What is it about open tunings....

cantstoplt021

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that give a "dreamy" sound for lack of a better term. If anyone is familiar with acoustic fingerstyle players like Andy Mckee or Antoine Dufour I think you would know what I mean. The guitar just has a different sound than when its in standard. And for some reason most of the acoustic fingerstyle players use altered tunings instead of standard. Tommy Emmanuel is an exception to this, however his playing style doesn't sound nearly as "dreamy" as someone like Andy Mckee's. Why is this?

If you're unfamiliar with the sound here is a song that shows what I'm talking about. I don't really know how else to explain it besides dreamy? Nostalgic? I dunno.

 

StratoCraig

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I don't think the "dreamy" or reflective quality of the music results from the tuning; rather, you choose a tuning that fits the music, which in this case is dreamy to begin with. However, one aspect of open tunings in particular is that they lend themselves to drones, which can help to establish a dreamy mood. Some open tunings also make open chord voicings convenient.

There are lots of songs in open or other kinds of alternate tunings that don't sound dreamy at all. There are lots of old blues records in open tunings, and hard rock groups such as the Rolling Stones and Soundgarden have used various kinds of alternate tunings.
 

whackystrings

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I instantly sense more 'air' and a folky quality when I experiment with alternate tunings.
More use of drones on open strings. More unison/octave tunings across the 6 strings (the way I do it, anyway, like DADGAD or even Drop D or Dbl-drop D DADGBD).
The use of those open strings adds a different, ringing quality to it. When I hear those vibrations and drones, I love hearing it so I will naturally play in a way that accentuates that. Plus, alternate tunings can break people out of their muscle memory and patterns and inventive tonalities can be played with a bit of intent.
The cool thing about alternate tunings is hearing the result of strumming across the strings while gripping even a typical EADGBE chord. Even Nashville tuning which is still in EADGBE but the octaves are set differently on the EADG strings and can lend itself to interesting voicings.
 

thabassmon

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I think the dreamy quality comes from the sympathetic resonance of the strings that have a harmonic relationship with notes that are being played. IMO
 

JonR

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that give a "dreamy" sound for lack of a better term. If anyone is familiar with acoustic fingerstyle players like Andy Mckee or Antoine Dufour I think you would know what I mean. The guitar just has a different sound than when its in standard. And for some reason most of the acoustic fingerstyle players use altered tunings instead of standard.
"Most"? I doubt that. Not all the time anyway, which you seem to be implying.
Maybe it's true to say most fingerstyle players use alternative tunings some of the time - some a lot more than others. But plenty of fingerstyle players use EADGBE most of the time.

Anyway, I'm being pedantic... :rolleyes:

The reason for the "dreamy" sound is - as the others say - the sympathetic resonance between the strings, especially the smooth consonances set up in the bass, due to octaves - usually between strings 6 and 4 or 5 and 3 - and 5ths. This creates an attractive, sustaining, drone sound, which players obviously like to exploit. (Either they discover they like the sound, so compose something to exploit it further, or they decide they want to write something with a droning effect and choose an open tuning accordingly.)
Tommy Emmanuel is an exception to this, however his playing style doesn't sound nearly as "dreamy" as someone like Andy Mckee's. Why is this?
You mean when using the same open tunings? That would be because he uses them in a different way. (But I don't know TE's stuff well enough to know how much he uses open tunings.)

The drone effect achieved with open tunings has certain connotations - connections to Celtic or Scots folk music, Indian raga, etc. The other effect of sympathetic resonance is to add a certain natural reverb, or spaceyness to the sound, which enhances the sustain. These things could evoke the kind of emotion you're talking about. (Folk music naturally has nostalgic connotations, harking back to simpler times, or unspoilt cultures.)

In the Calum Graham video, he's using some compression (to smooth the sustain) and a LOT of digital reverb too, so it sounds like he's in a cathedral. That may well account for 90% (or more) of the "dreamy" effect you're getting... (Not only is he - apparently - in a big spiritual space, he's on his own in there....;))
 

JCW308

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Something about open tunings brings out more creativity for me. It's really strange. I definitely get what the OP is saying.
 

cantstoplt021

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Good points everyone. It is true that a lot of blues and rock people use open tunings and it doesn't have the same reflective quality that these artists have.

I will say that most if not all fingerstyle artists of this type use open tunings. There are a lot who don't (Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, etc.) but their music sounds more "folky" and traditional compared with Andy Mckee or any of these modern fingerstyle players. Plus these players use a lot of harmonics and percussive things in their songs.

Is there a way to get that kind of sound in standard? I'm assuming not quite since most of these songs are in altered tunings for a reason. It's a shame cause I really love this type of music, but after learning the guitar neck (notes, scales, chords, etc) there is no overlap once you change tunings.
 

JonR

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Good points everyone. It is true that a lot of blues and rock people use open tunings and it doesn't have the same reflective quality that these artists have.

I will say that most if not all fingerstyle artists of this type use open tunings. There are a lot who don't (Tommy Emmanuel, Chet Atkins, etc.) but their music sounds more "folky" and traditional compared with Andy Mckee or any of these modern fingerstyle players. Plus these players use a lot of harmonics and percussive things in their songs.

