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

 

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• Schizophrenia tuning •

F#-F#-G-G-A-A • OVERVIEW • Highly unorthodox droning triad used by Thurston Moore on Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia (1987) – a Joy Division-like song that explores the tuning’s strange slacknesses with long, wordless interludes, replete with dreamy harmonics and a slight microtonal spice. Requires a thinner 4str.   Contains nothing but three sequential diatonic scale tones, all […]

 

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• Jack’s Chikari (‘Sitaristic’) tuning •

Ḋ-Ḋ-D-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • My fellow British-based Indian raga explorer Jack Jennings replaces his Strat’s 6+5str with super-light gauges, both tuned to high D tones, in imitation of a sitar‘s chikari: two unfrettable ‘rhythm strings’ on the top side of the large Indian lute, used to add groove and textural colour to the main melody […]

 

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• Papuan Four-Key tuning •

F-Bb-C-F-A-C • OVERVIEW • New Guinea, just north of Australia, is marked by astonishing linguistic, cultural, and ecological diversities. One of the world’s largest islands, it is home to a quarter of all humanity’s surviving languages, with thousands of communities isolated from each other by volcanic highlands and dense rainforests. The region’s musical cultures overflow […]

 

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• Zigzag Thirds (Major) tuning •

F-A-C-E-G-B • OVERVIEW • A ‘stack of thirds’, alternating between major and minor (i.e. semitone gaps of ‘4, 3, 4, 3, 4’). Proposed by Greek mathematician Dr. Costas Kyritsis as an ideal landscape for simplifying the shapes of all common diatonic chords – a logical point, given that much of Western harmony is built from […]

 

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• Zigzag Thirds (Minor) tuning •

F-Ab-C-Eb-G-Bb • OVERVIEW • A ‘stack of thirds’, alternating between minor and major (i.e. semitone gaps of ‘3, 4, 3, 4, 3’). Proposed by Greek mathematician Dr. Costas Kyritsis as an ideal landscape for simplifying the shapes of all common diatonic chords – a logical point, given that much of Western harmony is built from […]

 

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• Gambale tuning •

A-D-G-C-E-A • OVERVIEW • A high-strung, Nashville-style reshuffle of the ‘Standard’ 5>5>5>4>5 sequence – the whole guitar is raised up by a perfect 4th, and 1-2str are then lowered an octave from there (in relative terms: akin to capoing at 12fr, but only across 6-5-4-3str).   Developed by Australian fusion virtuoso Frank Gambale as part […]

 

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• Overtone Series tuning •

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

 

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• Nashville tuning •

Ė-Ȧ-Ḋ-Ġ-B-E • OVERVIEW • A part-transposition of Standard, which retains the same notes while raising 6-5-4-3str up a full octave. This halves the range (12 vs. 24 semitones), and also radically shuffles up the order of the tones (low>high: 6, 5, 2, 4, 1, 3str) – essentially like a 12-string with the lower of each pair […]

 

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• Square-Neck Dobro tuning •

G-B-D-G-B-D • OVERVIEW • Dobros, resonators, banjos, and 7-string ‘Russian guitars’ often take ‘repeated’ open G tunings – such as ‘looping’ a G-B-D major triad sequence throughout all the strings in turn. Setting up this way narrows the open-string range to 19 semitones (like Standard minus a string) – but the cycling regularity simplifies the fretboard’s […]