About alternate guitar tunings continued...

           Consider the next two guitarists:

Pierre Bensusan is an unbelievable acoustic guitarist who mainly plays solo. 
His "standard" tuning is as follows: D-A-D-G-A-D. 
 
The first time I heard his music, it stunned me: there seemed to be three 
guitarists performing simultaneously! When I finally witnessed him performing live
I realized that there were no overdubs or recording "tricks". 

Once I charted the tuning using M.A.M.I. things began to make much more sense. 
 
Pierre's tuning could be considered by most to be unorthodox as well as limiting 
but the D-A-D-G-A-D tuning's fingerboard note placement facilitates playing certain chords 
and lines simultaneously with relative "ease". Well okay, not ease (Pierre just makes 
it sound this way)...but this tuning does make music possible that would 
otherwise be impossible on solo guitar. 
 
I presented him with a copy of the M.A.M.I. Scale Atlas for "his tuning" at a concert 
with the hope that he would be able to create even more, and develop some 
undiscovered potential within D-A-D-G-A-D. Several months later, Pierre had won several 
awards and received acclaim for his release "Intuite". It will be great to hear his future work...
 
Joe Beck is a guitarist beyond compare! He has been renowned on the jazz and studio 
scene for decades and has played with all of the legends. Make no mistake, Joe still plays 
the "standard" E-A-D-G-B-E guitar tuning as well as anyone. 
 
But his creation:the A-D-G-C-E-A "Alto" tuning is the product of a combination of factors: 
that include: musicality, creativity, genius, experience, and maturity. 
 
The alto guitar tuning is used by Joe mainly in duo and trio settings, and is designed primarily 
to make the guitar an instrument for "comping" behind vocalists, and solo / lead instrumentalists.
 
Joe uses his own custom designed guitar with split pickups to optimize the effect of the tuning 
but at the heart of the "Alto" are the strings: 
 
The two low bass strings are flat wound: an "A" (0.80 gauge) and "D" (0.60 gauge). 
The two middle strings are a round wound "G" (0.22 gauge) and a plain "C" (0.16 gauge). 
The two high strings are a round wound "E" (0.26 gauge) and a plain "A" (0.18 gauge).
 
Of course one has to perform some modifications to their instrument to accommodate 
this stringing but  this tuning also requires some change in musical perspective from 
the guitarist's standpoint. Besides the obvious physical changes to the instrument 
and fingerboard note placement, playing "Alto" guitar well demands a modified 
way of approach in thought and in playing. 
 
The sonic range of the "Alto" tuning is awesome, it's possible to play deep bass lines 
and play shimmering, bright chords on the same guitar! The unusual note placement 
plus octave shifts demand some extra thought and do compromise lead 
playing in the traditional guitar sense.
 
This said, Joe proves that it is possible to play interesting lead and melody lines that take 
advantage of both the unusual range as well as interval placements inherent with this tuning. 
Clearly though, this tuning was created to help Joe play "behind the scenes" using a piano-like 
effect to accompany other instrumentalists in a supporting and truly unselfish musical role. 
 
His years of experience on the guitar and musical maturity allowed him to visualize a wonderful 
new purpose for his playing. His vision and genius created a fresh perspective on the 
instrument along with a inventive tuning to support it.
 
Most significant of all is that the genius behind alternate tunings is that they are done for a purpose. 
That purpose is to create music. This sounds and is simplistic, but often guitarists are so bent on 
"playing guitar" that they forget that they are (or should be) musicians first and foremost. 
 
The point is: once you view the guitar as an instrument that you can use
to create music...and not just play music...alternate tunings make much sense.
 
Although alternate guitar tunings can seem difficult or impractical, when viewed with a open mind 
they can often overcome certain limitations toward creating music on guitar, rather than cause them!
 
Until I started charting different tunings using M.A.M.I. I did not completely understand them 
much more than the average guitarist. My perspective is so much more broad now! 
 
Not only with relationship to alternate tunings, but with the standard E-A-D-G-B-E tuning too.
 
The M.A.M.I. Scale Atlas has helped me to understand the guitar much more completely because 
I am able to see the entire instrument and its potential. Many guitarists are afraid to look this deeply 
at their instrument because it seems overwhelming. 
Unfortunately, this can be true of alternate tunings or even the M.A.M.I. Scale Atlas.
But really the point is that by looking at the potential of the guitar, there is so much new music 
to create and so much to learn about using this instrument to make it.
 
Hail to the pioneers and experimenters: you are pushing the state of the art of music higher for us all!

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Other great resource for alternate tunings: