• I Only Said tuning •



Used by shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine on I Only Said, from 1991’s Loveless (well…I’m almost 100% sure: it’s hard to know for certain through the fog of swirling pedal effects). Features huge leaps and stark tension differentials, which allow frontman Kevin Shields to bring out drone-stretching microtonal effects with the whammy bar.


Otherwise appears to be mystifyingly rare, despite being relatively easy to reach (I can’t find any other definite instances). It rings strong and consonant despite its seeming angularities, forming a balanced G6/9 voicing if you root from the unison G pair (3+2str). Surprisingly quick to adapt to – note-wise it’s like ‘EADGBE with no D’.

Pattern: 5>2>8>0>9
Harmony: G6/9 | 6-2-3-1-1-6




Sometimes used to open the their live sets, I Only Said – track six from Loveless – is among MBV‘s most guitar-driven songs. In a 1992 feature on the band (Bloody Guy), my Guitar World brethren Alan DiPerna asked Kevin Shields. They had this to say about the making of I Only Said:


“Sometimes, Shields ends up reinventing the wheel as a result of his carefully cultivated artlessness in the studio. There’s the case of what sounds a heck of a lot like a wah-wah pedal on I Only Said…’What that actually is…is a guitar through this strange Seymour Duncan amplifier that’s got a graphic equalizer preamp. I just had 1kHz really overdriven through it. So you get this honky guitar sound that automatically gives you a wah-wah effect, especially when you use the tremolo arm. But what really made it sound like some kind of wah pedal was that, after recording it, I was bounced it to another track through a parametric equalizer. And as I was bouncing, I was chasing chords and stuff like that, twisting the EQ knob in real time…”.


  • I Only Said – My Bloody Valentine (1991):

“See you there, run away, you said,
To go you were there, you were there,
To lay underneath the red sky there,
To lay under her, I want her there…”


Some great covers of the track also exist – including a sliding, fusion-inclined rendition from Japancakes, and a tasty solo piano reworking from Walt Wagner (plus, the MBV original was sampled in Uplink by Stratus).


  • I Only Said (solo piano) – Walt Wagner (2016):


6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note E A B G G E
Alteration 0 0 -3 0 -4 0
Tension (%) 0 0 -29 0 -37
Freq. (Hz) 82 110 123 196 196 330
Pattern (>) 5 2 8 0 9
Semitones 0 5 7 15 15 24
Intervals 6 2 3 1 1 6
  • 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…

  • Fuji: also has a G-G 2-3str unison, but flips to minor
  • Road: Drake brings a similar proximity to standard
  • Ali Farka Touré: another G6/9, differently stacked


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

  • I Only Said: to get further into the guitar parts, check out Shaun Lockwood’s video lesson (plus a good tab based on his arrangement), and Sparky Guitar’s neat playthrough, and to witness the band play in full force, see a 1991 version, live in London – and to learn about Loveless‘ original reception, see the Alan DiPerna Guitar World feature from 1992 (“Guitars sputter and wobble like a melted data disk flung from an exploding starship. But somewhere in the din, traces of human life are detectable: pop melodies! It’s like hearing pop music for the first time, the way a visitor from another planet might hear it”)
  • MBV’s tunings: learn more about their madcap layouts in my Altered-tuned Artists article listing – and for fuller listings, check out the heroic compilation efforts of Reddit user mbvtunings4u, as well as further discussion on the Simple Machines forum (“I listened for drone notes, tuned the highest strings accordingly, and then tried to figure out the remaining notes on each chord. I did have some help on a few from Kevin’s former roadie…”)


Browse 100+ tunings: type in names, notes, artists, sequences, words, etc. Also see tags below & the Full Menu:


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rāga: ‘that which colours the mind’

George Howlett is a London-based musician, writer, and teacher. I play guitar, tabla, and santoor, loosely focusing on jazz, rhythm, and other global improvised traditions. Above all I seek to enthuse fellow sonic searchers, interconnecting fresh vibrations with the human voices, cultures, and passions behind them. Site above, follow below, & hit me up for…


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Dedicated to Nigel Tufnel – a true tuning connoisseur

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