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On alternate guitar tunings

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Gerinski View Drop Down
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    Posted: January 30 2012 at 15:13
Hi, I play guitar for 30 years but never got really beyond amateur level.
I have always played in std tuning and this is the only way I can play, but I see that recently alternate tunings get a lot of hype. I do not know much of it all myself and it makes me wonder:
 
Are alternate tunings a newfound land for master guitar players or just a refuge for incompetent players?
 
I have seen some videos for example Devin Townsend showing his alternate tunings and honestly I felt like it's just a trick to allow him playing difficult things more easily, something like the use of a capo, in other words something like "well, since I'm not able to play it right with std tuning, I switch to this alternate tuning so I can play it". In this case I'm not really fond of alternate tunings, they are just a bypass trick to mask your inability to play masterfully in std tuning.
 
On the other hand I feel that there might be some "true value" in alternate tunings, indeed there is no reason why we should take the std tuning as an unchangeable rule, and they can enable new creative ways of playing, meaning, even a master player who can play anything in std tuning might want to switch to some alternate tuning because it allows him to play in an innovative way.
 
Anyone out there with better knowledge than me who can give some opinions?
 
 
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The Quiet One View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote The Quiet One Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 30 2012 at 15:19
I'm not a musician, so I really don't know about the technical aspects of alternate tunings. 

But one thing I know is that Joni Mitchell made a lot of her own, and its purpose, I think, is to have a really unique sound and not just to make some stuff easier to play.

That's really all I got to say, though, haha.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote irrelevant Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 31 2012 at 06:16
Originally posted by The Quiet One The Quiet One wrote:

its purpose, I think, is to have a really unique sound and not just to make some stuff easier to play.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote progkidjoel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 31 2012 at 06:35
Originally posted by irrelevant irrelevant wrote:

Originally posted by The Quiet One The Quiet One wrote:

its purpose, I think, is to have a really unique sound and not just to make some stuff easier to play.

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This.
Some of the most wonderful guitarists (in my opinion) use tons of non-standard tunings. Mark Kozelek (one of my favourite ever guitarists) almost always uses alternate tunings.
I myself almost always play in FACGCE these days, since I love those wide, open chords you can get/it makes fingerpicking patterns really fun. Also really fun for tapping stuff (not that I'm any good) if you use a capo (or not).

I'd recommend trying a few - you might have fun and/or learn something new. At the very worst, you'll be able to say you've tried alternate tunings ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Slartibartfast Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 31 2012 at 07:16
I'm a 30 year or so amateur myself.  I still don't do guitar chords very well so alternate tunings are kind of irrelevant to my style of playing which is mainly arpeggios.  LOL
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pekka Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 31 2012 at 08:56

I use standard tuning pretty exclusively, but sometimes drop D or even drop A for some really low rumbling. I've tried some other things, like the new standard tuning sometimes, but it would take too much learning to be able to really use them. Fun to toy around with for a while, though.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 31 2012 at 09:58
Mmmm, maybe I'l give a try but I guess I'm too old and have too little time to start learning new techniques, I better dedicate the little time I have to improve what I can play in std tuning. Well, rather, trying not to loose it, I've lost a lot already since in the last years I play less and less Cry 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Megaman90 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: January 31 2012 at 11:41
I play in standard E, sometimes standard D, and on a blue moon I use C standard or Drop C. If you buy a snark clip on chromatic tuner it makes alternate tunings a breeze. Its 11$ on amazon. Buy one.

As for alternate tunings, I think they give you many different types of sounds. Lower tunings are good for heavy metal riffage, standard is better suited for other things. it depends how its used.


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Gerinski View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 01 2012 at 16:13
Originally posted by Pekka Pekka wrote:

I use standard tuning pretty exclusively, but sometimes drop D or even drop A for some really low rumbling. I've tried some other things, like the new standard tuning sometimes, but it would take too much learning to be able to really use them. Fun to toy around with for a while, though.

 
Sorry for my ignorance but what is "new standard tuning"?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Pekka Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 02 2012 at 00:12
Here's some info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_standard_tuning Thumbs Up

I didn't know about the sauna bit, warms my sauna-loving Finnish heart Bowdown
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Abstrakt Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 02 2012 at 11:39
Originally posted by The Quiet One The Quiet One wrote:

...and its purpose, I think, is to have a really unique sound and not just to make some stuff easier to play.
 
