Archive for December, 2011

The CFCCGA Alternate Guitar Tuning

December 30th, 2011 No comments

I’d never want to open up my own fine arts school and profess new knowledge related to the field and study of music. Yet if I ever did, I would most definitely dedicate a portion of the curriculum to the CFCCGA alternate guitar tuning.

Yes, I would characterize this guitar tuning as ‘hollow’ in sound as it pertains to the effect of my own personal feelings, yet I would not transfer or ascribe that emotional description to the feelings of any other individual.

Technically speaking, this guitar tuning has every string tuned down. The 6th string is tuned down 2 full steps. The 5th string is tuned down 2 full steps. The 4th string is tuned down 1 full step. The 3rd string is tuned down 3 and 1/2 steps. The 2nd string is tuned down 2 full steps. And the 1st string is tuned down 3 and 1/2 steps.

Or read like this when using standard tuning as a guide:

E – 2 full steps down.

A – 2 full steps down.

D – 1 full steps down.

G – 3 & 1/2 steps down.

B – 2 full steps down.

E – 3 & 1/2 steps down.

Maybe an extremely exceptional mathematician can explain the apparent pattern that is there in front of our eyes because I have no idea why that pattern is there yet it is. Come forth all ye bright math students, goers, and doers – enlighten me for I seek your esoteric knowledge and wisdom. Please decode this pattern and tell me “How is it possible that feelings can unknowingly and unintentionally be transformed into a mathematical pattern?”

And all of these steps tuned down on each string. Utterly depressing – I know. But unmistakably beautiful at the same time – each string resonating with the other to cascade your mind with the haunting sound  of a vast and unheard chasm.

Here are a few things to consider when dabbling with the CFCCGA tuning:

1. Consider playing the 1st string (A after the tuning adjustment) like a feather. This alternate tuning tends to not respond well when a heavy hand is applied. A light touch is a good piece of advice for this string and the subsequent blending of notes and chords.

2. It is amazing how many terrible sounds can be created with this alternate tuning. I mean, we’re talking about a lot of god-awful sounds with this tuning. At the same time, there are also several sweet spots to be found that belt out some sweet sound. Let your mind spin-off into a terrifying frenzy of experimentation. Contort those fingers into obscure hand positions until sweat beads down from your forehead. I am quite certain you will find some new sound when you stretch those fingers to the max.

3. Often, with this alternate tuning, the highest quality sound is created with the most simple of techniques. Try depressing the 1st string (jump around with it on the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 10th frets) while leaving all other strings open. Utterly simple. Painless for the small-fingered of us. And a creator of enchanting sound.

What are your thoughts on this alternate guitar tuning?

Do you see potential for it?

What do you like about this alternate tuning?

What do you dislike about this alternate tuning?

Please, if you would like to share your thoughts with respect to tuning, feel free. And it is always our intention to welcome your contributions to this developing piece of musical literature. Experiment with it. Add to it. Have some fun with it.

It is always great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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Invention, Contribution & Adding To The Literature

December 16th, 2011 No comments

A little less than a decade ago was a rather difficult time in my life. I went through a tremendously tumultuous relationship – it was hard on me on an emotional level.

I sank. I deflated. I submerged.

I lost breath.

I lost energy.

I lost motivation.

I lost direction.

I lost everything…

There was no emotional explosion, no lashing out; just a deep turn inward. I felt as if an abyss had opened up inside of me and I was the seer and beholder of it all.

One evening as I sat in a delirious and disillusioned state I felt my insides twist and burn with irregular and personal pain that was personally perceived as intolerable. I sat myself up in bed, edged my way to the front corner of it and focused the gaze of my eyes to the acoustic guitar sitting in the crook of where two walls meet. I did not want to get up. I did not want to move. But there that box of wood and strings was sitting – staring back at me; begging to be picked up.

I let out a geriatric groan and walked toward the guitar. I picked it up, sat back on my bed and rested my chin on top of the sound box. I stared at the strings half-heartedly, somewhat disdainfully. I strummed the strings in standard tuning and felt the sameness of the standard tuning sound silently enrage me. I just kept on strumming; lazily, thoughtfully – plucking every string from the top string all the way down to the bottom string. Feeling my spirit sink even lower, I glanced at the tuning knobs and wondered “What would happen if I fiddled around with all 6 of those things and tuned them in a way that would represent how I was feeling inside?”

