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• Equilibrium tuning •

G-A-D-E-A-E • OVERVIEW • Showcased by solo acoustic master Erik Mongrain on Equilibrium, the architectural title track of his 2008 second album. 6str is slackened to a super-low G, over an octave below the neighbouring 5str: removing around 66% of its tension, and thus risking high levels of low-volume buzz (without a restring). Read on for […]

 

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• Kabosy (‘Leonard’s C’) tuning •

 C-G-D-G-B-D • OVERVIEW • The kabosy is a small box-lute played in Madagascar, likely descended from the Arabic oud (thus implying it is also a much-removed cousin of the European guitar and lute). Often made from scavenged materials such as scrap metal, fishing line, and bicycle brake cables, most designs have 4-6 strings, set over […]

 

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• Yvette’s Dadd9 tuning •

D-A-D-F#-A-E • OVERVIEW • A melodious Open D variant, which retains Standard’s high E1str tone to give a spacious Dadd9. Pleasingly, the 6-2str intervals are arranged in descending order of width, narrowing in neat sequence as you go towards the treble (7>5>4>3: 5th > 4th > maj. 3rd > min. 3rd) – until you encounter […]

 

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• Funky Avocado tuning •

B-A-D-G-A-D • OVERVIEW • ‘BADGAD’ – essentially ‘drop B DADGAD’ – was showcased by steel-string colossus Michael Hedges on The Funky Avocado, a near-disturbingly groovy duet with fretless bass virtuoso Michael Manring. According to Hedges, “it starts out with a medium R&B tempo, slows down into some heavy rock, and finishes up in a fit […]

 

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• Math Rock F tuning •

F-A-C-G-C-E • OVERVIEW • This gently undulating maj9 sequence doesn’t take much peg-twisting to reach – but the shifts (two single-semitone raises and one double-semitone fall) will immediately put fresh melodic motions on the menu.   While the tension shifts are fairly subtle (no restring is required), you can still feel them: the 6+2str are […]

 

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• Ghost Reveries tuning •

D-A-D-F-A-E • OVERVIEW • A spacious Open Dm variant, which retains Standard’s E1str tone to give a minor 9th open harmony. Great for chord voicings which combine intricate high extensions with robust bass structures – with note-shuffling added by the tuning’s irregular interval sequence (a 4th, min. 3rd, and a maj. 3rd, sandwiched by two 5ths). […]

 

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• Karnivool tuning •

B-F#-B-G-B-E • OVERVIEW • A fascinating blend of Standard + ‘Drop D -3‘ (3-1str & 6-4str respectively), closely associated with Australian prog-rockers Karnivool. According to its creator, lead guitarist Drew Goddard, “It just made sense to have the low tuning, while keeping the first strings high. The best of both worlds I guess…I liked the sequence […]

 

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• Bruce Palmer (‘Judy Blue Eyes’) tuning •

E-E-E-E-B-E • OVERVIEW • Two-tone drone tuning 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 in 1969, anchoring David Crosby & Graham Nash’s soaring vocal harmonies on the rhapsodic, romantic Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.   Forms a many-rooted E5 […]

 

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• Cello (‘Haircut’) tuning •

C-G-D-A-B-E • OVERVIEW • While the highest two strings of this tuning are left as Standard, the rest are ‘widened’ in range to form a stack of perfect 5ths across 6-5-4-3str – thus matching the tuning of a cello. The treble side also gives open-string access to the next 5th in the sequence: between 3-1str […]

 

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• Only Shallow tuning •

E-B-E-Gb-B-E • OVERVIEW • Though rare, this Esus2 layout’s distinctive ‘major 2nd in the middle‘ opens up unique melodic and harmonic possibilities. Most famously used for the droning shoegaze wails of My Bloody Valentine’s Only Shallow.   Given the snappability of the raised 4+5str, acoustic steel-stringers are best advised to transpose everything down a tone to […]