Identify this guitar tuning by ear (or somehow cheating)

The song is Trouble by Lindsey Buckingham. There’s not much to dig into except the solo at 2:11 and 3:09.

tl;dr - I always thought it sounded very fragile & haunting and couldn’t figure out why. I thought his guitar might just have been out of tune, but as an adult I learned about alternate tunings and also that Buckingham is fond of them. Obviously I didn’t learn enough to make the ID on my own, but I’m hoping somebody either can glean it from listening or has some backstory information on the song. The interwebs have failed me.

Huh. Jangly and tinny.

See this video, look at the guitar: That’s not the guitar he used for other parts of the same concert.

So that could mean he like that guitar better, or he needed a different tuning. I’m sure it’s the latter, but it’s not enough to go on. Thanks for contributing though.

The only way to know for sure is to find a interview with Lindsey Buckingham or maybe a band member. Only they can confirm for sure what special tuning they are using.

Someone with a good musical ear can identify chords, bass notes etc. But knowing the chord doesn’t tell you how that chord was fretted. A D chord is a D chord. You might hear a F# bass note on the recording. So its an inverted chord. A D/F# chord. Theres a standard way of fretting that chord in standard tuning. But theres no way to know for sure how the musician in the studio did it.

Musicians used to drive themselves nuts trying to perfectly cover songs by the Rolling Stones. They’d use the correct chords but the songs didn’t quite sound the same. Finally word got out that Keith Richards used open G tuning on some Stone’s songs. He’d literally remove his E bass string. That article explains open G.

Well I get all that, but there are all sorts of harmonic modes that people (not me) can recognise just by hearing them. That’s sort of what I’m fishing for here.

I played the youtube video at half speed and then replicated the solo on the guitar and I don’t think it uses any unusual tuning. There’s some reverb effects on it, which adds to the haunting quality you describe, but that’s pretty normal.

Nice song and solo, anyway.

No, there’s definitely some notes in there that sound quite detuned to your standard scale.

Yeah, in this video, I don’t hear that same sort of out-of-tuneness on some notes (or detuning) as in the studio track.

For the most part, it sounds pretty tinny, if chromatic. I guess there were one or two brief moments where it seemed like there was an “out of tune” note. They sounded (maybe) like half-tones to me, which, if brought about by an alternative tuning, would not be any standard tuning. You get this kind of thing in Indian (from India) music, which utilizes more than the 12 tones of the Western chromatic scale. It isn’t necessarily that they use tricky tunings to get these notes- some of their instruments have scalloped fretboards such that a player can push down on the strings to bend them a half-tone out of whack.

Buckingham may have done something like this inadvertently or on purpose, or his guitar slowly went out of tune during a long session. Or maybe he really wanted a half-tone and tuned his guitar funny. I don’t think we can say for sure how it was done by listening alone.

The live version is played in a key five semitones lower for a start, so it’s not going to have the same high register jangly sound.

It’s not the jangliness. There are notes that are definitely not “in tune,” being about a quarter tone or maybe slightly less off. When he hits the solo at 3:08, you have a descending scale pattern alternating with a “drone” high note there. The third melody note there is noticeably out-of-pitch (and a couple notes after that, but it’s that particular note that just jumps out at me there and when it is played again several notes later). It has an almost Indian raga sound to it, as mentioned above. I can’t tell if it’s intentional, if it’s slightly bent, or if the string itself is slightly detuned, but it jumps out at me. (And I think it sounds cool, but it’s absolutely not “on pitch” to normal Western scale standards.)

Sorry, I’m describing that badly. Scratch “drone.” The note I’m talking about is on the third beat of the measure of the solo starting at 3:08.

If you’re not hearing 2:11 2:11 at my link, then you didn’t hear it. It’s really subtle. Actually it’s not subtle, it jumpts out from the whole rest of the piece.

There are some notes which sound out of tune, but I’m not convinced its intentional and would guess it’s more likely the result of one or more strings not being tuned correctly or going slightly out-of-tune (as guitar strings are prone to do).

When you asked about tuning in a guitar sense, that means tuning strings to another note, usually by lowering the tension of one or more strings (often by one tone), rather than using different tuning systems such as just intonation, Pythagorean tuning, well temperament and so on. In this sense, I don’t think the guitar is using an alternate tuning.

I also don’t think the music in the song is using a different musical tuning system (deliberately using notes that are sharp or flat) because:

a) He’s playing a guitar, which is built for equal temperament, and if you were to play in a different tuning system, you’d have to move all the frets of the guitar slightly, which is quite an undertaking.

b) Using any other tuning system (just intonation, Pythagorian, well temperament etc) is extremely obscure in the modern world and almost certainly beyond the ken of rock/popular musicians.

Also, chromatic in the musical sense means using the using the chromatic scale, which uses all twelve semitones in the octave. There is no use of the chromatic scale in the solo - it uses the standard diatonic major scale.

At 2:11 he’s alternating between two adjacent strings. If one string’s out of tune, the two notes sound slightly dissonant.

Also by alternating between two strings it allows the sound to “ring” for slightly longer, which you don’t get if playing the same two notes on the same string.

I thought a lot of it was even pentatonic, though not in the blues way. Traditional Chinese music is pentatonic, but with different intervals than in the Western blues. This sounds like a flavor of that in many passages to me.

The solo’s hexatonic (6 notes), basically the standard 7-note major scale minus its fourth note.

Hm. I had to listen to it again. Not sure I have the ear for hexatonic, maybe that has been my problem all along. It does play into my “foreign character” theme though, only even more so.

The “out-of-tune” character of that solo also struck me. It’s not necessarily an alternate tuning but there are definitely some notes that don’t sound in tune.

Wow a lot of discussion.

  • Tinny: it is a nylon string classical with a digitial delay on it. That is why is sounds jangly, tinny, plinky, whatever. In the live video he is play one of his Rick Turner hybrids - I think it may still be nylon strings.

  • Tuning: near as I can tell the recording is in standard tuning, as is the live version. I didn’t play along to check keys, but I don’t hear any open tuning differences in his chords.

  • Atonal lead bit: near as I can tell, he is bending to get a tone in between fretted Western notes. Could be a standard blues bend, could be reaching up past the nut to depress the string between the nut and the tuning peg, but something like that. The fact that it is a nylon string + delay gives this bend a bit more of a Middle Eastern tonality to it, but that is more like Jeff Beck playing the “sitar” lick on Heart Full of Soul by The Yardbirds.

My $.02