For the next hour I just kept on strumming the strings openly (not depressing any fret on any string) while playing with the 6 silver knobs. As I continued to fiddle, I felt only one feeling…HOLLOW.

I turned each and every knob down until I felt I was doing the feeling of “Hollow” justice.

What resulted was this, a new guitar tuning;


Or C (6th string), F (5th string), C (4th string), C (3rd string), G (2nd string), A (1st string).

And I must say that there is a co-inventor of this new guitar tuning. His name is Josh Voss and he is an exceptionally talented musician and teacher that worked with me to tweak this new tuning into its perfect state of hollowness.

Co-invention is always more fun isn’t it?

Incidentally, and as an aside, I felt you, if only in a naturally induced hallucinogenic state that night, watching over me – making sure I was alright.

Is emotional swelling a driver of invention? You tell me.

Much as I may not like it, someone, something, or some mysterious force has influenced me to rehash this troubling memory and finish what I had started originally.

And I have. It is done. We have got it. Now we need extra minds to caress it, shape it, and accentuate it into something more than it already is. I hope you will help me (whoever ‘you’ is).  

Matthew Polkinghorne

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December 4th, 2011 No comments

I was recently in the middle of a very important business call. The person I was speaking with is what I would call a fairly important person – to say the least. We were there on the phone together, chatting; discussing various subject matter when he, all of the sudden, he put emphasis on the word ‘boring’.

It immediately caught me ear. He was sending me a signal. He wasn’t quite entertained enough with my side of the conversation. Or maybe he wasn’t quite entertained enough with my tone of voice. After all, I have this weird tendency to default into a flat, aloof, and monotone voice when in the middle of discussion with virtually anyone. It’s not necessarily that I default into this tone of voice on purpose, it is just that I like to default into this tone in a conscious effort to conserve energy.

I’m serious, I’ve consciously decided to almost put myself to sleep when in the middle of conversation with anyone. It’s so easy and it works. Sometimes I almost catch myself nodding off all the while restoring energy while remaining engaged in the conversation.

I need to be honest with myself too though. I default into this tone because I’m actually an incredibly animated and outgoing person when I talk. It is just that I have found that more social success comes my way as I default into a lifeless conversationalist mode (i.e. – I listen more, I allow myself to be cut off, and you’d have to check my pulse to see if I was alive when I speak). But lately I’ve been feeling my blood pressure rise when others talk too much. The social/interactive balance is all out of whack and some of the chatterboxes need to allow more room for others to speak or big problems might be on the way.  

But this kind of analysis can become overly complex and unneeded. We chat back and forth, each of us has something to say and more often than not we become extremely bored with one another. It’s not a complex equation – we talk, we cover ground, we listen to how one another presents their respective self, we try to change the other person to be more like us, and if he or she does not we quickly become bored and/or irritated. Interactively speaking, human beings are not complex creatures – we’re pathetically simple and we will do almost anything to yield the result we want for our (selves).

Back to the main point, he put emphasis on the word ‘boring’. He wasn’t stimulated enough. Perhaps he needed some juicy gossip. Maybe he wanted me to say something reckless. Maybe he just wanted me to laugh hysterically and shout my guts out on the phone. He wanted anything but my calmness and evenness on the phone.

The main point though? He was being very funny and animated on the phone. He made me laugh pretty hard on several occasion. Therefore, I wasn’t being funny enough and he wanted to see if I could produce a good belly laugh for him.

And maybe all of this talk is pointless and it’s all inside of my own insane head. But lately I’ve been doing that – not being overly animated, not giving people the satisfaction to create a bit of (sus)pense.

 And maybe, just maybe, I want to breathe a breath of fire a mile upward into the sky until my eyeballs pop out of my head and roll around on the ground.

It was a productive and good business call though. If I could say anything about his skill as a human developer it is that he has a rare and unique ability to refine the individual. In other words, he always knows what is missing and helps you see how to add it.

I’m groggy and my neurons are sputtering.

Coffee anyone?

Matthew Polkinghorne

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