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• Zen Drone (‘Dulcimeric’) tuning •

D-A-D-A-A-D • OVERVIEW • Intriguing two-tone drone associated with writer, educator, and New York street-busker Philip Toshio Sudo, author of the cult-classic 1997 book Zen Guitar – aimed at providing a gateway to spontaneous improvisation for players of all abilities. I applaud his participative sentiments, and the immediacy of the tuning’s freedoms (…but you’ve gotta be […]

 

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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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• Atta’s C tuning •

C-G-E-G-C-E • OVERVIEW • An Open C variant with an odd structure, mixing tense upwindings (4str) with radical slackenings (6str). Associated with the great Hawaiian master Leland ‘Atta’ Isaacs (1929–1983), who used it to inject fresh, jazzy voicings into the kī hō’alu music of his era. Beautifully concise: only three notes are used, but all adjacent […]

 

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• Orkney tuning •

C-G-D-G-C-D • OVERVIEW • Forms a Csus2 (or Gsus4) voicing, with intervals that ‘narrow’ as you go higher in pitch (two 5ths > two 4ths > one maj. 2nd). Like a ‘Drop D’ version of Open Gsus, with the 6str providing added intrigue via creating a ‘C-G-D’ stack of 5ths on the low side. Each tone […]

 

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• C6 (‘Mauna Loa’) tuning •

C-G-C-G-A-E • OVERVIEW • A C6 known in Hawaiian kī hō’alu (‘slack-key’) as C ‘Mauna Loa’ – named after the world’s largest active volcano, which has erupted continuously since rising from the Pacific seabed over 400,000 years ago. The tuning’s regular stack of three perfect 5ths (6>5str, 4>3str, 2>1str) bring a similarly balanced solidity. Popularised by […]

 

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• Open C (‘Wide Major’) tuning •

C-G-C-G-C-E • OVERVIEW • Open C (unlike Open D, G, A, and Emaj) doesn’t quite correspond to any of our familiar EADGBE chord shapes – although the interval sequence is closest to the classic ‘x-x-0-2-3-2‘ Dmaj (more precisely: it’s like a ‘Dmaj shape in Drop D, then dropping everything 2 semitones’).   For me, this isn’t […]

 

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• Open Gsus (‘Sawmill’) tuning •

D-G-D-G-C-D • OVERVIEW • Resembles a Standard-tuned ‘0-0-2-2-3-0’ Asus4 chord shape in terms of interval structure, giving an open, balanced sound (a sus4 is essentially ‘a root + the perfect 5ths above & below it’). Note the narrow maj 2nd interval at the top (2>1str) – useful for dropping open-string ‘cluster tones’ into your melodising. […]

 

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• Open Gmin (‘Banjo Minor’) tuning •

D-G-D-G-Bb-D • OVERVIEW • Resembles a Standard-tuned Amin shape (‘0-0-2-2-1-0’) in terms of interval structure. Thus qualifies as a ‘cross-note’ layout: as you can easily ‘cross over’ to a Gmaj voicing with just one finger, as ‘0-0-0-0-1-0’ (something much less straightforward in the other direction, i.e. making Gmin voicings in Open Gmaj). Note the 5th in […]

 

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• Open Dmin (‘Bentonia’) tuning •

D-A-D-F-A-D • OVERVIEW • Matches a Standard-tuned Emin shape (‘0-2-2-0-0-0’) in terms of interval structure – with everything twisted a whole tone lower. Thus forms a ‘cross-note‘ layout, as (unlike in Open Dmaj) you can easily ‘cross over’ to major voicings with just one finger (e.g. ‘0-0-0-1-0-0’). Associated with haunting Delta bluesman Skip James (and […]

 

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• Open Dmaj (‘Vestapol’) tuning •

D-A-D-F#-A-D • OVERVIEW • Resembles EADGBE’s famous ‘0-2-2-1-0-0’ Emaj shape in terms of intervals – a general pattern sometimes known as ‘Vestapol’ (after The Siege of Sevastopol, an earnest 1854 American folk song about the Crimean War, popular in parlor guitar instructional manuals of the 19th century: more below). Thus, the tuning represents a logical […]