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

 

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• Airtap tuning •

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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• 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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• Charango tuning •

G-G-C-E-A-E • OVERVIEW • Mimics a common tuning of the charango: a small 10-string lute found in Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, and elsewhere in the Andean region. A distant cousin of the guitar, the charango’s strings are ‘paired’ into 5 courses (like a 12-string) – and tuned to cluster within the span of a single […]

 

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• Ten Years tuning •

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 tuning •

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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• Place to Be tuning •

C-G-C-F-G-E • OVERVIEW • Used to create the legato-tinged cluster voicings of Nick Drake’s Place to Be – the second track from 1972’s Pink Moon, his third and final album. Almost identical to his tuning for the title track: the only difference being that here, 2str is a full 5 semitones lower – decreasing its volume, […]

 

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• Pink Moon tuning •

C-G-C-F-C-E • OVERVIEW • A ‘widened’ Open C variant, with 1str left at E to create a Cmaj11 voicing. Used by enigmatic English folkster Nick Drake for Pink Moon, the opening track of his 1972 album of the same name: capoed at 2fr, and slightly sharp of concert pitch (n.b. lower 2str by 5 semitones […]

 

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• Hejira tuning •

C-G-D-F-G-C • OVERVIEW • Joni Mitchell’s setting for the divine arpeggiations of Hejira, released on her 1976 album of the same name. The title derives from an Arabic word (hijra / الهجرة), signifying departure or migration – particularly the Prophet Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina. Joni came across the term while flicking through a […]

 

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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 […]