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Answering a question about alternate tuning today got me thinking about Nashville Tuning and that this is basically the exact same concept used by Stanley Clarke (and apparently Ron Carter) to "invent" the Piccolo Bass.

This article attributes the invention to Ray Edenton; its reference to this article seems to imply the same... The wiki for Nashville Tuning and Ray Edenton do not reference this at all (I realize that Wikipedia does not always contain the most accurate or complete information) and the web doesn't turn up a lot of results otherwise.

Did he "invent" this method of adding thinner strings to an instrument in order to allow tuning to higher pitches? Does this method have roots even further back in time and potentially on other instruments?

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I am familiar with 'Nashville Strung' or 'High Strung' guitar situations, but not Nashville tuning.

In Nashville Strung, a standard six-string guitar is strung with the typical three light-guage (un-wound) on the bottom three strings, and the three upper (normally wound, heavier strings) are replaced with the same three light-gauge strings.

This creates a shimmering, sparkly sound that adds an interesting layer over the other typically-strung guitars in the recording.

I first heard about it in the late 1970's.

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  • Yes, those phrases all refer to Nashville Tuning... There is plenty of info about the concept itself out there on the web. I'm wondering who actually 'invented' it and when. And, if it's something that has roots even further back than last century – Tim Burnett - Bassist Nov 22 '19 at 9:41
  • Please could you clarify? "the typical three light-guage (un-wound) on the bottom three strings" -- where light-gauge strings are typically put is on the top strings. "the three upper (normally wound, heavier strings)" -- this is backwards; higher strings need to be lighter, and lower strings heavier. "are replaced with the same three light-gauge strings" -- so that's G3 B3 E4 G3 B3 E4 -- is that right? – Rosie F Jan 24 at 7:44
  • @RosieF Actually you're both saying the same thing. You're counting pitch-wise, but standard guitar string counting is that the high E string is string number "one" or the "first" string. That's why Sparquelito called the high E, B, and G strings "bottom three" as in strings 1-2-3. – NickGrooves Jan 28 at 8:06
  • @NickGrooves I know that a string instrument's strings are numbered from top to bottom. But numbering is not an issue with Sparquelito's answer because they didn't mention numbers. The issue seems to be that they called the top strings the bottom strings and the lower strings the upper strings. String I is the top string even though it gets the lowest number. (And high/low don't refer to physical position when being played -- the idea that they do has caught some other people out in other questions on music.SE.) – Rosie F Jan 28 at 8:37
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The guitar was developed in Spain around the same time as the mandola family in northern Italy. Both evolved from the lute which entered Europe via the court of Palermo. There were and have been many variations of number of strings and string gauges in both families ever since. Attributing "invention" to an alternate tuning or alternately-strung instrument is misguided. For example, one would not say the "Trumpet in C" or a "prepared piano" are new inventions.

Case in point, this PBS article on the history of guitar in North America describes the first "guitar" brought to the New World by explorers as having "five sets of double strings." The article goes on:

By 1800 the six string instrument known today had evolved in southern Europe and was brought over ... By the turn of the [20th] century, improved techniques allowed manufacturers like Martin (founded 1833) and Gibson (founded 1894) to offer steel-string guitars. When played with picks, this allowed a much brighter, louder sound ... one inventory in 1900 reported that over 78,000 guitars had been manufactured that year. Throughout the 1920s, American musicians set about inventing new ways to tune and note these instruments ...

There are many off-shoots of the guitar and bass worldwide which have more strings and/or are tuned differently. The guitar itself has not changed in concept or been re-"invented" merely because the string material or tuning is different.

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