to access the bass guitar register in your lead playing (well, all but the very lowest 5 notes of it). Tuning the 6str right down to A – downwards a perfect 5th – will bring a strange buzz…but opens up some unique textures and grooves. Some guitars […]