from Reto

Painting of man playing the guitar Painting by anonymous 17th century artist known as “Master of the Annunciation to the Shepherds”

Recently I have discovered Joni Mitchell. I was blown away. It's so weird that I have never heard of her even though she seems to be really famous.

Some of her recordings are just incredible, like for example: Circle Game (live) or Big Yellow Taxi + Both Sides Now (BBC – 1969).

They go so deep. Maybe the only one I know that comes close is Nick Drake. I was stunned especially by the guitar sound. It's so rich and beautiful. I wondered what could be the reason and as I was browsing the website of Joni I found it out:

Joni uses open guitar tunings, where multiple strings are tuned to the same note. This isn't practical if you want to play scales but it sounds awesome for accompaniment.

And you know, Nick Drake did also use a lot of open tunings. When I discovered this years ago, I didn't care much. I thought it's odd to change the tuning of the guitar. I didn't realize that it's kind of a deal-breaker not to do this.

Anyway, now I have started to experiment with open tunings and it has opened a whole new world of music to me. I'm just so easily touched by the rich sounds the guitar makes like that and it doesn't take much to get me into a vibe I can use to write new music.

With the traditional tuning this isn't nearly as easy. It always sounds kind of disharmonious whatever I try and I rarely get into a feeling that allows me to come up with a piece.

To give you a better idea, here are two recordings I have made recently. They are more or less improvisations which developed from a certain tuning and chord pattern.

The first one is in the so called Open D Tuning which is DADF#AD. I'm playing this small acoustic jazz guitar:


This is how it sounds:

The next recording is in Open G Tuning or DGDGBD. I play this on my Washburn Western Guitar:

Washburn Guitar

I also give some instructions (mostly for myself 😜) on how to play it. The lyrics I improvised are:

When the world is going up in flames I see myself running away

Kind of weird, whatever 😊

Now the funny thing about this whole episode is that I just found out upon listening that the first recording is mostly the same melody as the second one, haha. I wasn't even aware of that when I started writing this 😁.

Alright! That was a bit of an insight into open tunings. I hope you can get some inspiration as well.

See you later, Reto.

#music #guitar #tuning


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