The Amazing A6th Tuning
(same as C6th with a high G note)
Musical arrangements by David J. Stewart | Sweetnin' tabs are toward bottom
For many years I avoided the A6th tuning, having been taught as a new player that the A6th was used mostly for western swing, used by earlier players such as Herb Remington and Leon McAuliffe. Since I was an E9th and C6th pedal steel player, I avoided the A6th, errantly thinking that it was an entirely different tuning.
Years later I decided to seriously take up lap steel and focus mainly on the C6th tuning since it offered the most chord availabilities and I was already somewhat familiar with the basic tuning.
I also fell in love with the B11th tuning, since it is as Hawaiian as you can get, with beautiful sounding chords (used in melodic songs such as: Sand, Hana, Mapuana, How D'Ya Do, et cetera). Barney Isaacs Jr. makes use of some great diminished chords on the B11th neck in the awesome song, Moon of the Southern Sea. He starts off playing the C6th and switches over to B11th toward the end. The B11th neck is rich in chords and I think, sadly under-played by steel guitarists today.
Although I had advanced in non-pedal C6th and B11th, I had still avoided the A6th, not having too much interest in Western Swing. But then one day I took a closer look at the A6th and realized that it was nothing more than the C6th tuning with a high G-note on top (but all the strings dropped 3 tones lower). I had been playing the Western Swing tuning all along, just without making use of a high G (or a high E in the case of the A6th tuning). Having realized that, I have begun to use the A6th tuning much more, since it offers a lower tuning with more string warmth. I love the distinct sound of a high 5th note in the scale (which is a "G" on C6th and "E" on A6th), which Herb Remington used in his hit instrumental; song, SWEETNIN'. The 5th note in any scale is also musically called the DOMINANT note. The first note is the TONIC. The 4th note of any scale is called the SUB-DOMINANT.
I could have just as easily called this webpage "The Amazing C6th Tuning," but it's the same either way (just 3 tones apart). If you tune the lowest note on the A6th up one note to a "G", you now have an A13th. This is identical to using a Bb on the bottom string of the C6th tuning. A "G" on the bottom of the A13th gives you a nice 7th chord.
I have made a very nice Band-in-a-Box track of STEEL GUITAR RAG (with real instruments, having a clean Country guitar intro and solo in the song). Here's a similar version in the key of A, but the guitar solo is different. The song is in the key of A so you can play those great open string licks. In fact, I've tabbed out the basic song for you to learn below in A6th. You certainly don't need 8-strings, 6 works just fine too. Here's a track in the key of C if you prefer C6th. Here's a version of STEEL GUITAR RAG in the key of Eb if you want to play it on the 3rd fret of the C6th tuning instead.
If you play C6th instead, with a high G note on top (i.e., string #1), then you would simply play the song on fret #9 (which is the key of A, but you couldn't play the open string licks). If you get a program called MixCraft (I have version 5.1), then you can easily transpose the track to any key you'd like without losing any quality. You can also change the tempo to faster or slower to your own musical tastes, and then mix it down as a .WAV, .MP3 or other file formats when ready.
But I hope you'll give the A6th a try. If you're used to having a high E on your C6th tuning (without the high G), then just play everything one string lower on the A6th and it's all exactly the same. You'd have to do the same thing anyway if you added a high G to your C6th tuning, i.e., now your 2nd string is E. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it's a matter of your tastes. The big thing that I learned was that the only difference between the standard C6th tuning and the so-called “Western Swing” tuning, is the high G string on top (or in the case of A6th, a high E.). Pretty neat!
STEEL GUITAR RAG in A6th
*Steel guitarist virtuoso Mike Neer has some great advanced tabs and top quality backing tracks for Coconut Grove (A7th), Sweetnin' (A6th - Mike tabs it exactly like the original song) and other cool songs. The A7th tuning (high to low: E, C#, A, F#, E, C#, Bb, G) provides some awesome chord expansion for C6th fans. Herb Remington's A6th (high to low: E, C#, A, F#, E, C#, A, A bass) is really cool. The A6th is simply a C6th with a high G lowered 3 half tones. You've got to try these tunings! It's worth the cost just for the professional backing tracks!
Most brass band instruments are commonly tuned and played in Bb, which is fret one on the A6th. On a C6th you'd have to play Bb on the 10th fret. I prefer to play my songs in keys that fall on the first 5 frets of the steel guitar. For example: I've never liked playing "Beyond the Reef" in the key of G on fret 7 of the C6th tuning. I like the warm tone of the lower strings. So I like to play "Beyond the Reef," as well as other songs in a key that will allow me to play on frets 3 or 5, or sometimes on the 2nd fret so I can incorporate some open string work in the song. It's a matter of preference. There are advantages of playing "Beyond the Reef" in the key of G on the 7th fret of a C6th, utilizing open strings, but I like to play the song on fret 5 in the key of F.
Learn C6th Chords for Lap Steel
I took the following picture while on Oahu, Hawaii in January of 2008. It is such a beautiful place on earth. Despite the ruin of paradise isle by commercialization, urbanization and modernization... Hawaii is still an awesome place on God's green earth.
I took the following picture while driving around the island of Oahu. Hukilau Beach is way up north on Kamehameha Highway. I remember there's some surf shops and a fresh shrimp farm in the area. Hukilau anyone?
More Song Tabs
Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to Heaven!