tunings

Many of you have been asking about where to find music transcriptions of Will's songs. Hal Leonard print music publishers now offer THE WILLIAM ACKERMAN COLLECTION, transcriptions of 14 of Will's favorite pieces. Additional sheet music of Will's compositions is included in the WINDHAM HILL GUITAR SAMPLER, also published by Hal Leonard. Both are available online at MusicDispatch.com. Patrick Breen has assembled a brilliant book on open tunings, collecting them from players all over the world. For those seriously interested in exploring open tunings this collection is tremendously helpful.

I use open tunings exclusively. Almost every piece has its own tuning and a rather lengthy list has evolved over the years. It makes for some difficulty logistically when I perform because I need someone to assist in tuning and am forced to travel with a veritable arsenal of guitars. The tunings are all over the place and some work successfully on one guitar and not on another due to string tension, setup and gauge of string. I use D'Addario light gauge phosphor bronze strings.

The point of the open tunings for me is to eliminate intellect from the process of writing. In having a new tuning in front of me, I have no choice but to explore this new landscape in a very improvisational way. The process becomes one of discovery rather than composition and relies more on the emotions than intellect. This is not a value judgment by any means; as a self-taught player who is completely non-academic, I feel some embarrassment at being so ignorant. On the other hand, from time to I achieve my goal of writing music that is honest and communicates emotion effectively and I'm really quite content with that objective and role.

There are rare situations where the pitch of a song may be different than what is on a CD. This is because I recorded the piece more than once at different pitches or because I am currently playing a different guitar than the one used for the original recording and prefer a different pitch for that instrument. In these cases, moving the capo around a half-step or two should net the right tuning and pitch. Where a capo is used (in almost all cases), the note values are for the open notes with the capo on. There are also cases where a piece is not in perfect pitch, especially on the early recordings, a product of a soloist who was more concerned with the cost of broken strings than about perfect pitch.

There are many pieces for which I have lost the tuning. I am digging around in Windham Hill archives trying to fill in the blanks and will add anything I find to this web-site at a later date.

Will Ackerman
Windham County, Vermont

Note: For guitarists interested in open tunings, I've come across a great little book by Patrick Breen which does a lot to introduce players to a range of open tunings used by Michael Hedges, Alex deGrassi, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, David Crosby and myself among others. The book is available for $16.95 (incl. shipping within US) from This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , 12232 NW Barnes Rd. #80, Portland, OR 97229.

WILL ACKERMAN TUNINGS by album

IN SEARCH OF THE TURTLES NAVEL

Song Title capo tuning
Pink Chiffon Tricycle Queen 2 FBbFACD
Ely 0 EBEG#BE
Windham Mary 2 G#BDF#BF
Processional 5 G#C#G#BD#E
The Second Great Tortion Bar Overland of West Townshend, Vermont, Jose Pepsi Attending 5 G#C#G#BD#G#
What the Buzzard Told Suzanne 0 C#F#C#G#BF#
Barbara's Song 0 DADADF
Gazos 0 DADF#AC#
Slow Motion Roast Beef Restaurant Seduction 2 G#G#D#F#C#D#

IT TAKES A YEAR

Song Title capo tuning
Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter 5 GCFBbD#G#
Balancing 0 GBDGAD
Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit 2 D#BD#BbBF#
It Takes a Year 5 BbBbFBbCF
The Townshend Shuffle 0 DADADF#
Tribute to the Philosophy of James Estell Bradley 0 DADF#AD
The Search for the Turtle's Navel 0 F#BDABD
Rain Sequence (From the Townshend Shuffle) 0 C#G#C#G#C#F
The Rediscovery of Big Bug Creek, Arizona 2 F#C#F#BbC#F#

CHILDHOOD & MEMORY

Song Title capo tuning
The Wall and the Wind 2 FCEACF#
Anne's Song 5 BD#F#G#D#F#
Childhood and Memory 5 C#FG#G#D#F#
Seattle 5 F#C#F#F#C#F#
Murray's Song 2 FBbDFAD
Bodie 5 GEADEA

PAST LIGHT

Song Title capo tuning
Visiting 2 BF#D#F#C#F#

CONFERRING WITH THE MOON

Song Title capo tuning
Conferring with the Moon 5 BbD#F#BbF#G#
Climbing In Geometry 5 BbD#F#BbF#G#
Improv and Big Thing in the Sky 5 ADFAFG
The Last Day at the Beach 5 GDFAEG
Singing Crocodile 2 G#G#EFBD#
Shape of the Land 5 G#D#FBbFG

IMAGINARY ROAD

Song Title capo tuning
The Moment P* DADGAD
Wondering Again P* DADGAD
Brother A Teaches 7 P* DADGAD
If you Look 5 GCD#BbD#F
Darrow's Barn 5 G#CD#BbD#F
A Region of Clouds 0 FG#CG#BbD#
Innocent Moon 2 EEAEBE
Dawn Treader 2 D#G#D#GCD#
Floyd's Ghost 5 G#C#D#F#FF

THE OPENING OF DOORS

Song Title capo tuning
The Opening of Doors P* FBbD#CD#F
Last Dance 0 C#F#BbFC#D#
Santos and the Well-Traveled Bear 5 F#D#F#BC#F#

SOUND OF WIND DRIVEN RAIN

Song Title capo tuning
Shella's Pictures 5 F#C#D#BbBD#
A Child's Song P* GGCFEG
Driving 5 G#D#G#BbD#D#
Lion's in the Sky 5 FCG#BbC
F Unconditional P* DBDF# DG
Sound of Wind Driven Rain 2 C#G#FF#C#D#
Wings On The Water 2 BF#C#F#C#D#
I Know This River 5 GDGADF#
Hawk's Circle 5 BD#F#G#D#F#
Mr. Jackson's Hat 5 F#BEBBD#

HEARING VOICES

Song Title capo tuning
Before We Left This All Behind 2 C# G# D# F# C# F
For The Asking 2 E G E G# C# D#
Somewhere in all the Green 2 F# A E F# B C#
Illumina 2 E G E G# C# D#
Beneath the Tree P* E B C E G E
His Old Eyes 2 F C E G B E
Happy Ending 2 C# G# C# F C D#

RETURNING (2004)

Song Title capo tuning
Bricklayer's Beautiful Daughter 5 G,C,F,Bb,D#,G#
Anne's Song 5 B,D#,F#,G#,D#,F#
Impending Death of the Virgin Spirit 2 D,Bb,D,A,Bb,F
Pictures 5 G,D,E,B,C,E
Hawk Circle 5 B,D#,F#,G#,D#,F#
Barbara's Song 0 D,B,F#,B,F#,B
Unconditional P* D,B,D,F#,D,G
Visiting 2 B,F#,D#,F#,C#,F#
Processional 5 G#,C#,G#,B,D#,E
In a Region of Clouds 0 F,G#,C,G#,A#,D#
Last Day at the Beach 5 G,D,F,A,E,G

* These pieces are played on a Martin Parlor Guitar (a half size guitar) using the following string guages low to high: 26W; 18W; 17; 09; 15; 09 - The "W" indicates a wound string as opposed to a strand string.

 

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