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Tribute to Toto

May 26, 2010

Yesterday, Toto one of our cats went in for a operation on a stomach tumour and unfortunately didn't make it back. Fortunately even in the last few days he seemed relatively okay and was still enjoying life.

My partner, Lucy, had him for 12 or 13 years, ever since he wonder into the pub she was working at and made himself at home. They were insepertable, always cuddling each other evey night while watching TV and even doing the gardening together. The joke was always that they were in more of a relationship than Lucy and me. He would sleep right in the middle of the bed almost pushing me out of it.

Very much Lucy's cat, I just wasn't prepared for feeling the way I do about it.

Stan our other cat is still with us and hopefully will continue to make occasional appearances on my videos.


Mar 4, 2010

Totally guitars favorite altered tuning.

I hadn't used this tuning before joining totally guitars. It definately gives the guitar a unique sound.

There are two songs on totally guitars for this tuning. Both Steven Stills songs and they use the same chord shapes.
Three partial chord shapes played on the top two strings and a moveable shape played on the 6th and 3rd strings.

One thing about this tuning is that there are octaves available everywhere.
Play the same fret on the 6th and 4th strings and there is an octave which can be moved up and down the fretboard.
Same goes for the 2nd and 5th strings and the 6th and 3rd strings.
Just needs some experimenting with which frets it sounds good at.
You could of course learn your scales then it would probably be easier. For me it seems to be easier just to see what sounds right.

This tuning is very close to other D type tunings.

Open D tuning DADF#AD

are all similar in that only the third string is tuned differently. There are still the two open D strings on the 6th and 4th strings to alternate the bass to. Also if you know any licks in the other tunings (as long as they don't use the 3rd string) they can be used in daddad as well.

I've been praticing using differnt fingers on the same string when there are consecutive notes on the same string.
I'm at the beginning of using this technique, but it opens up a lot of possibilities for playing faster licks.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this video

The uploaded video is based on 4+20 but contains pretty much everything I have managed to learn about this tuning.



Jan 19, 2010


Dropped D is the easiest alternative tuning that you can use.

You get into it by just dropping the E string down one tone to D. Even though its a small change it changes the character of the guitar quite a lot.
If you have never done this then try just fingering a D chord and strumming done all 6 strings. The effect is startling. Normally a D chord chord is a bright but thin sounding chord due to using only 4 strings. Now it becomes a much deeper richer sounding chord.

A real advantage of Dropped D is that it gives you two D bass strings. This allows you to play an alternativing bass on the two open strings. This frees up the left hand much more than normal and allows you to play up and down the neck more freely.

The only fingering changes that need to be made is that whether the high E string is played, it has to be played 2 frets higher.

There are two target songs which use Dropped D.
Embryonic Journey and Dear Prudence (and Still you turn me on which I haven't tried)

I'm busy learning Embryonic Journey but one of the sections is coming along really slowly and I have to play this much slower than the rest of the song. Maybe one day I will be able to post this for review.

Dear Prudence. This should be easier as it uses pattern picking, but it gave me a lot of trouble. I just seemed to muck up every chord change. I haven't played it for a while and it seems to have dropped off the radar.

Other songs I know in Dropped D are
The water is wide - A traditional tune and good to play

Death comes creeping - An old blues tune. I find this really good to play it and then have a go at improvising while keeping a steady alternating bass going. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it falls apart completly.

A couple more tunes from the book Progressive Open tunings by Brett Duncan

Tribute to Lonnie Johnson (or alternatively called the assassination of John Fahey).
This is slow blues and I've always wanted to play it as soon as I first heard it. It's by Stefan Grossman. It seems he had a somewhat love hate relationship with John Fahey so hence the title.
I find it a difficult song. The timing of the licks is very complex and I've had to change them around quite a lot to try and get my playing in time.
There's a few versions of this on youtube and every one seems to do quite a diffent version of it.
Anyway here's my version.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this video

Sorry it's so long, I must have got carried away.

Open G tuning

Dec 8, 2009

A know a few songs in open G.

Writing this blog makes me realise that I don't know very much much about Open G or any other tunings for that matter.
I don't know any chord shapes in Open G apart from barring accross all 6 strings.

It seems to me that chord shapes are much less of an issue with open tunings and open strings are used a lot more.

Some of the tunes I know come from a book called Progressive Open tunings by Brett Duncan. I think it is a good book although most of the tunes are pretty difficult.

Does any body know if there are any open G songs in the target program. I haven't seen any. Maybe I should ask this on the forum.

I've been back playing tunes in Open G for about the last 3-4 weeks. It's been a case of re-learning tunes I used to be able to play.

Here's what I know in Open G.

Special Rider Blues by Skip James.
If there was just one tune in Open G this would still make it retuning to this tuning.
It's a real slow blues tune (at least the way I play it)

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this video

Since recording this yesterday I've watched some versions on youtube which are considerable faster. I think I still prefer it slow.
I recorded this yesterday with my new "one take only" philosphy. It turned out pretty well. I nearly always muck up the intro/turnaround and there was a "what the hell comes next" moment at the end of one of the sections.
Luckily the mistakes seem much less noticable on play back.

As it becoming tradition with my videos, my cat make an entrance at about 2.25

Penny for Thoughts by Peter Frampton
From Frampton comes alive. Not too difficult apart from a long ascending passage of 6ths (or is it 3rds) that goes right up the neck.

Spanish Spinster, Open and shut case and Jewels - all from the progressive open tuning book.
Spanish Spinster is a romantic type (some would say insipid) of song. I find this much more difficult than it should be. Wrong notes and buzzing strings everywhere.
Although it is getting better.

open tunings

Dec 6, 2009

I've dabbled with open tunings in the past but never stuck with them.

I think this is because I was always too lazy to keep retuning the guitar and eventually gave up. My some what decadent solution to this is to have certain guitars permanently tuned to a particular tuning. I haven't got enough guitars to do this but I'm working on it.

The tunings I'm planning on using are
Dropped D
Double Dropped D
Open D
Open G
I'm having one guitar in standard tuning, another in Open G and will use the third for all the variations on D tunings.

I've already made a start on Dropped D and Open G and have relearn some songs in those tunings (more about this in a future blog).

My plan is to have some songs in each tuning which will give me between 20 and 30 minutes playing time for each tuning.

A longer term goal may be to understand more about the theory for these tunings and learn the chord shapes fo these tunings. At the moment I don't have a clue about it.

new blog

Dec 5, 2009

This has come at a very good time for me.

I have just been on holiday for a week and spent some time relaxing and thinking about how to improve my guitar playing.

I realised that I had no way of recording what I was doing or tracking how I was getting on.
Then I get back and what do you know, totally guitars had provided it for me.

Briefly my goals (long and short term) are
to improve my tin pan ear (this is probably the hardest thing for me and a long term goal)
get back into open tunings
concentrate on improving my playing of the songs I already play or used to play rather than keep adding new material 
get better at recovering from or ignoring the mistakes I make