Arts & Entertainment, Music

Notes on Guitar: Tunings and Techniques

St. Vincent

Lesson time 10:49 min

Annie shares her approach to tuning and creating memorable textures for the guitar.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: The Baritone Guitar · Harmonics · Moving Forward


[00:00:00.00] [MUSIC PLAYING] [00:00:08.99] - Standard tuning of a guitar is E, A, D, G, B, E. That's how most guitars are set up. I found pretty early on that when my guitar was tuned in E, it wasn't a great place for my voice. [00:00:27.00] Years ago, I just started tuning down a whole step, which makes it a little bit more complicated to transpose. But I think, for me, the guitar just lives better a little bit lower. It's-- the range of it gets to live in places that my vocal is not. [00:00:48.83] [GUITAR STRUMMING] [00:00:59.04] Sometimes I'll just-- I'll go and get a tuning that I think is really interesting and then write three songs on it really quickly and-- because all of a sudden my normal finger positions are sounding totally different. So I'll get inspired by that and then just run with it. [00:01:21.13] [GUITAR STRUMMING] [00:01:50.29] If I feel like I'm stuck, then I'll take a guitar that is in Nashville tuning and get this very chimey, pretty-- pretty world. [00:02:03.93] [GUITAR STRUMMING] [00:02:07.18] In Nashville tuning, the lowest four strings are tuned up one whole octave, so that all of a sudden I have a new little sonic landscape to explore and discover. And things sound different because octaves are in different places. So the voicing of the chord is going to be different because where the notes were, some of them might be in flipped octaves. So we got this pretty-- [00:02:34.82] [GUITAR STRUMMING] [00:02:45.13] Then the neck. If I'm stuck on something, I'll either go to different tunings to play the same thing, or I will tune my guitar in sort of unexpected ways. Sometimes I just will go to random tunings. Let's try open D tuning. I'm tuning the strings to D, A, D, G, A, D, also known as "dad-gad." [00:03:11.45] [GUITAR STRUMMING] [00:03:14.24] And this is just-- this is an open tuning. But all of a sudden, you have, like-- the same shapes-- [00:03:20.69] [GUITAR STRUMMING] [00:03:23.37] --have a different tonality. They have-- it's different harmonically. Suddenly the familiar becomes the unfamiliar to you, which is always exciting. Always prepare to be pleasantly surprised. There's something called glam tuning, which is when you tune everything on the guitar to the same note. It'll be in different octaves, but it's all the same note-- definitely made popular during the glam rock era. So if we-- [00:03:51.08] [ONE-NOTE GUITAR PLAYING] [00:03:57.54] So the guitar, pitchy as it is, it is all tuned to one note. Everything is-- everything is an E. [00:04:08.25] And I first kind of thought about this because I played with a guy named Glenn Branca, who was famous downtown New York musician/composer. And I played in his orchestra for 100 guitars. There were 80 guitars, and there were 20 basses. And everyone was going-- [00:04:25.62] [ONE-NOTE GUITAR PLAYING] [00:04:38.77] It just-- then it created this crazy mass of sound, because the exciting thing about this is it's-- it's natural chorus, because you have--...

About the Instructor

Under the stage name St. Vincent, Annie Clark has won Grammys while remaining fiercely innovative and true to herself. Now Annie is opening the door to her process to teach you how to explore your creativity. Learn how to record music, write songs, improve your guitar skills, and embrace your vulnerability. Let Annie guide you through the ups and downs of creating art so you can share what’s in your heart with the world.

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St. Vincent

Explore your creative process and embrace vulnerability with St. Vincent, the Grammy-winning, genre-defying artist and performer.

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