• Open Cm (‘Wide Minor’) tuning •

C-G-C-G-C-E

• OVERVIEW •

Open Cm (unlike Open Dm, Gm, and Em) doesn’t really match with any of our familiar Standard-tuned minor shapes (it’s closest to the ‘x-x-0-2-3-1’ Dm chord – or more precisely, it’s a ‘Dm shape in Drop D, then dropping everything 2 semitones’). Another ‘cross-note’ tuning – as you can easily ‘cross-over’ to Cmaj using only one finger (e.g. ‘0-0-0-0-0-1’).

 

The b3 is placed on 1str, giving the only minor-defining tone an odd mix of emphasis (as the highest in pitch) and transience (being so high, it clashes less with lower overtones). Great for modal playing, but generally rare – although it does turn up in a few outside-the-box works.

Pattern: 7>5>7>5>3
Harmony: Cmin | 1-5-1-5-1-b3

• TUNING TONES •

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• SOUNDS •

Most famously explored in visionary classical guitar composer Carlo Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba Suite – an incredible Turkish-infused piece inspired by his time living in Istanbul in the 1970s (n.b. it’s actually raised up a semitone, as in the performance below). The C-G-C-G-C-Eb layout has also been employed by a few folksy fingerstylers, including Cairney Hill and Les Finnigan (e.g. Up All Night, Ralph’s Town, Hallow Evening).

 


  • Koyunbaba Suite (Carlo Domeniconi) – performed by Paulo Martelli (2010):

“Koyunbaba literally means ‘sheep-father’ or ‘shepherd’ – but also refers to a 13th-century mystical saint-like figure, whose grave is decorated with colored bits of cloth by Turkish villagers seeking his help…Koyunbaba is [also] the name of a wild, dry area in Southwest Turkey. Domeniconi relates the story of how the area is seemingly cursed…” (Classical Guitar Alive!)


• NUMBERS •

6str 5str 4str 3str 2str 1str
Note C G C G C Eb
Alteration -4 -2 -2 0 +1 -1
Tension (%) -37 -21 -21 0 +12 -11
Freq. (Hz) 65 98 131 196 262 311
Pattern (>) 7 5 7 5 3
Semitones 0 7 12 19 24 27
Intervals 1 5 1 5 1 b3
  • 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…

• MORE INFO •

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

  • Nylon-tuned Cmin: practical and creative pros and cons on the Classical Guitar forum (“I know some people feel tuning changes are almost sacrilege…[but] as a composer, they really awake my creativity”, “the power the low C has…feels so great… BOOOOoooooOOoooOooooommmMMmmm!”).
  • Koyunbaba’s curse: the full Classical Guitar Alive interview with the suite’s composer (“…numerous people who have attempted to rent or purchase land from the Koyunbaba family have died or been stricken ill. Domeniconi tells of two persons: one was a German woman who wanted to keep the area in its natural and unspoiled state, but was soon stricken with cancer. The other was one of three sons of the Koyunbaba family, who suddenly sold some of the land, but then hung himself…”).

Header image: Carlo Domeniconi’s nylon explorations

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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!

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