Chord Charts For Alternate Tunings

I am a self taught finger-style guitarist who has attained a level of mediocrity sufficient to entertain myself for hours on end with my noodling upon the strings of a guitar. In actuality my playing is currently in a renaissance period due to two inspirational performances I was witness to.

My first inspiration was Martin Simpson who exposed me to the full dynamic range of guitar, a man who preaches that the guitar is a voice full of feeling. And like a polished preacher he can say more in a quiet whispered phrase than others who would wail all day.

My second inspiration was Bob Brozman, a lucid evangelist of the National Steel Guitar. Brozman is a polished showman, full of tales of the road, and most importantly an infectious love of the instrument that he shares most freely.

Brozman plays in a number of styles labeled as Delta-Blues, Rag, Hot Jazz and Hawaiian and if I missed any categories it is due to my lack of musicological knowledge. Bob Brozman though is an ethnomusicologist and he can regale you with his observations on universal open "G" tuning. Known as Taro Patch tuning in Hawaii and Spanish tuning in Southern U.S. , Brozman claims that when third-world man gets his hands on the guitar this is the first voice it has.

Both Brozman and Simpson feature a number of tunings in their performances. Both to my knowledge use Open G, Open D and Drop-D along with standard tuning. Martin Simpson in addition uses a tuning that he refers to as a modifed G tuning, based on the banjo tuning called Sawmill. This tuning is referred to as Orkney.

The inclusion of Double Drop D is due to a personal quest to figure out Black Queen by Steve Stills. Album notes credit his compelling performance to the effects of Jose Cuervo consumption, but having over-indulged in tequila consumption at a tender age and thereby losing any desire to consume additional amounts I can only hope that sipping Jack Daniels #7 will loosen my soul.

Having first learned guitar from chord diagrams in a Beatles songbook at age 15, I felt a good way to become familiar with these tunings was to learn some chords, yet everywhere I looked I found scant resources. What few chords I found were all in first position and as a finger-style player I find that I often need a chord in a higher position to be able to carry both the melody and harmony where they need to go.

Knowing 20,000 chords is not the end-all be-all. A thorough knowledge of scales and modes is more central to enriched playing, chord shapes are an interim step to that understanding of tonality. As I work out these shapes I will assemble them here, get them from finger to brain to paper (albeit digital) and hopefully some retention will occur and I will be able to incorporate this new knowledge into my playing.

And hopefully you will gain some insights also.

Open G Tuning
DGDGBD

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Postscript version
PDF version

Open D Tuning
DADF#AD

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Postscript version
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Orkney (Sawmill) Tuning
CGDGCD

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Postscript version
PDF version

Double Drop-D Tuning
DADGBD

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Postscript version
PDF version

Postscript files are viewable and printable with Ghostscript which is available in versions from Aladdin Software (commercial) or GNU (GPL copyleft). There are versions for both WIN9? and unix platforms. Check out your favorite internet software repository. One source is ftp.cs.wisc.edu/ghost/aladdin

PDF files are viewable and printable with Adobe Acroread, check out Adobe's site for the latest version.

Thanks to the work of Brian Ewins for the PStab distribution that makes it so simple to present such fine chord representations. It can be found in most CTAN or Tex or tex-archive mirrors under "/support/PStab". This is yet another fine freeware contribution for the world to build upon.

Timm Reasbeck , April 1998

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