Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

Update on books

How To Write Songs in Altered Guitar Tunings was published in the summer – it’s the latest in my songwriting titles. There have been many books about altered tunings but they have mostly been for instrumentalists. I think this is the first to look at the subject from the angle of the potential these tunings hold for the songwriter. It covers about 30 tunings and comes with a chord dictionary section so you can re-tune and straight away have some chords to play with rather than spending time finding them yourself.

There is also a new, updated edition of Riffs which has many more examples in the book and on the CD. Next year will see the publication of a revised version of The Songwriting Sourcebook.


3 responses

  1. Jeff A.

    You have a method of teaching that tops many of the thousands of other books. Your material truly leads to deeper understanding and has drastically pushed my songwriting.

    May I suggest you consider publishing a scale book at some time. There are billions of scale methods but most of them end up being clones filled with diagrams and formulas yet no real insight. Your unique style could really bring it all together in an applicable way.

    Thanks J. A.

    May 9, 2011 at 3:47 pm

  2. allyshake

    Hi Rikky,

    I have been playing around with Neil Young’s’ Pocahontas. The unplugged version follows this altered tuning which he calls..

    Slack D/Dropped C, CGCFAD,
    i.e. standard dropped a tone and 1st down to C.

    The song is in the Key of C with predominantly D chord shapes as the guitar is detuned by a whole tone.

    Dadd9 000230
    Dadd4 000032
    Dadd6 000202
    Dmaj7add9 000220
    D(II) 000775
    Dmaj7 000675
    Em7 220000
    Gadd6/B x20030

    Unfortunately your book doesn’t show this form of what most others on the web just call Drop C.

    Your drop C is CADGBE

    Your Open C is CGCGCE from which you derive..

    Your Csus2, which is CGCGCD (Pg 206) which is what I find most common on the web but this differs from your Pg 111 formula of CGDGCD. The Index of Tunings (Pg 208) also lists the Csus2 as CGDGCD. Could these be typos?

    Effectively the sound is similar since there is just an extra C note but this alters how chord shapes would be formed and the only D is the high string.

    Why I ask is that I love the sound and pedal drone of the Neil Young tuning and want to try coming up with some other chord progressions but don’t have a ‘formula’ for chord shapes like in your book.

    Am I right in thinking I can use Drop D as a start point since the tuning intervals are the same just a tone lower?

    This doesn’t help me derive open chord shapes though.

    I must admit I am a little confused but there are very similar notes in all these C based alternate tunings.

    February 21, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    • Hello Allan, sorry for the delay in replying. The first tuning you mention is standard tuning down a tone and the sixth string down to C (not the first): CGCFAD. It is therefore equivalent to drop D tuning and all the shapes you can find in that would work in this. That’s why I didn’t include this tuning – it is already there as drop D. I think you are probably right that the reference to the CGCGCD is probably a typo; the Csus 2 tuning I gave doubled the ‘2’. The other one will work of course; I think I tried it and found it less interesting (too many Cs and Gs). I’m nt sure why you think you can’t derive open shapes from drop D and just apply them to the same tuning a tone lower. Also, I’m not sure what you meant by a ‘formula’ for deriving shapes. I’m not sure I had one – except I wanted to find examples of the chords which a songwriter would probably want in any of the tunings I was looking at. I hope this helps. Best wishes, Rikky

      March 25, 2015 at 2:10 pm

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