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Sharp Hedges

Michael Hedges


Remember the open tuning article last month? Well, we've found a guitarist who changes tuning on every song. We noticed this death-defying feat from American guitarist Michael Hedges when he supported Suzanne Vega on a recent British concert. We'd already cocked an ear to his mesmerising Windham Hill LP, "Aerial Boundaries", and noted tape collages, deft bass support from Michael Manring, and a technique from Hedges' guitars which made analysis difficult. "Yes, I do change tuning for each song live," he told us, "and I plan the set to fit the changes."

He got his initial inspiration to fiddle with tuning pegs from Joni Mitchell: "And not just the blues players' open tunings, but more experimental things. She got it from David Crosby, who was in Buffalo Springfield, and then Crosby Stills and Nash."

A short tune called 'Hot Type' on "Boundaries" sounded the weirdest tuning: but when Michael actually told us the notes, we felt dizzy. "Low to high it's A, the same as an electric bass, down a fifth from the normal E; B, a whole step up from the normal A; the D string up to E; the G string down half a tone to F#; the B string down a whole step to A; and the high E down a whole step to D. Yes, it's a weird one!" He uses 56, 46, 34, 26, 17, and 13 gauges to contain these pitches.

"With that tuning, the strings do flap around a bit, yeah, but I like that. I use a fairly high action, heavy-ish strings, and a brass nut and end-pins for sustain." And if you fancy trying it, we suggest you also use a prayer or two before the off.



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Making Music - Jun 1986

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