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The Fifth Course

Exploring Tunings II

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Some detail about the instrument and the experience...

My mid-80s Fender Squier Telecaster is not stock. I mean besides the fact that it has only 5 strings. I think it has an alder body, I know it has a one-piece maple neck. The neck is amazing, I am never getting rid of this guitar.

Around 1992 I yanked out both pickups, bought a stacked humbucker, wiring kit, and controls from Carvin Guitars and installed, the humbucker in the neck position. It took a little work with a borrowed dremel tool to get the humbucker to fit in the neck position, but I got it in there.

A couple of years later, I had luthier Peter Dragge of Ojai, CA fit a string through bridge and dress the frets.

I have yet to replace the bridge pickup, but that will happen soon, now that I'm playing this instrument more.

A couple of years ago I tuned and intonated the instrument for CGDAE, leaving off the original high e string. I was thinking about adding the G, but decided for the moment I wanted just 5 strings.

And there my favorite electric guitar languished for more than a year while I ordered, received, and indulged almost exclusively in my Gary Vessel F5.

My wife is a rocker chick. She was having trouble with the fact that I was not playing electric. So for my birthday in 2007, she bought me a new Eric Johnson signature model Strat and my interest in electrics was reborn.

I joined a rock band for which I play the Strat and my Epi Mandobird. And I got the Telecaster out of the closet.

So here I am trying to get my rock band's original tunes down on my altered Telecaster. I am looking for more sonic range than the mandobird, so I don't have to swap instruments quite so much in rehearsals and at gigs. I'm looking for ways to control my sound without having to depend upon a sound engineer. And I'm hoping to carry less equipment around!

The altered Telecaster could replace the Strat completely, and replace the mandobird on a few things. But mostly, I'm hoping to replace the Vessel in the rock band. I'm worried about damaging the Vessel, and I'm having trouble getting the sound of the Vessel over the drums, bass, and trombone.

Efforts to create a sound with the Telecaster have fueled my experimentation with tunings. As I wrote before, CGDAE didn't really work for me. But DAEBF# seems to work well. I like the tone and the feel of the instrument tuned this way. But I must admit that I am having a little trouble remembering that 00230 is a D chord and 20023 is an A chord. On the plus side, playing melodies and riffs in E is as easy on this instrument as playing them in A is on an octave mandolin.

Since I've decided to stick with 5 strings, I'm going to shift them all down a slot. Currently, the original e string slot is open, I've even removed the tuning machine because it was rattling a bit. So I'll need to re-intonate the strings when they get to their new homes.

Shifting the strings should make reaching for chords a little easier and keep me from fooling my hands as to the location of the smallest string.

More reports as information becomes available...


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