Mike Moxcey ©2005

Tuning a Specific Instrument

In the following pages, I lay out the tuning and chords for various instruments. Some instruments have several different tunings. I only show one because the the chord fingerings change when the tuning changes.

I present the basic approach to tuning.

One: just lay out the names of the strings from top of the instrument to the bottom. For example, the guitar goes from the 6th string E to A, D, G, B, and finally another E on the 1st string.

Then I show on tablature which notes are fretted that should sound the same as the open string you want to tune. This just gets you started. Chimes and certain strings to keep tuned to each other are indicated later for each instrument.

More Chords Than You Need

(And Not Enough of Them Either)

There are many chords indicated for the instruments that have different chords. Autoharp is restricted to whatever buttons you have; dobro is restricted by the shape of the bar.

But I didn’t put all the chords for banjo, guitar or mandolin—there are too many and you may not ever need some of them. But if you’re missing a chord that’s similar to another one, say you need a Bbm and there isn’t one but there is a Bm or an Am, then you can move that other chord up or down the neck to get the new chord IF IT DOESN’T HAVE ANY OPEN STRINGS.

Look for the Chromatic Scale in the section on Music Theory to tell you how to move the chord. You’d move an Am up one fret to get an A#m or Bbm; you’d move a Bm down one fret to get a Bbm (or A#m).

I also try to give a few examples of diminished, augmented, sixth and ninth chords because you’ll often find those in music books. Other chords will have to be figured out by yourself—there is some info in the section on Music Theory—or found in other books or modified (just play the basic major or 7th chord).

Reading a Chord Picture

For the instruments that have chords, there are chord pictures. These show you exactly how to put your fingers on the fingerboard to make a chord.
You read them from left to right as if you were looking down at fingerboard.
The top bar is the nut where the strings end (unless there is a number off to the right-hand side).
The frets are the horizontal bars; the strings are the vertical lines.
There are three things that can happen with a string.
  1. If it has an X above the nut, then you don’t play that string.
  2. If it has an O above the nut, then you play that string open (without fretting it).
  3. If it has a dot above (behind) one of the frets, then you put your finger there on that string.
If there is a number off to the right hand side, that indicates the fret number (counting up from the nut) for that fret. These are used when playing up the neck.

Chords can feel devilishly difficult to play at first.
Practice makes it easier.
That’s one reason why the song charts use the I-IV-V chord names—so you can choose whichever set of chords is the easiest to get started on.
Techniques Index