line

G 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 […]

 

line

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 […]

 

line

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 […]

 

line

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), […]

 

line

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 […]

 

line

Full Drop C

C-G-C-F-A-D • OVERVIEW • The same pattern as Drop D, but everything is then moved down two semitones. Brings a loose, chaotic, imperfect texture: total string tension is lowered by around 25% – equivalent to a ~40lb drop on an acoustic (total string tension on a steel-string can often top 180lb/82kg…no wonder you need a […]

 

line

Baritone

B-E-A-D-Gb-B • OVERVIEW • In keeping with heavy rock’s ‘ever lower’ trend, many Scandinavian death metal groups (‘ragnarok-ers’?) were tuning right down to B by the 90s, stringing heavier and often adding a 7th to accommodate. Still popular on the global metal scene today.   Also used on ‘baritone’ guitars, which have a 5-10% longer scale […]

 

line

C Standard

C-F-Bb-Eb-G-C • OVERVIEW • Tuning ‘four frets down’ opens up a radically slacker feel (~35% lower tension). Quieter, subtler, with a loose, messy expressive freedom – but without restringing, most guitars will have at least some issues with intonation and buzz (…use them to your advantage!).   Jazz guitarist John Stowell explains how the ear […]

 

line

Db Standard

Db-Gb-B-E-Ab-Db • OVERVIEW • Aged 17, Tony Iommi lost his middle and ring fingertips in a factory accident. His DIY prosthetics – home-made ‘thimble-tips’ fashioned from a leather jacket and a melted-down soap bottle – didn’t take the tension of bendy lead playing too well, leading him to experiment with thinner strings and slackened tunings. […]

 

line

D Standard

D-G-C-F-A-D • OVERVIEW • Tuning ‘down a whole tone’ lowers overall string tension by around 20%, decreasing volume but allowing for wide bends, subtle vibratos, and an overall ease of fretting. Great for opening up electric-style melodic freedoms on the acoustic guitar – and for reducing strain on the hands.   According to Patterson Hood […]