DAVID HARLEY – Introduction To Nashville Tuning For Guitar (Wheal Alice Music)

Introduction To Nashville Tuning For GuitarThis book is great. I make the point at the start for a number of reasons

  • To highlight that it’s a book not a CD – though the title would also be a splendid one for an album
  • because it is, I’ve really enjoyed reading it
  • and because I wanted to grab your attention

As you’ll see from his website, David Harley is a Shropshire lad, now living in Cornwall, who has played guitar since the 1970’s. As you’ll also see, and hear, from his website, David is a man who can play guitar in various styles: have a listen to the Instrumentals page, there’s slide guitar, heavy blues, a lovely version of ‘Blackwaterside’, a video of (his own) ‘Blues for Davy’ – and much more. I draw your attention to these points because, if you’re a skilled and serious guitarist, you’ll find much to interest you in Introduction To Nashville Tuning For Guitar.

But even if you’re a guitar player in passing, as it were, you will also find much to interest, entertain and enlighten you. I write this as someone who very occasionally stretches beyond three chords and the truth (to four chords and a bit of nuance) and I found the book fascinating.

I could take you through the detail what Nashville tuning is – but why would I when it’s in the book and David’s forty or so pages are dedicated to this? why would I when David explains it clearly and informatively in an engaging style? why would I when, for £3.50, you can get an electronic version of the book with links to examples?

You can also hear the music files on David’s website, which is handy if you prefer to buy the paperback copy. While the files and narrative are very clear – examples of the same music in different tunings/different guitars, ‘Tears Of Morning’ in particular – you’d miss the passing tales of the book. These are as varied as:

  • How David got back into thinking about, and playing in, Nashville tuning because he was travelling a lot and didn’t want the hassle of a full-sized guitar
  • Why there is a “lack of colour” in the 12-string as opposed to the 6-string
  • ‘Famous examples’ such as Mick Taylor on ‘Wild Horses’ or Dave Gilmour on ‘Hey You’
  • Where you can get strings

….and much more.

Which is why I started this review with the statement “This book is great” – you don’t need to be a skilled guitarist to find it fascinating. There’s also a Glossary if you need to check out some of the terminology.

However, I thought I should check it out the views of friend who is a skilled guitarist, so I passed a copy to Andy Gibson to have a look at. Andy added some additional insights, perhaps the key one being to stress that you really do need to listen to the sound samples to appreciate the differences in sonic effect between the tunings. Specifically, the ‘Tears Of Morning Comparisons’ bring out “the differences in style, including clarity vs harmony and simplicity vs complexity…. It opened my ears to the reason behind certain styles and sounds – including why the Byrds sounded like they did – but I never realised the Everlys had used these techniques.  One never stops learning n’est-ce-pas?”

If you’re fans and it makes you more likely to read the book, I’ll also include Andy’s comment that Nick Drake and Martin Simpson are also two of the great exponents of re-entrant tuning, using it to great effect – “Drake for drone/rhythm effect and Simpson for melodic effect”.

Finally, it’s probably worth me also making the point that, although David is a fellow writer at folking.com, we’ve not met. There is, then, no pre-conceived partiality in my views that this is not just a technical book to improve your understanding of guitar tuning and improve your playing (though it’s all of that: “well-researched and technically interesting” was Andy’s summarising comment) but is also a book that reads well and is intelligently supported by music files.

Introduction to Nashville Tuning for Guitar has plenty for a non-expert as well as for someone skilled enough to pick up on David’s insights and start playing straight away.

It’s an absorbing read.

Mike Wistow

 Artist’s website:  https://whealalice.com

‘Marking Time 2’ – live:


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