Sun Tuning: An Introduction to "Open C"

     In the American folk tradition, guitar tunings are often named after the most iconic compositions composed within them. For example, in the mid-19th century an Ohian by the name of Henry Worrall wrote two pieces for parlor guitar, “The Siege of Sebastopol” and “Spanish Fandango”. The former was arranged for open D tuning (D,A,D,F#,A,D) and the latter for open G tuning (D,G,D,G,B,D). Colloquially, these tunings came to be known as “Vastapol” and “Spanish”. If you'd like to learn more about how parlor music and the Crimean war influenced the roots of the blues, check out this Salon article: http://www.salon.com/2014/03/23/talkin%E2%80%99_siege_of_sebastopol_blues_how_the_first_crimean_war_helped_create_rock_n_roll/.

     I propose that Open C tuning (C,G,C,G,C,E) henceforth be known as “Sun Tuning” in honor of the late, great John Fahey's “Sunflower River Blues”. I love this tuning. From “standard”, the lowest string goes two whole steps lower, and the highest string stays right where it is. It's a wide, enveloping tuning that will make you feel like you're basking on the banks of the Sunflower River, itself (the tune was named the Sunflower River which ran along the Dockery plantation in Mississippi, where the delta blues was born: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dockery_Plantation).

Read Fahey's thoughts on Open C here: http://www.johnfahey.com/CTuning.htm

Here are some helpful shapes to walk you through the C major scale. 

Here are some helpful shapes to walk you through the C major scale. 

A Brief Musical History of Robinson Earle

I started playing guitar at age ten after dabbling in saxophone and piano. I was instantly drawn to the sound, feel, and approachability of the instrument.

The fact that, with only three or four chords, one could play a seemingly endless number of songs was baffling to me. I was soon drawn to more complex arrangements, but it was this raw potential for creativity that made me fall in love. 

At age thirteen, I began lessons with John C. McCain. At first, I was smitten with Punk Rock music, but over the course of my time with John (who studied with some of the Jazz guitar greats, such as Geroge Van Eps and Tal Farlow) my musical palette was greatly expanded. Specifically, I found my true passion for the instrument through the music of Nic JonesPierre Bensusan, and Blind Willie Johnson. John also exposed me to Hindustani classical music, a seed which would blossom later in my musical career. 

Around the age fifteen, I was taught the rudiments of "piedmont picking" by the legendary blues guitarist, John Cephas. I was soon a devotee of acoustic blues guitar. 

By Junior year of high school I was writing and recording my own music, an occupation which would continue to this day. I attended Ohio University and earned dual bachelor degrees in Creative Writing and Spanish Literature. 

After college, I toured the country playing music and experiencing the land with my partner, Sara Belle Earle. We spent four months on the road, living out of a big black van lovingly dubbed "Lead Belly," gigging, and searching for the right place to land. 

Tour Van Lead Belly

Tour Van Lead Belly

Robinson touring in 2010.

Robinson touring in 2010.

One afternoon, we drove into the dense woodland of the North Carolina piedmont. 
We knew we had found home. 

In 2012, I began working for Sound Pure in Durham, NC, where I soon became the resident acoustic guitar specialist. In this role I managed the acoustic stock and developed a following on the company's YouTube page. I especially enjoyed describing a given guitar's innate possibilities and demonstrating these rich tonal varieties with skill, creativity, and precision for faraway listeners. To those in search of a new guitar to obsess over, I became a "guitar-whisperer" of sorts, capable of eliciting purity and emotion from any given combination of wood and wire, and guiding customers to the guitar which would best sing for them. 

Robinson and Leo Kottke in front of the Acoustic wall at Soundpure.

Robinson and Leo Kottke in front of the Acoustic wall at Soundpure.

I studied various guitar styles to accurately showcase SoundPure's diverse acoustic inventory, and enjoyed honing my techniques and broadening my styles. I continue to seek new musical styles to add to my repertoire, and am currently studying Indian classical music with Viswas Chitnis, playing traditional ragas in a non-traditional manor with a slide guitar.