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…

Simon Bradley is a guitar and especially rock guitar expert who worked for Guitarist magazine and has in the past contributed to world-leading music and guitar titles like MusicRadar (obviously), Guitarist, Guitar World and Louder. What he doesn't know about Brian May's playing and, especially, the Red Special, isn't worth knowing.