Alternate Tunings (But More Importantly…uh…Knowing When You're in Them)

Yep. Definitely played two songs last night with my A string tuned to G. Which can offer some cool possibilities…if, of course, you remember that you tuned your A to a G. If not, you end up with this really confused look on your face, going, ‘Okay, I know I’m playing a B minor right now. But something sounds off…oh well, maybe some more delay will help.’

See, at my church yesterday morning, we moved Wonderful Cross (the Passion version one) into the key of G so we could have the female vocalist lead it. (And if you haven’t tried girl voice leading it yet, you gotta! The melody was like, written for girl voice.) But I still needed that droning pedal tone on the tonic, so I tuned the A string on my strat down to G so that I could leave it open for the afore-mentioned ‘drone.’ And then I only used the strat for that song and the one right after; for the latter I just re-worked the chord positionings to work for the alternate tuning. But I told myself, after the services are over, I have got to tune right away. Or else I’m going to forget, pull my strat out at the next church tonight, tune it to G (because I know for a fact I never, ever actually look at the note I’m tuning to; I just watch the strobe move sharp or flat), and then be really, really confused halfway through the set. Oh ya. Rockstar.

(This is Christopher Walken in Sleepy Hollow. What does this have to do with this post? Wait for it… Okay, look at that picture. Now the look you have on your own face right now? That’s confusion…probably somewhere close to the look I had on my face when I hit the A string…or G string….whatever it was. Although, I do love Mr. Walken. He does whatever he wants, says whatever he wants, does any role he wants, and is always hilarious in it…even if it’s not necessarily supposed to be a comedic role.)

Luckily, at the Sunday night church, I only played the strat for two of the nine songs, and I only played full chords (meaning, hitting the A string…er…G string, now) during the bridge of the second song. That’s when the confusion started. And of course you check all the usual suspects. My fingers can’t be on the wrong string, and I can’t be bending the string out of tune, because of course I have way too much innate musical ability for that. And my guitar didn’t go out of tune, because, since I play it, it’s obviously the best guitar ever made and doesn’t go out of tune. It must be the bass player. Either that or the way the germanium chips in my fuzz or reacting to the proximity of the tubes in my delay and causing a weird harmonic reaction in the 7th scale degree. Unfortunately, that is quite true; no, not what I said, the fact that I actually think that stuff before ever considering the fault could possibly be mine.

And then of course, you have to hit the string one more time just to make sure, and then I just muted it when I needed chords, and stayed away from it for the rest of the song. (There was no space or time to tune.) And then I switched guitars, but still thoroughly confused. It wasn’t until during the message (I hope it’s not just me who spaces during the message thinking about the worship set and how awesome or un-awesome I think I played……not that that’s good; just real), that I realize that no, it was not the bass player; and no, my guitar didn’t go out of tune (at least I can keep my delusions that it’s the best guitar ever made); it was, in fact, due to my regrettable slowness. I was out of tune. And I did it on purpose.

I’m really not sure why I post these things. I think that somewhere in the back of my mind, I feel silly for making a blog in which I just assume that other people will actually care about my opinions (I prefer to call them facts) on gear and worship and guitars and such; so for my penance, I guess, I post things like this, which have a level of honesty that probably borders somewhere along the lines of stupidity. But it keeps my humble. And humility is way better than being rockstar; or, at least that’s what you have to tell yourself when you tune your guitar to the wrong note…on purpose.


34 thoughts on “Alternate Tunings (But More Importantly…uh…Knowing When You're in Them)

  1. Hi, I love your blog. I have learned a lot.

    Could you suggest a a replacement speaker and tube suggestion for a Mesa Boogie Lonestar with 2-12″s?

  2. That picture is awesome! He looks like Nosferatu.

    I have hit some clams missing a simple lead note by one fret (just slide up one and it’s right!) and that is a lot worse than missing a note by one step. The funny thing is that complicated leads with string skipping, crazy alternate picking, wide intervals are no problem.

    Check out Neal Schon “killing it” after 3:00

  3. nice. Like the time we played a song in E flat, and the pastor wanted it to sound like the recording- no prob, i tuned E flat, and played it. Then it took me 1/2 the next song to figure out why my G chord sounded flat.
    Saved by capo.

    Shane: JJ tubes at Eurotubes :) I also like Tung Sol, but Karl LOVES those JJs! :) hehe

  4. We read your posts because if you just posted stuff like “i’m a killer guitarist…listen to what I did,” then we wouldn’t be here. Make sense?

  5. Shane–thanks, brother. And good to have you here!

    As far as the Lonestar goes, it depends on what style of music you’re going for. I’d say if you’re looking for that big clean tone but still being able to get some grainy/bluesy overdrive, to go for Jensen P12N’s. They’re 50 watts each, so it should handle the 100 watt setting on the Lonestar, but also not be too over-rated when you drop the wattage down to 50. (I believe the LOnestar can do that, but I could be wrong.) If you’re looking for the more metal-ish Mesa tone, I’d suggest the Eminence Tonker or Swamp Thang. They’re very over-powered and will give that clean/heavy metal sound pretty well.

    As for tubes, hehe, Lespaulplayerdoctor is right; I do love the JJ’s and would totally suggest them.

    Dan–haha Thank goodness I’m not the only one! :) And that clip was great…although sometimes with blues, I think they actually mean to hit some of the notes I think have to be mistakes. hehe

    Larry–hehe Yep! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Those alternate tunings will screw with your brain if you forget you put your guitar in them…which I always seem to do. hehe Again, so glad I’m not the only one. :) And I do love me my JJ’s!

    Chris–Blast! So that means in 15 years when I actually think I might be a kind of okay guitarist, you guys will stop reading? 😉

  6. thanks for the info. i really appreciate your opinion. i will give it a try. (btw you are right about the 50 watt switch on the lonestar)

  7. Karl, it’s like if Clapton had a blog…I don’t care if he would write “I played great at the apollo theater.” However, if he posted “how I screwed up Lalya last night when I dropped in at my local pub”…THAT would make for a good read.

  8. Shane–no worries! Great to have you here, brother!

    Chris–Lol That’s awesome! Man, I would so read that blog! Maybe he does! I’m checking right now.

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