Arranging in Alternate Tunings

By D'Agostino, Peppino | Acoustic Guitar, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Arranging in Alternate Tunings


D'Agostino, Peppino, Acoustic Guitar


Create new chord voicings that would be impossible to play in standard tuning.

Throughout my workshops and teaching, I've noticed that alternate tunings can intimidate people. Some are concerned because they don't immediately recognize chord shapes in alternate tunings, while others feel that alternate tunings mean they have to play obscure compositions or compose their own original tunes. But there isn't anything particularly difficult about open tunings. Let your ears guide you and don't worry too much about theory, and you'll find that alternate tunings will allow you to create chord voicings that are impossible in standard tuning and let you sustain notes that can't be sustained in standard tuning. You can also use alternate tunings to play any song you want-not just originals or obscure fingerstyle tunes.

Let's take a look at an odd tuning-E B B F# B E-that I came up with by modifying a tuning John Renbourn used on "Reynardine." To get into E B B F# B E tuning, raise your fifth string a whole step to B (you'll probably want to use light-gauge strings for this tuning), lower your fourth string a step and a half to B, and drop your third string a half step to F#. Above are a few chord shapes that are easy to grab in this tuning. Notice how easy it is to make the Emaj7 chord. This type of chord would be much tougher to pull off in standard tuning.

Once you have these chord shapes under your fingers, try the étude in Example 1. Notice how the tuning allows you to play drone notes on the fourth and fifth strings that would be nearly impossible in standard tuning. …

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