True! I mean, what would Sonic Youth play in standard tuning? Tongue To be able to make such good music out of such weird tunings like DDGGD#D# or something are a true art-form! Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo are geniuses!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Triceratopsoil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 02 2012 at 13:29
It definitely lends a different character to the instrument to use alternate tunings
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Gerinski View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gerinski Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 02 2012 at 16:00
Originally posted by Pekka Pekka wrote:

Here's some info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_standard_tuning Thumbs Up

I didn't know about the sauna bit, warms my sauna-loving Finnish heart Bowdown
 
Thanks didn't know about that!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Proletariat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 02 2012 at 16:44

There are many many many reasons to use alternate tunings, here are some reasons I use them.

1) in order to play different sets of open chords up and down the neck.
2) to get extended range out of the insturment.
3) tuning to a chord for using slides, a common technique
4) for tapping, used in a similar way as i do for slides
5) to force myself to think outside of the scales and chord progressions i fall back on
6) yes, sometimes to make hard stuff easy
who hiccuped endlessly trying to giggle but wound up with a sob
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ludjak Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 03 2012 at 06:45
I use open tunings regularly, and I'm also particularly fond of DADGAD (made popular by Jimmy Page on "Kashmir") and DADDAD (a folk tuning, made popular by Bert Jansch). The latter two make my guitar's timbre completely different.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TODDLER Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 14 2012 at 18:10
Originally posted by Gerinski Gerinski wrote:

Hi, I play guitar for 30 years but never got really beyond amateur level.
I have always played in std tuning and this is the only way I can play, but I see that recently alternate tunings get a lot of hype. I do not know much of it all myself and it makes me wonder:
 
Are alternate tunings a newfound land for master guitar players or just a refuge for incompetent players?
 
I have seen some videos for example Devin Townsend showing his alternate tunings and honestly I felt like it's just a trick to allow him playing difficult things more easily, something like the use of a capo, in other words something like "well, since I'm not able to play it right with std tuning, I switch to this alternate tuning so I can play it". In this case I'm not really fond of alternate tunings, they are just a bypass trick to mask your inability to play masterfully in std tuning.
 
On the other hand I feel that there might be some "true value" in alternate tunings, indeed there is no reason why we should take the std tuning as an unchangeable rule, and they can enable new creative ways of playing, meaning, even a master player who can play anything in std tuning might want to switch to some alternate tuning because it allows him to play in an innovative way.
 
Anyone out there with better knowledge than me who can give some opinions?
 
 
 
Forget the cheaters and ask them to go stay at a motel. Popol Vuh , Jade Warrior, Michael Hedges, and even Jimmy Page all used alternate tunings. China, Japan, Ireland, or even the hills of West Virginia where the dulcimer and guitar are purposely tuned to a chord producing a distinctive style. The same goes for the early alternate tunings in the Blues during the 1930's. With Classical guitar it is requested for the guitarist to tune sometimes 3 to 4 strings differently from standard. Due to the fact that guitar as an instrument is limited and piano is not. Certain pieces from Paganini, J.S.Bach, and something more modern like Erik Satie must be in an alternate tuning due to that limitation of your instrument. Those who transcribe the pieces will indicate the special tuning in the far upper right hand corner of the sheet music. You are correct when you say some players are utilizing the concept for an easy way out. However alternate tunings derive from intense complex music and the tuning itself or the idea for that tuning was originally created for a big sound. A sound that one can easily obtain from a piano and yet must cut-corners for the guitar.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote spknoevl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: February 16 2012 at 11:01
There's certainly nothing wrong with using alternate tunings.  Many solo acoustic players use them all the time to be able to use some lower drone strings or make playing bass and melody lines simulateously easier.  Others, like Jimmy Page, have used them to play unusual chord voicings.  I use them occasionally to utilize chord voicings that would be virtually impossible, or at the very least difficult.  Really, it's the music that matters, not the method you used to make it and all approaches are valid.  Years ago, when I saw Billy Sheehan with Talas in a small bar, he tuned his E string down to whatever key the band was playing in for every song.
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