Thoughts on tuning

I’ll admit it: even though Guitarist and our sister mags produce some top TAB each month, I’ve never had the patience for it. I’d much rather work things out by ear and although it takes approximately 17 years longer than it would if I indeed used TAB, I’ve found it to be the best method for me.

However, there are many pitfalls and I’ve been tripped up by one of the most important on two memorable occasions. Like most of us, I was quite taken by Led Zep during my formative guitar years and when I heard Physical Graffiti’s Bron-Yr-Aur I was determined to work it out. Bolstered by my success in deciphering The Trees by Rush (from the Axe Attack II compilation, no less!), I set to work, wrestling with Mr Page’s sublime acoustic lines. Weeks later I’d just about got it down, although my version had the musical quality somewhere below that of an arse, and somewhat disappointed I put it out of my mind.

Of course, I discovered years later that Bron-Yr-Aur is in open C6 tuning (C-A-C-G-C-E low to high), which made the tune 100 times easier – dinkus.

What’s more, I recently fell into the same trap sweating with the title track from Mike Keneally’s wonderful acoustic album Wooden Smoke. If I’m honest, I didn’t even get past the first eight bars before giving up but it would have helped me greatly had I known that Wooden Smoke is tuned (low to high) E G# B F# B D…

The moral to the story? Don’t assume anything is in 440 concert tuning. Ever. It’ll save you many wasted months.

Either that or learn to read TAB…

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