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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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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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Ten Years

D-E-C-A-D-E • OVERVIEW • One advantage of tuning via spelling is that you can stumble upon fresh, genuinely counterintuitive combinations. ‘Decade’ tuning is a fantastic example of this, placing a wide middle between narrow outer intervals (‘maj & min 6ths sandwiched by 2nds’). Mind the uneven looseness, for example between the slack 5str and super-taut […]

 

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Iris

B-D-D-D-D-D • OVERVIEW • Unique droning arrangement created by the Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik for Iris, the group’s smash-hit power ballad from 1998. Balances purity and dissonance: while the 5-1str are all tuned to D, the 6str is taken right down to a superlow B – providing a narrow, crunchy minor 3rd gap between the […]

 

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Mesopotamian

B-A-G-D-A-D • OVERVIEW • ‘I once met a mysterious guitarist from Mesopotamia, who would only teach in his local tuning…’ لول Pattern: 10>10>7>7>5 Harmony: D6(sus4) | 6-5-4-1-5-1 • TUNE UP • [YT] • SOUNDS • The actual music of Baghdad spans a rich variety of sonic and social influences, both ancient and modern. Long renowned […]

 

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Cabbage

C-A-Bb-A-G-E • OVERVIEW • C-A-Bb-A-G-E is surprisingly tasty, if rather impractical. Forms a ‘crunchy’ C13 chord…with the root(s) at the bottom. Seems silly, and it definitely is – but it’s essential to playfully shuffle things up sometimes. Anyway, J.S. Bach did much the same, famously ‘signing’ his name in The Art of Fugue as Bb-A-C-B (read […]

 

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One-Tone Drone / Ostrich

D-D-D-D-D-D • OVERVIEW • A ‘one-tone drone’ tuning – comprising only one note (+ octaves). In technical terms, it can be described as ‘trivially repetitive‘: referencing the optimal simplicity of its interval structure (=triviality), and its ever-looping sequence of identical tones (=repetitiveness).   However, the tuning’s true magic is found in the real-world sonic mess that […]

 

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Bruce Palmer / Judy Blue Eyes

E-E-E-E-B-E • OVERVIEW • Two-tone drone tuning, often known as ‘Bruce Palmer (modal)’ after its creator, Buffalo Springfield bassist Bruce Palmer (1946-2004). Famously showcased by his Buffalo bandmate Stephen Stills at Woodstock, anchoring David Crosby & Graham Nash’s soaring vocal harmonies on the rhapsodic, romantic Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.   Forms a many-rooted E5 power chord – […]

 

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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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Overtone Stack

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