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Bağlama / Saz

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!

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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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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Gothic

Eb-G-D-A-Bb-C • OVERVIEW • Introduced by Japanese axeman Ichika Nito to explore fresh avenues of his imaginative electric fingerpicking style. With a different tone on each string, it offers up a complex chordal canvas.   Only 4str stays familiar from Standard. Try raking through the divine natural harmonics at <12/7/5fr>, and sliding up and down […]

 

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Ethereal

D-A-C#-F#-C#-D • OVERVIEW • Introduced by multi-tuned Japanese virtuoso Ichika Nito in 2019. His jagged configuration twists all but the 5str away from Standard – while never taking any of them more than 2 semitones from EADGBE either.   Fantastic for finding fresh melodies and cluster chord voicings – try teasing out the dissonance of […]

 

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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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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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Wind of Change

D-D-D-A-D-F# • OVERVIEW • A low-droning variety of Open D, featuring a powerful ‘triple D’ across the 6-5-4str: meaning that you have to move vertically (i.e. up and down the neck) to generate melodic motion. Famously used by Peter Frampton on Wind of Change (a semitone down) – although he got the idea via browsing George […]

 

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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 […]