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Alphabet

A-B-C-D-E-F • OVERVIEW • While admittedly easy to remember, ‘Alphabet’ tuning isn’t exactly the most melodically (or physically) practical. Nevertheless, there is always value to be found in embracing some creative chaos – in this case, via the arbitrary nature of ‘Alpha-melodic’ tunings (i.e. with notes chosen via some spelling-based method).   These oddball approaches can serve as […]

 

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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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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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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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B Standard / 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 length […]

 

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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 […]

 

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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 […]

 

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D Standard / Tone Down

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 […]