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about this site and its creator

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 8 years, 1 month ago

Hi, and again, Welcome!

Or see the welcome on the site home page if you haven't already.


This site is an initiative of Andrew Alder. That's me. I hope it might be the start of a collaborative effort, as the job is enormous. And that's the main reason it's set up as a wiki of course. But even if it just stays my baby, I think it's worth doing.


Often in the documentation I say "we", and it's not a royal plural, it's expressing my hope that others will in time join the team. This one page (and perhaps also The Top Ten) will remain mine! The rest of the site in theory belongs to the community... except as I write it's a community of one, but we all need to start somewhere...


I'm an amateur musician, an advanced one I hope, I do get paid from time to time but it's never been my day job. I'm based in Sydney, Australia. I play drums, all manner of fretted instruments (including 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 and 12 stringers at latest count) and fretless bass guitar, and sing mainly rock and bush music and a cappella. The a cappella singing has led to a little serious contact with world music (largely John Bell's material) but my main playing expertise is in the Western tradition, in percussion and double-coursed stringed instruments..


I'm a long-time Wikipedia contributor, administrator and addict, and my main Wikipedia user page is here.


Or, you can email me here.



TOEOT background and history

The motivation for this site was simple: I was looking for it, and it wasn't there. That is, I was researching several fretted instrument articles at Wikipedia, and finding it very heavy going.


There are some excellent sites out there for particular instruments, but for others I found only sites that were were highly opiniated, inaccurate, poorly formatted to the point of being illegible, incomplete, or all of the above. And there seemed to be no general reference site on tunings, not even on all guitar tunings, which surprised me a bit.


And even among the excellent sites I found there was a lack of consistency in the format in which the tunings were presented. And there was and still is the same problem within Wikipedia.


This made it at best very hard to compare similar tunings, and in some cases even impossible to tell whether two tunings described at two different sites were the same or not. At best there was an awful lot of legwork in changing them into the same format, and notation, and filling in the gaps in the information given in some sites with the gems from others.


A lot of the problem seemed to be assumed knowledge. Steel guitar sites for example were written by steel guitar players for people with at least a little knowledge of steel guitars, while lute sites were written by and for lute players. So nobody bothered to say that the basic E9 tuning on an S-10 pedal steel guitar was reentrant, or that the octave strings were the closer ones of the pairs on a coursed octave-strung lute. Because everyone knows that, don't they?


Umm, no, actually, we don't.


Equally serious was what I call the newspaper syndrome: Once any statement, however ridiculous to an expert in the field, is published in a newspaper, it stays there and echoes away down through article after article, because one of the main sources of a newspaper journalist is previously published newspaper articles. Even if published errata follow, they don't have anything like the same life!


The WorldWide Web suffers from exactly the same problem. Most websites (including this one) are written by people sitting at web-connected computers, and naturally an important source of their information is existing websites. Sometimes they may check this information, but often they just repeat it uncritically, and perhaps reformat it so that it looks even more authoritative. Once a factoid has been through several iterations of this process, what was once no more than someone's wild guess can easily become a consensus repeated by several good-looking and seemingly independent websites.


These challenges led in two directions. Firstly, I began compiling information that I thought was accurate, and links to sites I found helpful, in my own Wikipedia user pages. Information that I wasn't yet ready to add to any Wikipedia article, typically for lack of Wikipedia-standard reliable secondary sources to cite, but which I thought was accurate and was helpful to me and possibly to other editors in finding the information that would ultimately improve an article. (This is exactly what Wikipedia user pages are there for.) Secondly, I began to wonder why there weren't better sources and indexes of stringed instrument tunings on the web, and to wish that there were.


So, the obvious question was, could Wikipedia itself become the reference site that was lacking? And at first glance it seemed obvious that it could and should. The framework was there already, including servers, software, guidelines and policies, standards, procedures and traditions, and there was lots of good on-topic material already in place, and a large base of keen contributors. The goals and polity of Wikipedia seemed to include providing just the sort of information I was after, and with a higher standard of reliability than the web in general. Our fact-checking at Wikipedia might not be perfect but it's certainly there! 


But as I progressed with this idea there were also many problems. Wikipedia's fact-checking framework was in some ways too good. Particularly, the notability and verifiability standards of Wikipedia eliminated much of the material that I personally wanted to find in such a site. The ban on original research was another potential problem, closely related and probably more serious; Sometimes this ban is more strictly enforced than others, but I didn't want the hassle of having to defend my work in comparing and combining different sources, let alone risk having it deleted at some future date. So at second glance, it was very doubtful.


There was also the issue of how best to address the many ambiguities and even inconsistencies in articles already in Wikipedia. An early result of this was the Wikipedia Manual_of_Style_(Stringed_instrument_tunings). There are still many issues with individual articles, but hopefully they'll now all be fixed in time. That's how Wikipedia works.


(But on the other hand there have also been attempts to delete  that particular section of the MOS. Such are the joys of Wikipedia! This at least confirms my decision not to waste time adding too many tunings to that site, only to risk having them also deleted.)


Writing that Manual of Style section clarified some things I wanted in the site I was looking for:


  • I wanted complete, explicit tunings such as E-A-d-g-b-e' for the guitar, not just pitch class descriptions such as E-A-D-G-B-E, which might be fine for the expert but for the layman, even the expert on another instrument, the actual pitch wasn't always easy to guess. In the case of coursed instruments, just giving the pitch class of the courses also left out whether the strings were in unison or at octaves, and if octaves which string came first.
  • I wanted a more general lack of ambiguity. It's fine to list a guitar as E-A-D-G-B-E or as E-B-G-D-A-E, I don't really care which, but decide which the order is to be and stick to it, and more important still, tell the reader which it is. Again, it's obvious to you maybe, but not to everyone. In fact the very people who are going to have trouble with this are the very people who most need not to have trouble.
  • I wanted it to work well on all browsers, both for readers and contributors. I had serious doubts about the flat and sharp symbols Wikipedia uses, and their version of Helmholtz notation. (I looked at scientific pitch notation but it was even worse for other reasons.)
  • I wanted it to list as many instruments and tunings as possible, without making judgements as to which were notable.
  • I wanted it to compare and combine information from many existing sites and other sources, to arrive at as accurate and complete a result as possible.
  • I wanted it to link to all other relevant websites, without fear of some pages becoming mere lists of such links.


This confirmed to my satisfaction that Wikipedia was not the answer I sought.There were obvious points of good fit, but also some serious clashes.


So now this site is the second thing to come out of that ongoing personal project. It started as one page, the page of ten-string guitar tunings that I moved (quite legally) from my Wikipedia user space. It will be some time before it becomes a source that I can personally feel happy quoting in Wikipedia, see citing TOEOT in Wikipedia, in fact if that ever happens, it's a bonus. I think the site has a purpose all its own, and even if I write it all myself (and I hope not to) it's worth doing, both as a source of information for Wikipedia contributors (even if we need to find other sources to cite, getting it right is always a good first step) and as a resource for more general readers.


Thank you for visiting. That's the whole point of the site of course! I hope you find what you are seeking here. Some of it, anyway (;->




When all goes well, follow the conductor


When in trouble, follow the drummer



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