Hi there,

I am writing an album for my masters degree and I am writing one of my last tunes in an alternate tuning as opposed to E standard for some great variation. But I don't know which tuning to use, I am looking for something that is quite exotic, melancholic and mysterious, so pretty much the complete opposite of the alternate tunings used for like pop, country, funk, soul and R&B (I think maybe a lot of the common alternate tunings usually used with steel string acoustic guitar). I write serious classical guitar material, as in the material sounds serious and emotional with most of my stuff being in minor keys. 

In this song if you skip to 2:50 you will have hear a reference for what I am ultimately trying to find. I find this entire piece, but mostly with this melody, I find that the tonality sounds like something of gods, mythical beasts and Goliath's, something quite epic and tense. Here I believe you can hear the sort of melancholic and whimsical feel that I am looking for. Now I know a setting like this could be hard to find within the sounds of an alternate tuning, but if I have anything within this area that I am looking in then I will be happy, because I just have to use something. 

I have barely looked into alternate tuning, but this video here has 20 of them and it is the only source of alternate tunings that I've used to hear what some of them sound like which I found last night. the tuning C#, A, C#, G#, A, E (use the 6:21 time stamp in the video to hear) sounds like something I would like to try because it does seem similar to what I am searching for. 

But does anybody have any other ideas of thoughts on this? Your input would be greatly appreciated. 
My thoughts? Tuning doesn't matter at all. You can play bland pop music on any tuning just as you can play exotic and innovative music on any tuning. Some tunings just make it easier to play different things, drop tuning eases power chords, open tunings ease open chords, all fourths tuning makes it easier for lazy guitarists to try and impress other people etc. and in the end, it's not the tuning that gives your song a mythical sound, it's the composition. The notes are still the same, if you play C-E-G it's a C major triad in any tuning.

So I guess my question to you is why do you want to write a song in an alternate tuning? You say you do it for variation but no one cares. No one hears what tuning you're playing in, the only one who knows it is you, so any variation you want to have should come from the composition. I see little point in using an alt tuning just because. If you want to write mysterious, melancholic music, you need to know how to write mysterious melancholic music and changing your tuning will do nothing to help you with that.
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I should have mentioned what you are asking. The main reason why I wish to use an alternate tuning is to break out of my usual compositional habits. I do know about exotic scales but I find they are very difficult to harmonise, I could use harmonic minor scales but I would need to practice them a lot to get to quick grips with them and I do have a deadline, I do have time to figure things out but there is a limit on time. I do know how to write the music that I am looking for which is why with a different tuning I wanted to keep the tonality in line with what I usually do, and simply use whatever material the tuning immidiately presents. Everything you say makes perfect sense but it was just sort of an option for me to try really, and it was recommended by my tutor to try a different tuning. what you say about nobody hears a tuning is very true, its just whatever you write is how something sounds, but just since I've never done it before I think changing tuning and using whatever I find with it is a quick way around a new tune that isn't the same as what I have done before.
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theogonia777 I'm sure I can do better. 

Doubt it tbh

It sounds like you need to just get better rather than pull a majick gimmick. Let's be real here. If you have to rely on pulling a majick gimmick, diatonic tuning gives you literally every harmony possible in a diatonic scale completely vertically. If you try a common alternate tuning like G or something, you're just going to try and figure out how to do what you already know.
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Last edited by theogonia777 at Mar 29, 2017,
I'd use DADGAD or maybe something not quite alternative like Still life in the old dog yet by Winter Wilson - look up the lesson on Youtube.

But it really depends what sort of music you are doing, drop D or Em chord may be more appropriate.
Last edited by PSimonR at Mar 29, 2017,
theogonia777 Hmm I suppose, but either way changing the tuning was just another thing for me to explore, either learning to fully explore a new type of scale or a different tuning would be something I would try next as the new step to further my learning. 
Check out some Nick Drake stuff. As theogonia777 it's about finding tunings where you have a hard time doing your usual stuff. And Drakes tunings are often that.

It's stuff like BEBEBE and DADGDF#. I think his use of the tuning is also interesting.
B F# C# D A E

basically 5ths tuning with a b2 in the middle
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Fripp's New Standard Tuning (CGDAEG) is one I use 40-50% of the time. I use it in part because of its familiarity to me. My first real instrument was the cello, which is tuned CGDA.

My experience with it over the years is that- no surprise- it does make me think & play differently, and some things are definitely a little harder or easier to play. It doesn't exactly lend itself to Blues, but neoclassical shred is easier. Well...for anyone with experience playing instruments in the violin family.
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You might want to try  B, F#, C#, F#, B, D (Open B minor add 9).  Another great one, maybe easier to master imo is Open Db5.
my personal favourite alternate tuning is D, B, C, A , A, F#. I'm entirely sure if thats what you want but give it a crack
if you're not happy with it you might want to look up some of Sonic Youths alternate tunings, some of them might hold the answer
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Alternate tunings won't necessarily break you out of compositional habits, but rather just take longer to get to the same end goal as you won't be able to find sounds as easy. My advice is to compose away from the guitar, the instrument should be a catalyst for the music, not the other way around. But hey I'll throw one in for shits and giggles; Karnivool tuning: BF#BGBE, drop B on the bottom 3 strings and standard on the top 3, though that b6 between the 4th and 3rd strings is a bitch to work around.
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The alternative tunings can give interesting tonal clusters and voicings to work with, tbf

I end up in open D and DADGAD if trying to fiddle around with different chord shapes; figures they're a 1/2-step apart
I always have five acoustic guitars on stage at all times due to the different tuning I use, and that I don't want to slow the show down for returning. I use "Standard Tuning: E-A-D-G-B-E; Drop-D, D-A-D-G-A-G, Open E, and a 12-String in "Standard Tuning. It just keeps things moving right along for me a solo act.
dicotomy01 Yeah they are great tunings. Open Db5 is really great with a lot of gain but also with clean (if you want a great example, i recommand you listen to the song Fortress by Alter Bridge, the opening clean riff is in open Db5. 

The other One Open B minor add 9 is, imo, great for clean but i think that high gain is harder to master with this tuning, to sound good. This side of fate by alter bridge (again yeah i  know ) uses this tuning and sounds really great in the high ghain part though.
Last edited by michaelgreine at Apr 6, 2017,