John Fahey and the Open C

by Frederik Nielsen, Sep 9, 2018 . 3 min read

John Fahey and the Open C

Today we’re going to listen to some John Fahey — old, but gold. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the Open C alternate tuning. Here’s how you change your guitar’s tuning to Open C using your Roadie:

#1: Turn on your Roadie

#2: Open the Roadie app

#3: Go to Tunings

#4: Select ‘Open C’

#5: Put Roadie to tuning peg

John Fahey ranks as number 35 on the Rolling stone list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”, and no wonder. The guy is the godfather of American Primitive Guitar, which is a fingerstyle guitar music genre. Primitivism didn’t originate in the music industry, but rather in the fine arts space. So what’s American Primitive Guitar? Does it involve playing tunes on a badly constructed DIY guitar made out of wooden boards?

Actually, no. What Fahey did was create avant-garde and neo-classical (yes, those are genres) music using fingerpicking techniques from the country and blues scenes. The style involves a lot of dissonance and minor tunings. As a minimalist, Fahey was a fan of the space in between the notes, which he regarded as much part of a song as the notes themselves. A bit like negative space in graphic design. Fahey’s innovative work became popular, and spawned other musicians like Leo Kottke and Peter Lang who used the techniques throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

It has to be heard to be understood, so check out Fahey’s song ‘Poor Boys Long Way From Home’:

Fahey was very inspired by the likes of Delta blues musician Charley Patton, and if you listen to some of Patton’s music you can hear the similarities:

Fahey, of course, did not pull a Led Zeppelin and outright steal the work of others. Rather, he put his own twist on the blues classics and thus gave birth to the American Primitive Guitar genre. Like Joni Mitchell, who we’ve recently covered, Fahey was a fan of alternate tunings. His favorite, however, was the Open C (CGCGCE). You can hear this alternate tuning on several of his songs, most notably ‘Sunflower River Blues’:

You can also hear it on ‘Funeral Song for Mississippi John Hurt’:

Unfortunately, John Fahey is no more — but his website is. There is a section just for guitar players, and you can check out his guide to C tuning here. You can also check out our Complete Guide to Guitar tuning here.



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Take advantage of our biggest backer-exclusive discounts and get your hands on this next-generation automatic tuner. Back the Kickstarter campaign today and be the first to receive the Roadie 3.

You know the saying: “Give people their flowers while they can smell them” so, in this post, we’re going to look through some of the greatest jazz guitarists playing today…

Frederik Nielsen
Sep 13, 2021 . 3 min read

These 5 facts about Guns N’ Roses can help us understand why they became one of the biggest rock bands ever.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 16, 2021 . 6 min read

These 7 facts about Jimi Hendrix partially show why he is such a massive influence on guitar players. They also reveal a very unique career that is impossible to be duplicated.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 12, 2021 . 6 min read

A list of the best fingerstyle guitarists is a tough one to make. Instrumental fingerstyle guitar has crawled its way into the mainstream more and moreover the last few years, but it’s still swamped by almost every other genre.

Evan Ceretti
Jun 29, 2021 . 6 min read

We recently covered how different kinds of arthritis can affect your guitar playing. We also provided some tips on how to avoid it.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 21, 2021 . 3 min read

Johnny Cash, one of country music’s most influential singers sadly passed away in 2003; His words and music live on, continuing to have a profound effect on listeners.

Evan Ceretti
Jun 14, 2021 . 5 min read

The 4 lies musicians tell themselves are truly baffling. Each of them are indefensible and together they form a sure stairway to failure. However, all these lies have a common denominator: lack of any kind of work ethic.

Rodrigo Sanchez
May 24, 2021 . 4 min read

These 4 legendary recording studios that are active today have survived a plethora of adversities.

Rodrigo Sanchez
May 21, 2021 . 4 min read

The top 5 young guitar players today seem to defy the odds. You need a lot of time to get really good at something like playing an instrument.

Rodrigo Sanchez
May 10, 2021 . 3 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!