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Bağlama / Saz

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, and other local names include kopuz, irisva, balta, and bulgari). Played with a cherrywood pick, the frets, made of fishing line, are moveable – opening up infinite microtonal shades. […]

 

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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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Jack’s Chikari

Ḋ-Ḋ-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • Jack Jennings (like me, a UK-based Hindustani guitar explorer) replaces his two lowest strings with super-light .8s, both tuned to high D to mirror the chikari of a sitar – two unfrettable ‘rhythm strings’ on the large Indian lute’s top side, used to add groove and textural colour.   Jack’s ingenious […]

 

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Zen Drone

D-A-D-A-A-D • OVERVIEW • Author, educator, and NYC busker Philip Toshio Sudo (1958-2002) included this power-chord drone in his famous 1997 book Zen Guitar, intended as a gateway to spontaneous improvisation for beginners. I applaud his participative philosophy, and the general freedom of the tuning…but you gotta be careful not to ruin the Zen calm by […]

 

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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 Mauna Loa

C-G-C-G-A-E • OVERVIEW • A C6 known in Hawaiian kī hō’alu (‘slack-key’) guitar as C ‘Mauna Loa’ – the name of the world’s largest active volcano, which has erupted non-stop since rising from the Pacific seabed over 400,000 years ago.   The tuning’s regular stack of three perfect 5ths brings a similarly balanced stability (6>5, 4>3, […]

 

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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 […]