Is there a way to get that kind of sound in standard? I'm assuming not quite since most of these songs are in altered tunings for a reason. It's a shame cause I really love this type of music, but after learning the guitar neck (notes, scales, chords, etc) there is no overlap once you change tunings.
Drop D is a relatively easy way into alternative tunings. You get a nice resonance on a D chord, and you keep all your usual shapes on the top 5 strings. (Anything fretted on 6th string needs to be 2 frets up from normal, of course.)

Otherwise, in standard, experiment with tunes in key of E or A, using shapes high up on the middle strings, leaving 6th and/or 5th, and 2nd and/or 1st strings open.
Eg, try these shapes:
E5: 0-7-9-9-0-0
Emaj7: 0-7-9-8-0-0
Emaj7: 0-6-6-4-0-0
Asus2: 0-0-7-6-0-0
Badd4: 7-9-9-8-0-0
... that sort of thing ;).
 

cantstoplt021

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Drop D is a relatively easy way into alternative tunings. You get a nice resonance on a D chord, and you keep all your usual shapes on the top 5 strings. (Anything fretted on 6th string needs to be 2 frets up from normal, of course.)

Otherwise, in standard, experiment with tunes in key of E or A, using shapes high up on the middle strings, leaving 6th and/or 5th, and 2nd and/or 1st strings open.
Eg, try these shapes:
E5: 0-7-9-9-0-0
Emaj7: 0-7-9-8-0-0
Emaj7: 0-6-6-4-0-0
Asus2: 0-0-7-6-0-0
Badd4: 7-9-9-8-0-0
... that sort of thing ;).
Ah those chords sound great thanks Jon. Anyway to figure more of those chords with open strings. I really like them on acoustic
 

edward

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I love the sound of open tunings, but I've got enough to learn with standard tuning that I don't want to overload my brain :D

But seriously, I dig JonR's post above, and have learned from a guy who's a wonderful guitarist with tasty chord arrangement that I can "get away" without alt tunings but still approach "that sound" by using these and other chord shapes. Experimenting with the same ol' songs in different chord shapes, with the express goal of adding more open strings resonating, has really made me a better guitarist ...all the while "freeing" me from having to retune the guit. Not sure if that makes me a "better" player or a more lazy one though ;)

Edward
 

cantstoplt021

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Using those open string chords that JonR recommended really gave me a sound I've been looking for. The other day I spent around 3 hours working on a song that I'm so far pretty pleased with. I haven't finished one song yet cause it just never sounds how I want it to. This could be my first.
 
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When I bought my 'hand-crafted' Irish guitars, Several people on the AGF suggested trying out DADGAD tuning.

I am up to 3 tunings currently.
 
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I think the dreamy quality comes from the sympathetic resonance of the strings that have a harmonic relationship with notes that are being played. IMO
That's pretty much it. McKee, Dufour, and their predecessors Michael Hedges and Preston Reed exploit the ringing of open strings and harmonics in the arrangements they create for those open tunings.

Hedges stated in interviews that he writes music on piano first, then finds the guitar tuning to fit the music. McKee said the same in the workshop I attended - but then again, he's been wise enough to study the masters who preceded him.
 

arthur rotfeld

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...guy walks into a fingerstyle guitar convention, picks up a guitar and begins to play. He plays so beautifully that before he has finished the song, he has attracted a crowd of onlookers.

"What is that strange tuning?!" he is asked.

"EADGBE" he replies.
 

kimock

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I love the sound of open tunings, but I've got enough to learn with standard tuning that I don't want to overload my brain :D
Tuning the guitar differently changes your concept of what is proximate, musically.
At the risk of overload, any one tuning does eventually start to turn into how you deal with your hands.
Hooking up the low hanging fruit in the tuning with comfortable, efficient, technique.

Hard not to fall into thinking your music is contained in those shapes and moves, thru repetition and the evidence of your eyes.

Of course that's not the case, we tell ourselves, "it's not about patterns".
But it's still difficult to consider "what sounds are proximate" without viewing them through the lens of "what fingerings are possible?".

Right?
We're not playing a lot of close voiced extended harmony in standard, and we're not exactly beating it like a drum either.
Those are arbitrary limits imposed by the tuning.

I think it's healthy, musically, to remind yourself to listen and to not slip into confusing concepts with habits.

Tunings are a good reminder.

.02c
 

JonR

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...guy walks into a fingerstyle guitar convention, picks up a guitar and begins to play. He plays so beautifully that before he has finished the song, he has attracted a crowd of onlookers.

"What is that strange tuning?!" he is asked.

"EADGBE" he replies.
:)

Hopefully he pronounced it "eejbi"...

"Ah right, some kind of ethnic thing, yeah? awesome..."
 

filtersweep

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Our other guitarist uses a G tuning. It is a PITA to play with. It seems we have to play every song in G (and I start to get the songs mixed up in my head, since they are all in the same key and often use similar chords), and it is sometimes difficult to find voicings that go with some of his chords, as there is often a droning dissonance that works if he plays alone, but not so well when other instruments are involved (like playing against an augmented fifth).
 

jay42

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Our other guitarist uses a G tuning. It is a PITA to play with. It seems we have to play every song in G (and I start to get the songs mixed up in my head, since they are all in the same key and often use similar chords), and it is sometimes difficult to find voicings that go with some of his chords, as there is often a droning dissonance that works if he plays alone, but not so well when other instruments are involved (like playing against an augmented fifth).
hmm...your other guitarist needs to buy a G7 Newport capo. Even Keith Richards only plays one or two things in G. Capo 4 for most of the biggies, beyond Honky Tonk Women.
 




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