• All Minor Sixths tuning •



A ‘regularstack of minor 6ths – i.e. 8 semitones separate each string. This produces an expansive augmented sequence, starting from any of its three notes: whichever string you begin on, playing the two below will give 1-b6-3 (=an 1-3-#5 augmented triad: but one which cycles through the same notes in jumps of 8 rather than 4).


The absurdly wide open-string range (around 3.5 octaves) is a full 16 semitones more than Standard – in fact, it almost matches the entire frettable range of most guitars (i.e. open 6str to the highest zones of 1str). Tuning theorist Bill Sethares cites its potential for spread chord voicings, as a counterpart to its ‘narrow’ augmented cousin (All Major 3rds).

Pattern: 8>8>8>8>8
Harmony: F/Db/A aug | 1-b6-3-1-b6-3


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It’s unclear if anyone has ever released music in this exact tuning. This isn’t so surprising: after all, you’d need a huge re-string, and if you also a significant truss-rod reset (maybe get hold of a long-scale Baritone-style guitar). However, dependable tuning taxonomer Bill Sethares seems to have programmed his MIDI guitar to a minor 6th layout at some point – his 2001 Alternate Tuning Guide compares it to All Major 3rds tuning as follows: “[Both] could also be called the ‘Open C Augmented’ tuning…[but] the feel [is] vastly different…”


“In practical terms, chords in the minor 6th tuning tend to be wide open, with large intervals between successive notes. They tend to have low basses and high trebles simultaneously. Chords in the major 3rd tuning, on the other hand, tend to be compressed, often with multiple copies of the same note in the same octave”. Well – who’s up for investigating how well this description fits directly? The un-bluesy weirdness will really open up some fresh avenues…(n.b. see Gambale tuning for more MIDI-guitar tales).


  • Unexplored on record – send me your experiments!

“The augmented cluster is one of two parental forms on the guitar…Specifically, it’s a harmonic gateway to three major chords. Just lower any one of its three tones and you get a major triad…Also, be sure to try raising any note in the augmented cluster a half-step – that’s how you’ll get minor chords…” (Pat Martino’s Sacred Geometry: Guitar Player, 2004)

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6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note F Db A F Db A
Alteration -11 -8 -5 -2 2 5
Tension (%) -72 -60 -44 -21 26 78
Freq. (Hz) 44 69 110 175 277 440
Pattern (>) 8 8 8 8 8
Semitones 0 8 16 24 32 40
Intervals 1 b6 3 1 b6 3
  • 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!


—Associated tunings: proximities of shape, concept, context, etc…


—Further learnings: sources, readings, lessons, other onward links…

  • Bill Sethares’ intervallic explorations: read more of what the multi-tuning hero has to say about minor 6th designs and other ‘interval‘ layouts in the Regular Tunings chapter of his 2001 Alternate Tuning Guide (i.e. where all adjacent strings are separated by the same interval: e.g. All Fourths & All Fifths)
  • Microtonal minor-ish 6ths: the guitar takes equally-tempered, ‘800 cent‘ minor 6ths (i.e. 8 semitones), but there are many other interval shades nearby – check out the microtones on Kyle Gann’s Anatomy of an Octave and the Mirahaze Microtonal Encyclopedia: including the ‘septimal minor sixth’ (764.9 cents), the ‘undecimal minor sixth’ (782.5 cents = 11/7 ratio), and the ‘Pythagorean schismatic sixth’ (815.6 cents)…

Header image: stave-notated minor 6th (middle C to Ab)

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…”

(Guitar World interview)

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