CGDGCD tuning – and some brilliant playing from Doug Young

I’ve recently been experimenting with a new guitar tuning (for me, that is) – CGDGCD, sometimes referred to as ‘Orkney’ tuning (I don’t know why!). I first heard of it from local Edmonton musician Dana Wylie, who is a real expert at using it, but I left it alone for a while. Now I’ve had a go at it and I have to say that I’m really enjoying the particular voicings it makes possible. Like many alternative tunings, it doesn’t really have many ‘chords’; it’s more useful for picking out tunes with combinations of two or three strings at a time.

Martin Simpson has used it (‘Little Musgrave’, ‘Polly on the Shore’, ‘Mother Love’), and he’s always worth listening today. However, today I found a lovely YouTube video by Doug Young of an old piece by the great Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan, played in this tuning. Here’s what Doug says on his YouTube page:

This is an arrangement of a tune by Turlough O’Carolan, the 17th-18th century Irish harpist and composer. Princess Royal, which also goes by the name Miss MacDermot, first caught my ear via an arrangement by Portland area guitarist Anton Emery. Anton created a wonderful arrangement in CGDGCD tuning. You can hear him play it and get tab for his arrangement at:…

I started to learn his arrangement and ended up making so many modifications for my own taste, that I think I can justify calling this my own arrangement, but it owes a huge debt to Anton’s version, as I’m sure you can hear if you check out his recording. He came up with most of the cool parts and did the work of laying it out in CGDGCD tuning. I tried to keep my take on the tune a little more free, less strict in tempo, added more bass movement and harmony variations, added an intro, and so on.

I’m playing here on a Lowden O22, cedar top, mahogany back and sides. The recording was done with my usual setup – Schoeps CMC6/Mk41 mics plugged into a Zoom H4n recorder. Video was shot with a Panasonic GH2, Canon HF200 and Sanyo Xacti. Edited in a trial version of Final Cut Pro X, my first attempt to learn the new program, so I played around a bit with some of the effects and so on.

Here’s the video:

2 thoughts on “CGDGCD tuning – and some brilliant playing from Doug Young

  1. Craig Orrell

    Thanks for sharing this gem of a piece of music. I’m just venturing into the world of altered tunings. Wish I’d done it years ago

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