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• Ali Farka Touré tuning •

G-A-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • Associated with late Malian legend Ali Farka Touré (1939-2006), one of the Sahara Desert’s many towering guitar masters. The lowest 6str string is raised by a minor third, up to a G – which can then be used as a drone behind open-toned melodic lines in Gmaj (and its associated modes). […]

 

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• Oud (Arabic) tuning •

E-A-Db-Gb-B-E • OVERVIEW • The Arabic oud (fretless lute) is slightly larger than its Turkish cousin, and consequently takes deeper tunings too. This layout transposes a common Arabic tuning, popular in Syria and the surrounding region (…to jam with the original depth, move everything down 4 semitones: C-F-A-D-G-C).   Note the guitar-like circle of fourths […]

 

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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 up bespoke for the makam (melodic framework) in question (n.b. Also see Arabic Oud tuning: E-A-Db-Gb-B-E).   This layout is one way of […]

 

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• Bağlama (‘Saz’) tuning •

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 tuning •

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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• Haja’s Bb tuning •

Bb-F-C-F-Bb-C • OVERVIEW • ‘Haja’ (pronounced ‘Adz’) is an innovative modern guitarist from Madagascar. His exuberant, rhythmic playing style fuses elements from across the island’s wealth of sonic traditions – showcased via breathtaking solo electric performances as well as in his long-running fusion group Solomiral.   His chosen tuning (equivalent to Orkney -2) forms a […]

 

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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 • 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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• Carnatic (‘Drake’s Drone’) tuning •

B-E-B-E-B-E • OVERVIEW • Distinctive drone, used prominently on acoustic by Nick Drake – and on electric by ‘Guitar’ Prasanna, a South Indian virtuoso acclaimed for playing Carnatic classical ragas on his Epiphone (in Guthrie Govan’s words, “If you don’t know about Prasanna, prepare to be terrified…”).   South India’s classical melodies tend to move in […]

 

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• Zen Drone (‘Dulcimeric’) tuning •

D-A-D-A-A-D • OVERVIEW • Author, educator, and NYC busker Philip Toshio Sudo (1958-2002) included this two-tone 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 calm by […]