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The CFCCGA Alternate Guitar Tuning

December 30th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to 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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