An 8-string tuning for the next instrument build.

An interesting tuning idea flashed across the brainwaves today, as I seem to continue to chew on the idea of the reentrant tuning.  (It was relatively recently that the idea of the upside-down ukulele tuning occurred.  Apparently this means I’m fascinated.)

The tuning would be for an 8-stringed, guitar-scaled instrument, and would proceed, from strings 8 to 1:

C2 – G2 – D3 – A3 – E4 – E3 – G3 – B3

Hm.  Chicken scratch followed.

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What I like about this idea:

The same 5-strings-in-fifths I know from the Guitar Craft standard tuning.  Two four-string groups of all-fifths means I’ve got a complete library of broadly-voiced chords at the ready, and a broad range to solo in:  C2 to E4 is just one semitone short of the full range of a seven-string guitar in standard tuning.

The top three strings (or four, depending on how you look at it) add tertian intervals and colorful harmonics to the mix, but are separate from the full-range, meat-and-potatoes strings with their open intervals–and the octave re-entry would seem to be really useful for a number of things.  Consider:

  • The top three strings are a root-inversion, piano-chord E minor triad.  Adding the 4th string provides a 1-3-5-1 E minor triad.
  • Strings 4, 2, and 1 represent the standard tuning’s third-in-bass, root-on-top (first inversion) E minor triad.
  • Strings 6, 2, and 1 represent the standard tuning’s fifth-in-bass, third-on-top (second inversion) G major triad.
  • Strings 4, 3, and 1 represent a 1-5-1 power chord on E.
  • Strings 5, 4, and 3 represent a 5-1-5 power chord on A.
  • Strings 4 and 3 are octave Es;  less convenient but nonetheless available are the octave Gs on strings 7 and 2.  (Lots of things have been done with the first and sixth strings in standard tuning;  this represents the same hand spread.)

It’s intriguing, as a do-it-all tuning.  Played fingerstyle, there are a lot of combinations in those non-adjacent strings;  it would be harder to milk it as fully playing plectrum style, but probably not impossible!

Not that I’m anywhere near my next instrument build right now, of course, and who knows where I might be with tunings by the time I get there.  But some of these things at least seem worth documenting, so here we go!

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Kevin Wilmeth

Professional geek. Amateur human. Credible threat to musical instruments anywhere. (I can't help it. Ideas just invade my brain...)

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