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Open C tuning

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Title: Open C tuning  
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Subject: Repetitive tuning, English guitar, Major thirds tuning, Slack-key guitar, Devin Townsend
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Open C tuning

An open C tuning

Open C tuning is an open tuning for guitar. The open-string notes form a C major chord, which is the triad (C,E,G) having the root note C, the major third (C,E), and the perfect fifth (C,G). When the guitar is strummed without fretting even one string, a C-major chord is sounded. By barring all of the strings for one fret (from one to eleven), one finger suffices to fret the other eleven major-chords.

Contents

  • Examples 1
    • Repetitive C-E-G-C-E-G 1.1
    • C-G-C-G-C-E 1.2
    • Overtones C-C-G-C-E-G 1.3
      • C-minor open chord: Cross-note tuning 1.3.1
      • Relation to new standard tuning 1.3.2
    • C-C-G-C-E-C 1.4
  • Notes 2
  • References 3

Examples

There are several open C tunings.

Repetitive C-E-G-C-E-G

 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}

The English guitar uses a repetitive open-C tuning

C-E-G-C-E-G,

which is approximately a major-thirds tuning,[1] specifically

C-E-G-C-E-G=C-E-A-C-E-A.
 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}

C-G-C-G-C-E

 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}
C-G-C-G-C-E.[2]

This open C tuning was used by William Ackerman for his "Townsend Shuffle", by John Fahey for his tribute to Mississippi John Hurt,[3] and by Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page for "Friends".[4][5] It is also used by Devin Townsend for his work with Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Project.[6]

Overtones C-C-G-C-E-G

 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}
C-C-G-C-E-G[7]

Another open C tuning uses the harmonic sequence (overtones) of the note C. When an open-note C-string is struck, its harmonic sequence begins with the notes (C,C,G,C,E,G,B,C). The root note is associated with a sequence of intervals, beginning with the unison interval (C,C), the octave interval (C,C), the perfect fifth (C,G), the perfect fourth (G,C), the major third (C,E), and the minor third (E,G); in particular, this sequence of intervals contains the thirds of the C-major chord {(C,E),(E,G)}.[8]

C-minor open chord: Cross-note tuning

Flattening this open tuning's open-note E to E changes the open chord from C-major to C-minor, so producing the cross-note tuning

C-C--G-C-E-G
 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}

which enables one-finger minor chords. Like other cross-note tunings, it also allows major chords to be fretted with one adjacent finger.[9]

Relation to new standard tuning

Many of the notes from the harmonic sequence for C appear in the new standard tuning (NST),[10] which is a nearly regular tuning based on perfect fifths; NST also has (D,A) from the pentatonic scale on C:

C-G-D-A-E-G

NST is used in Guitar Craft (a school of guitar playing founded by King Crimson's Robert Fripp). The open-C overtones tuning has the same range as NST, which can use extreme strings (.011 and .059 inches).[11]

 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}

C-C-G-C-E-C

 {
\clef "treble_8"
\time 3/4
2.
4
4
4
4
4
4
2.
}
C-C-G-C-E-C

Using a high C rather than the high G of the overtone series, this open C tuning was used by Mick Ralphs for the songs "Can't Get Enough" and "Movin' On" on Bad Company's debut album. Ralphs said, "It needs the open C to have that ring," and "it never really sounds right in standard tuning".[12]

Notes

  1. ^ Annala, Hannu; Mätlik, Heiki (2007). "Composers for other plucked instruments: Rudolf Straube (1717–1785)". Handbook of guitar and lute composers (Translated by Katarina Backman ed.). Mel Bay. p. 30.  
  2. ^ Baughman, Steve (2004). "Open C". Mel Bay Beginning Open Tunings.  
  3. ^ Sethares (2009, pp. 18–19)
  4. ^ Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P. (1997). "Chapter Nine Hard rock and heavy metal: The birth of a behemoth". Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 61. 
  5. ^ Page's "Friends" tuning is called an C6 chord (C-A-C-G-C-E) in Page 92: Welch, Chris (1998). Led Zeppelin: Dazed and confused: The stories behind every song.  
  6. ^ Devin Townsend Masterclass: GuitarMessenger.com at 4:30 [2]
  7. ^ Guitar Tunings Database (2013). "CCGCEG Guitar Tuner". CCGCEG: Open C via harmonic overtones. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  8. ^ Persichetti (1961, pp. 23–24):  
  9. ^ Sethares (2001, p. 16)
  10. ^ Ball, Steve (3 January 2006). "Steve Ball music diary". steveball.com. Steve Ball at  
  11. ^ Cleveland, Barry (1 December 2004). "California Guitar Trio (Interview)" (PDF). Frets Magazine (Fall). Retrieved 25 March 2012.  (subscription required)
  12. ^ Sharken, Lisa (15 May 2001). "Mick Ralphs: The rock 'N' roll fantasy continues". Vintage Guitar. Retrieved 21 February 2013. 

References

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