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College of Extended Learning

Guitar: Alternate Tunings

CCOM 1054

Explore expand and explode your guitar world by learning alternate tunings. Old time blues players used a variety of weird tunings. Keith Richards used open tunings for all the Rolling Stones work. Players like Ry Cooder, Kurt Cobain, Joni Mitchell and Bruce Cockburn use a wide variety of different tunings to get their sounds.

In this course, you will start with learning how to create simple open tunings with a capo. Then, you will learn how to re-tune your guitar, to learn about the various families of different open tunings, and the variations of major, minor, and modal. You’ll learn about the Nashville number system of naming chords, which will enable you to play in any key, any tuning easily.

Each week, instructor Sandy MacKay will present a new tuning, and give you the chord charts to enable you to find your way around. You’ll learn a simple song each week using the new tuning, to familiarize you with the new tuning, to then use it on your own works or your favourite songs.

Course details

Upcoming dates: TBA (Coming FALL 2018)
Time: p.m. - 4 p.m.
Location: Saint John Social Enterprise Hub
139 Prince Edward Street
Room TBA
Course fee: $49 (+ HST)
Instructor: Sandy MacKay


Students are required to bring an acoustic guitar, a clip-on tuner (like a Snark, available at every music store, approx. $20), and an open clamp-style capo (Kaiser, Schub, etc.) to class.

About the instructor

Sandy MacKay has been playing guitar for more than 30 years, and he plays a variety of other instruments including double bass, banjo, mandolin, piano and bagpipes. He is a performing musician, and also works as a session musician on other artists’ recordings. His most recent solo work can be heard at

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