• OVERVIEW •
Used by Montreal acoustic genius Erik Mongrain to facilitate the virtuosic ‘lap-tapping’ techniques of AirTap!, an oldskool viral favourite (uploaded way back in 2006: YouTube’s early days). Like playing piano, bass, & drums on the strings – all at the same time…
The interval structure matches our ‘classic’ Gmaj shape from Standard tuning (‘3-2-0-0-3-3’). Although 5 of the strings are altered, the changes are all small, with more raised than dropped: Mongrain’s barre-finger slappery requires firm tension on both sides to ring out crisp. Read on for some fascinating direct input from the man himself!
Harmony: Fmaj | 1-3-5-1-5-1
• TUNING TONES •
• SOUNDS •
The performance that launched Erik Mongrain to his (likely inevitable) acoustic guitar stardom arrived to the web via an exuberant performance on French-Canadian TV (AirTap!). You can also listen to the piece in 3D-realistic ‘binaural‘ sound here (headphones required for full effect).
He expanded on the origins of his ‘lap-tapping’ style (which he estimates as being ~75% improvised) in an Interviewtion profile: “I saw a street musician playing like that here in Montreal when I was around 18-19, [and] figured I’d try the technique on my own…Developed my way to do it, and there you have it! No technique feels natural when you start though”.
- AirTap! (TV) – Erik Mongrain (2006):
“Nirvana and grunge music…is what got me into guitar playing. I wanted to emulate all of it! I never took any lessons: learned everything on my own, and by watching and listening to guys that were better than me.” (Erik Mongrain)
—More from Mongrain—
I emailed Erik to learn more about his tuning explorations: “This has been a gradual process, through learning countless open tunings and experimenting with them. It’s an intuitive thing, sometimes my mind has to work for it, and sometimes it just pours out. Inspiration is strange – I always feel like I’m just a ‘vessel’. Like the great Michael Hedges said, ‘the secret of discovery is extremely sweet’.”
“More specifically: if, say, I wrote a tune in FACGCE: I’ll always try to see what happens if I just change 1, 2, or 3 of the strings [e.g. to AirTap‘s FACFCF]. This is convenient, seeing as it gives a whole different tint to the chords and their colours…and, for the most part, most positions and left-hand fingerings won’t change all that much.” (n.b. Read his tales of video-game inspiration in my Equilibrium writeup – and also check out this curious AirTap ‘cover’ by Miku Hatsune: “the official [virtual] anthropomorphism of a ‘Vocaloid software voicebank’ developed by Crypton Future Media”.)
- AirTap! (Binaural) – Erik Mongrain (2009):
“I’ve always found the world we live in very noisy and alien. Music puts my mind in the ‘off position’ to some degree, but gaming fully absorbs me, and allows me to escape…Game soundtracks help inspire the music I write even today…For me, it doesn’t matter where it is from: if it’s genuinely creative and harmonious music, it will have an impact on what I write.” (Erik Mongrain)
Like everything on my site, the World of Tuning will always remain 100% open-access and ad-free: however, anti-corporate musicology doesn’t pay the bills! I put as much into these projects as time and finances allow – so, if you like them, you can:
…and hasten the project’s expansion…
—Documenting more altered tunings—
—Further harmonic & melodic analysis—
—Engaging with peg-twisting guitarists—
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• NUMBERS •
- See my Tunings Megatable for further such nerdery: more numbers, intervallic relations, comparative methods, etc. And to any genuine vibratory scientists reading: please critique my DIY analysis!
• RELATED •
—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…
- Open F: a lower, inverted Fmaj triad layout
- Zigzag Thirds (Maj): stacking thirds up from F
- Equilibrium: Erik Mongrain’s superlow tuning
• MORE INFO •
—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…
- Erik Mongrain: see more on my Altered-Tuned Artists listing – plus his website & tunings, and an interview (“nowadays I’m trying to go for higher tension…sometimes I just fiddle with the tuners, and try to find a new arrangement…that feels right to the moment. There is more than one way to find new color!”)
- Two-handed-tapping: pick up the basics of the acoustic ‘lap-tapping’ style in Mike Dawes’ Guitar World lesson (“instead of visualizing ‘box chord’ shapes, it seemed more like six pianos in a row, in that each string was like its own keyboard…”) – and check out the electric ‘fretboard-tapping’ experiments of Stanley Jordan (in All Fourths tuning)
Header image: Erik Mongrain taps in Berlin (Björn Muelena)
George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher (guitars, sitar, tabla, & santoor). Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the voices, cultures, and passions behind them. See Home & Writings, and hit me up for Online Lessons!
“An intrepid guitar researcher…”
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