#1
So I've been listening to a lot of Ben Howard recently, and as you might know he uses lots of open tunings.
However, I've looked at a few of his songs, and they seem to be various versions of a C7sus4 tuning.

'Small Things', and 'End of the Affair' for example use C-G-Bb-G-F-Bb tuning (though a capo is used on most strings of the latter); 'Only Love' is another, but tuned to Bb-F-C-G-G-C.

My questions are:
  • are there any similar artists that use open suspended tunings in a similar fashion?

  • How would you recommend using such a tuning, in terms of harmony? Use simple progressions or attempt to use more complex harmony?


Many thanks for any answers guys!
#2
don't look at the tuning as a tool for "simple progressions vs. complex harmony". like any tuning, it's designed to make certain patterns of notes, be they chords or scales or whatever, easier to play.

i'd approach it by looking at the tuning and experimenting to see what voicings of chords it opens up that may be difficult or impossible to use in standard tuning. regardless of how "complex" something seems, use tuning for what it's supposed to be: a way to unlock specific sounds that were previously unavailable.
#3
Quote by AeonOptic
So I've been listening to a lot of Ben Howard recently, and as you might know he uses lots of open tunings.
However, I've looked at a few of his songs, and they seem to be various versions of a C7sus4 tuning.

'Small Things', and 'End of the Affair' for example use C-G-Bb-G-F-Bb tuning (though a capo is used on most strings of the latter); 'Only Love' is another, but tuned to Bb-F-C-G-G-C.

My questions are:
  • are there any similar artists that use open suspended tunings in a similar fashion?

  • How would you recommend using such a tuning, in terms of harmony? Use simple progressions or attempt to use more complex harmony?


Many thanks for any answers guys!
:-D is quite right, don't use alternate tunings as ways into more complex harmony. Sometimes they will permit that - or produce fancy harmonies without you trying too hard - but that's not what they're designed for.

In the main, they're designed for two reasons:
1. to make playing in one key a whole lot easier (even if it makes other keys a whole lot harder)
2. to explore different guitar sonorities - eg new interactions between open strings, or wider (or closer) chord voicings.

Most players find chords in these tunings by experiment - just seeing what sounds good, without caring too much about what each chord might be called.

A popular alternate tuning that could be regarded as a "sus" tuning is DADGAD, sometimes known as "modal D". Invented by British folk/jazz guitarist Davy Graham in the early 60s (as part of his project to connect Arabic music with Celtic folk), it's become broadly popular in folk, and some players play in little else (Pierre Bensusan, Dick Gaughan). Jimmy Page is one rock player who's used it.

Other artists you should look at who employ similar tunings (often inventing bizarre ones of their own) are:
Joni Mitchell
Nick Drake
John Martyn
Richard Thompson

Most contemporary percussive acoustic players use alternate or open tunings of some kind.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 7, 2015,
#4
I phrased that badly; I don't mean complex harmonies as in using massively extended chords for the sake of it, but like you say experiment with voicings/sonorities, that would be otherwise unavailable.

@jong: I already knew about a few of those players and DADGAD, but the other artists are going to be useful to research. The concept of just playing rahter than considering chord names is something I need to try. Thanks!
#5
Quote by AeonOptic
I phrased that badly; I don't mean complex harmonies as in using massively extended chords for the sake of it, but like you say experiment with voicings/sonorities, that would be otherwise unavailable.
Yes, exactly that. The kinds of sounds you can't really get (easily) from EADGBE.
Low tunings (eg down to C or B on the 6th) are a good example. There's a richness you get from down there (from an acoustic) that the guitar body seems to really respond to.