About

The purpose of this website is to help those interested in exploring the world of microtonal guitar develop a basic framework for understanding how different microtonal guitars are constructed in relation to the pitches that are available on the instrument. My focus deals specifically with tuning and understanding the relationship between intervals, ratios, scales, and tuning systems. This focus is a direct result of the enfolding of my journey into microtonal guitar which I discuss below.

I was always fascinated by most guitarists that I came in contact with and what seemed like a general phenomena of problems tuning the b string on a guitar.  I casually mentioned this to a fellow guitar player one day and he mentioned how it had something to do with "equal temperament" and the major third.  That got tucked in the back of my mind and became something I would go back to over the next 15 years or so every so ofter.  This was back in the early 90's and there wasn't the wealth of information currently available on the internet.

As fate would have it one day I after recently moving to Seattle from suburban Detroit where I had grown up I was driving in the back seat of a rental car that my father was using on a visit to Seattle and there was a John Schneider interview on public radio (probably fresh air on npr) discussing different tuning systems.  A short time later John had an article in Acoustic Guitar magazine on alternate tuning systems for guitar (“Fine Tuning,” ACOUSTIC GUITAR. May/June, No.24 (1994); pp. 30–38, see updated article "Just Guitar" linked from John's website, Guitar International #6, April/June 2004; pp.42–50). This is a great overview of musical temperaments and custom guitar builds and includes a discography.  I went out and purchased a couple of John's albums as well as LaMonte Young's Just Stompin with the Forever Bad Blues Band with Jon Catler on guitar.

Just Stompin was a recording that I instantly loved as it blended my strong background in electric blues and my recent interest in Indian music and meditation. I listened to this recording quite a bit over the next few years while I studied for a Bachelor's degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of Washington.  I also became interested in vibrational/energy healing and the use of sound in alternative therapy and started studying this in occasional weekend workshops over the next 5 or years.

While I had read some books on tuning such as Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness by Alain Daniélou I still had a hard time understanding the tuning theory and ratios. It wasn't really until I took a few workships on Harmonic Chant with David Hykes that musical ratios really started to make sense to me. I had purchased a monchord that had bridges that were a meter apart (100cm) and it was in subsequent lesson with David that I realized that the ratios could be easily understood as the pitches generated by the subsequent harmonics and their relationship to each other.

A few years later I order a 12 tone Ulta Plus Guitar from Jon Catler's Freenote Guitars and started to delve more into the theory of the instrument.  I had a few lessons with Jon and found some resources on the internet that helped my understanding of microtonal guitar. Neil Haverstick had some material on 19 tone equal temperament and general theory that was also very helpful. Subsequently I had a custom Just Intonation guitar built. This site is a synthesis of my understanding of these instruments and a guide as to how the aspiring Microtonal Guitarist can begin their journey of discovery.

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