The Chinese Folk Song Tu-Ning

This is a solid Joel-joke. But there’s a bit of a rumour that I am a little obsessed with having many guitars with me…

I’d to address this head on if I may. No one looks at the drummer and says he’s got too many drums (looking at you Mike Portnoy) or that the lead guitarist has too many pedals. Just because you took five guitars to a gig once you get a reputation… there were also two keyboards…

Being a fan of rock and roll bands over the years you get to see a lot of guitarists have a little friend walk up with a different guitar then swap that with the one they were just playing. Sometimes they’re using alternative tunings… and this caught my attention.

A New Avenue

Sometimes I can find the standard tuning a bit stale and stops me from finding the creative niche for a particular song. Being a fan of the Goo Goo Dolls you get see a guitar swap for nearly every song and not only that: it’s hardly ever the same guitar for any two songs! The current thought is I take up more room than Joel and his drums…

Famously the Dolls’ song ‘Iris’ has one of the unique tunings in guitardom: BDDDDD! I’ve had a go a couple of times but generally speaking I’d like to get more than one song out of any tuning. I don’t have the space for 18 different guitars.

With the door open to a different tuning, different sounds can be made from my rhythming. At the moment it’s the acoustic guitars that I’ve been experimenting with. Let me share my discoveries.

Standard: EADGBe

Guitarists you know this one! Why I am mentioning it – well I am currently experimenting with cut capos… yeah… while this essentially turns it an alternative tuning anyway the base tuning remains. It requires a bit of a think and experiment but some decent sounds are beginning to emerge.


This was the first different tuning that I began to mess around with. This is probably most famously used on Led Zepplin’s ‘Kashmir’ song that Jimmy Page played on the electric.

One of the benefits of playing a tuning that is pretty much an open tuning is the ability to play melodies as well as striking the guitar rhythmically. I love this tuning and it works particularly well with the Faith Venus acoustic guitar as it hits a high tone which sounds beautiful.

You can hear us use this in ‘See You Soon,’ and ‘Shiny Shoes’. This is the guitar Tom uses for Iris too having found a way of playing the acoustic riff using the shapes found in the DADGAD tuning.


This one hasn’t appeared in a live set yet but a couple of the new songs we’ve been working on have this to get a different feel to them (keep an ear out for ‘Indigo’ and ‘Wild Flower’).

Open G is literally the chord of G played without any chord shapes so barring the frets with a finger pretty much hits a new chord every time. It also has the same advantage to play melodies while playing rhythm.


When it comes to the electric guitars, I haven’t written anything yet with an alternative tuning but use capos (I am the capo king). I have a couple of ideas with the Drop D tuning, where you take the top string down a tone so you can get angry rough sounding chords, but nothing we’re using in Alpha Tide yet.

I do own a few guitars and it would be nice to grow into the next phase… you need to buy our CDs, T-shirts, listen to us online and get pubs to hire us!!