The guitar is a beautiful instrument - an orchestra that you can hold in your arms. Notes are fingered with the left hand and plucked with the right hand. This limits the number and range of simultaneous notes. Artists such as Kaki King, Preston Reed, and the late Michael Hedges use various tapping techniques to get around these limitations. More traditional guitarists, like myself, look for open strings so very high notes can be fingered and played with much lower notes. We like having an open string available with the right note at the right time. Keys with a lot of flats and sharps don't often offer a lot of these easy opportunities.
Many guitarists use special tunings designed to increase the number of open, mostly bass strings. We are then stuck with a beautiful wood instrument with inherent resonances and we use it to play songs in one of only 5 keys: C, D, E, G, and A. Doesn’t this limit the tonal palette a little?
So I started looking at some alternate keys, odd ones like F# or G#, and the 12-string guitar, as it often does, surprised me! The double courses on the middle G and D strings often showed up as handy open strings. For example, the B Flat Rag makes frequent use of the open G for a Seventh and the open D for the Third. I found unique uses for the upper unison courses (they have a different sound from the octave courses). For example, listen to the opening piece in B natural. It uses the open B as a drone for the rising, 60's, rock 'n roll riff that separates sections. It's a series of B chords, anchored by the open 2nd course. I found open notes like this throughout what soon became a cycle of 12 tunes. Another example: the E flat piece uses open A, D, and G (the Third). The A and D play prominent roles in the melody even though they are leading notes. Joe Turner's Blues in G sharp, was the most difficult key; the tune is almost entirely barred. Even here, though, I found a little major/minor play with the open B.
The Tunes start with key of B and end with the key of E. Each tune is a fifth higher than the previous one.
B-63 Blues (B natural) - an exuberant piece inspired by Rock & Roll and the Mo-Town Girl Group tunes of 1963. The piece has an interesting ‘bridge’ that is nothing more than a cycle of fifths. Tab and standard notation is available.
IstanBlues (F sharp) - kind of Turkish, except for the missing 150 or so micro-tones. Tab and standard notation is available.
The Brights (C sharp) – C sharp and F sharp were two keys that really felt good on a 12-string.
Joe Turner's Blues (G sharp) - a little study in some Rag progressions mixed with a I III IV chord progression.
Sergio Leone's Blues (E flat) - the Good, the Bad, the Jangly.
Bb Rag (B flat) – some standard guitar rag changes, short and to the point.
Walk Right In (F natural) - Gus Cannon's piece, via The Rooftop Singers. Starts in C, down good and low, and ends in F.
Folk Medley (C natural) - Freight Train, Hollis Brown, Railroad Bill, Cocaine Blues and a thousand other folk tunes guitarists play in C.
River of Life (G natural) - lots of open strings and harmonics; hardly need a left hand with this piece.
Fontaine's Hornpipe (D natural) - dedicated to a talented musician, the late Fred Fontaine. He loved to play hornpipes, jigs, and even Bach pieces on his banjos. Tab and standard notation is available.
Just A’ Closer (A natural) – sometimes a 12-string guitar is just a fine gospel piano.
Last Dance at Kittles (E natural) – Kittles, the best live R & B bar in Albany, New York in the 60's.
My Ride (the cover picture) is Cannondale with an unusual 24 spoke wheel in a triplet pattern by Gipiemme.
All tunes recorded with Taylor LKSM-12 tuned down 2 whole steps.
Mastered at Naiant Studio in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, USA