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Content FAQ

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 11 years, 3 months ago

How reliable is the information in this?

As reliable as we can make it. If it's useful to you, use it. If the accuracy matters, check it. If it's wrong, please fix it. You can contribute.


See also the disclaimer and tips for contributors.


Isn't there a lot left out?



Some pages contain no tunings at all. Some important instruments aren't mentioned. Most if not all entries are incomplete.


It's a work in progress. We aim to make it helpful to as many people as possible, but it will never be complete. You can contribute and make it more complete and more helpful.


Who decides what is accurate?

Short term, you do. Your comments will appear on the web immediately, as will your edits if you become a registered contributor. Long term, I do That's me as in Andrew Alder. I'll do my best. If that's not good enough for you, I understand, but it's my website, and let's stay friends.


Aren't there other sites which do this better?

For many individual instruments, yes, and we'll link to them.


Where there's another site that does a good job, that will affect the priorities here. Not the scope; The ultimate goal is to have every tuning here, so we're not dependent on those others. But this grand goal may be more of an ideal than an objective, and meantime reinventing the wheel is not a priority. There are plenty of gaps to fill in the current web coverage!


When I was looking for information and references for the Wikipedia are article on ten-string guitar, for example, I was surprised at how little information there was, and how badly inaccurate some of it was when it was there at all. Some of the tunings other sites gave, and implied they used themselves, were completely unplayable, probably because it hadn't occurred to the writers that the tuning might be reentrant. It took ages to find a site that gave the scale or actual pitches of a sitar, although many give tunings as pitch classes, or one that said which of the two strings comes first in the octave strung courses of a renaissance lute.


A second look at many of these sites may perhaps be less kind. Do they list all tunings, or just those of a particular style of music and then claim or imply that these are the only ones for that particular instrument? Do they list the actual tunings, or just the pitch classes of the courses? Do they give the scale of the instrument (some instruments have scales that vary enormously from example to example) and gauges of the strings, or just the tunings? Do they say when the less usual tunings are used?


Do they assume a lot of knowledge on your part, probably without meaning to?


A third look, armed with information such as the scale or range of scales of the instrument, may be a lot less kind. Is the tuning even physically possible? Is it used (or even possible) on all instruments of the sort described, or are there important variants of the instrument that don't get a mention, perhaps even ones that are far more common than the one described? There's a lot of guesswork out there!


What makes a perfect entry?

Quite a lot of information!

  • Every tuning that anyone has ever sucessfully used, expressed in our modified Helmholtz notation as specified in Standards and Conventions.
  • Specific famous performers, pieces and performances (recordings particularly) that used this tuning.
  • String gauges and the scale of the instrument (that last bit is often forgotten... until your high-tension strings pull the bridge clean off the belly of your long-scale guitar!).
  • Even string guages used by particular performers and in particular performances are on-topic.
  • Availabilty of string sets supporting these tunings.
  • Lots of links and references to paper sources saying where all this info came from and where to find more.

We have lots and lots of disk space...!



But... you'll never cover all of that!

Quite right. We'll never finish.


Amazon lists hundreds of books just on six-string guitar tunings. The one good thing is, most of this information doesn't go out of date. New tunings and new instruments come along, but the old ones are still important.


And meantime, we hope to be a useful resource. It's tempting to scope it down, but not all that tempting. Other sites already do that. 


Is there anything you don't want?

Good question! Lots and lots and lots. Anything that isn't accurate and legal and relevant in fact, including but not only:


  • Inaccuracy or wild guesswork. (Intelligent guesses are sometimes better than nothing but should be clearly labelled as such, and preferably it should also be said whose guess it is.)


  • Controversial pet theories, nationalistic claims about historical ownership of instruments, personal opinions about which tuning is best, etc.. Put your sitar tuning, or that of your teacher, in by all means, but you don't need to say here exactly why it's better than Ravi Shankar's, that essay belongs on your own website and we'll gladly link to it.


  • Details of instrument construction, playing techniques, history, anything that's not essential to putting the tuning(s) into context. This still leaves the gate pretty wide... what's merely helpful to one person may be essential to another, and when in doubt about this we tend to be inclusive, and assume zero base knowledge. But anything that's not at least helpful in setting the context of some tuning (not just of the instrument) is probably not essential.


See also what TOEOT is not.



If Helmholtz notation is the ideal, why are so many tunings here in pitch class notation?

Many reasons. Most commonly, we don't yet have the information as to what the pitch was. It may seem obvious to you; If it is then please tell us. That's how wikis work! Next most commonly, we haven't yet had time to merge and corelate the information from several sources, or to resolve the inconsistencies between them.


Pitch class notation is better than nothing. Many websites give nothing more. But it's particularly frustrating when it's possibly a reentrant tuning, or when it's a coursed instrument such as a lute or twelve string guitar. That's when the pitch class notation leaves a lot out. Typically, pitch class tunings for coursed instruments list only the courses, not the individual strings, as the individual strings within a course are almost always tuned to the same pitch class anyway, see mutation tuning.


And it's better to have an accurate pitch class tuning than a guess at the explicit tuning, particularly if the scale of the instrument is unknown.


Helmholtz notation, and giving the pitch explicitly for each string, is what we aim for here, and in time it's what we'll get.


What decides what's an historic instrument or tuning?

Dunno really.


We're not making any judgement on that. Our purpose is just to help you find the tuning you want. We're trying to guess whether you think you're playing an historic or a modern instrument. Sometimes we'll guess wrong.


It's a fuzzy line at best.


What have you against Wikipedia?

Nothing at all! We love it, and hope this site complements it. See the Wikipedia creed (created by the owner of this site).


Much of this information seems to come from Wikipedia, so isn't this site automatically covered by the GFDL and/or CC-SA licences?

Good question! No.


This site repeats a lot of information from Wikipedia, but information can't be copyrighted. Text can be, but we don't copy text from Wikipedia (or, generally, from anywhere else), just information.


Some of the images also appear in Wikimedia Commons, or are based on images there. Again, no problem, because we didn't copy them from there. Rather, we contributed them to both places!


And of course, if you want to reuse any of this material in Wikipedia, there's no problem at all at this end. Copy the information, it's your right. Copy the text too for all we care, but in order to avoid accusations of copyvios at the Wikipedia end, maybe better not. Oh, and remember to cite your sources. See citing TOEOT in Wikipedia for our spin on this.


And much the same for photos... versions of them are in Wikimedia Commons anyway, so getting them from there is probably best.




Exactly what sort of instrument is the logo (above)?


Glad you asked! It's the (unique AFAIK) head and first twelve frets of my Magnetone TB 36/12, built by Maton back in the days that they didn't want their name associated with electric guitars, or something. So they called them Magnetone. (The owner's handbook on their guitar amplifiers of the time warned that the warranty is void if the equipment is used in situations of overload or distortion. Times have changed.)


Anyway, the TB 36/12 is a copy of the Rickenbacker 360/12 in appearance, but with conventional 12-string stringing, a sweeter tone than the rather bluesie Rickie, and a different but equally unique head layout. And while the Rickie head has an obvious purpose of trying to reduce the head-heaviness of electric 12s generally, the only function of this head layout seems to be for decoration. And IMO it's highly successful at that. Works OK too.


And perhaps we should also say, the mandolins in the sidebar have no particular relevance either. They're all just cute, represent a variety of traditions (the lute back from Europe, originating in Asia, the arch top from the USA, based on Italian violins, and of course one electric and one acoustic) and several continents (I think only Africa is completely missing). The fact that all three instruments are coursed probably is slightly relevant however, in that it represents a bias of the site which will in time be reduced.

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