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Airtap!

F-A-C-F-C-F • OVERVIEW • Used by Montreal acoustic genius Erik Mongrain to facilitate the virtuosic ‘lap-tapping’ techniques of Airtap!, an oldskool viral favourite (uploaded back in 2006: YouTube’s early days). Like playing piano, bass, & drums on the strings – all at the same time…   The intervallic structure matches the guitar’s ‘classic’ Gmaj shape […]

 

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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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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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All Fourths

E-A-D-G-C-F • OVERVIEW • A ‘regular’ stack of perfect 4ths (also a Dmin11 arpeggio). Kind of like standard tuning’s more logical cousin – the ‘odd one out’ gap between 3-2str is eliminated, simplifying the fretboard’s geometry. Great for quartal voicings, and having C & F open tones is useful too. Probably the best instant-freedom tuning […]

 

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Open Cm

C-G-C-G-C-Eb • OVERVIEW • Open Cm (unlike Open Dm, Gm, Am, and Em) doesn’t really match with any of our familiar ‘EADGBE’ minor-chord shapes (although it’s closest to the ‘xx0231’ Dmin sequence). Another ‘cross-note’ tuning – as you can easily ‘cross-over’ to Cmaj (like: 0-0-0-0-0-1).   The b3 is placed on 1str, giving the only […]

 

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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 […]

 

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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 […]

 

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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 […]

 

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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 tunings. […]