The first practical LucyTuned guitar was the Mk V, which was first made in
1986. It has twenty-five frets per octave.
The story of its design and construction can be found in chapter one of Pitch, Pi, and Other Musical Paradoxes . This is the design used by Arc-Angel and there are now a few hundred copies which have been made in all parts of the world. Although the design was patented, permission has been given for their non-commercial production for personal use. The design details have been evolving, and it is now proposed that new users start with the nineteen fret per octave model, and with experience add twelve further frets to make it thirty-one frets per octave.
Playing LucyTuned guitars
Diagram of LucyTuned and 12tET frettings
This design is intended to make the evolution from 12tET to LucyTuning as easy as possible for experienced musicians and new players. Although all frets, except the octave, are at different positions; the dots or marks found on the neck and fretboard of a conventional guitar are found at directly comparable positions on LucyTuned guitars. The familiar "landmarks" usually found at the 3, 5, 7, 9, and 12th frets on 12tET guitars, are placed at the bIII, IV, V, VI, and VIII positions. (i.e. C, D, E, and F# for the A (5th) string. This enables new users to use familiar open tunings and immediately navigate around the fretboard using familiar fingering.
When playing with more than 19 frets per octave you will use pairs of close frets. Placing your fingers below (towards the nut from) the pair will sound the flatter note. Playing on the pair will sound the sharper of the two notes.
You will notice that all the sharper of the notes sounded from the pairs will be in sharp keys; the lower of the pair being in flat keys.
Tuning LucyTuned guitars
Any tuning of the open strings may be used: conventional (EADGBE), slack key, alternative etc. yet each string will need to be referenced to A4 = 440 Hz. and other notes fine tuned (+/- a few cents). This may be done by matching to frets on adjacent strings, using "harmonics", or an electronic tuner. The tuning needs to be very precise, yet when you have got correct, it will be very apparent, for chords you play will sound very "in tune".
Using conventional tuning the changes are:
|Change (cents)||4.5 cents
Getting your own LucyTuned guitar
There are a number of options.
New Neck and fretboard
New necks can be manufactured for most solid guitars with any specified fretting by: John Carruthers, 346, Sunset Ave, Venice, California 90291. Phone1 (213) 392-3910 contact Jim Hetal.
Magnetic Fretboard Kits
Mark Rankin, (last seen in Phoenix, AZ.), mail at: Franklin City, Greensbackville, VA 23356, phone contact numbers 1 (714) 688-9894 and 1 (415) 658-1889 can provide a kit for interchangeable fretboards, which are held in position by a magnetic laminate.
DIY: You can produce your own, using magnetic laminate available from: Magna Visual Inc. 9400, Watson Road, St. Louis, Missouri 63126-1598: Voice 1 (314) 843-9000 or Fax 1 (314) 843-0000. ($15 for two sheets .045" x 12" x 24"). You will need to remove all frets and plane or sand down your fretboard to glue on a thin metal sheet (I have used thin galvanised roofing material), then cut the laminate to size, and attach the frets to the laminate.
You can then use the guitar fretless, or with a variety of interchangeable fretting systems.
You can get an existing guitar refretted by any competent luthier. I use
recommend: Colin Noden at Andy's
Guitar Shop, Denmark St. London W1. He is very
experienced and usually busy, yet does an excellent job. Most luthiers will
charge a couple of hundred dollars for the work, and will need the exact fret
positions which depend upon your nut to bridge distance.
In the US, you might also try Glen Peterson.
If your instrument has other than 650 mm from nut to bridge, you will need to pro-rata the distances, or EMail to Charles Lucy from here. (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your nut to bridge distance (in inches or millimeters) to get the AmigaBasic or spreadsheet program or a file of the output.
DIY: Doing it yourself is the least expensive route. Remove all the frets. Fill the holes with Plastic Wood. Allow to dry overnight. Sand the board and stick masking tape over it so that you can mark out the fret positions. Draw a straight line from the centre of the nut to the centre of the bridge as a reference for fret alignment, and mark each fret position. Cut fret grooves; remove the masking tape, insert the frets; secure them; trim; file; dress; set up guitar and enjoy playing your LucyTuned guitar.
I suggest 19 frets per octave initially, so that you can add more frets later as you gain playing experience. Use mandolin fretwire for the second octave, so that there will be space for the extra frets later.
Fret positions for LucyTuned 19 & 31 frets per octave instruments.
Distance from Nut to Bridge = 650 (millimetres)
(for other other nut to bridge distances, values can be pro-rated)
Diagram of LucyTuned and12tET frettings
(* = marks)
Nut to fret
of 19 for
of 31 for
|Large (L) and
Intervals from nut.
for second octave
Nut to fret
of 19 for
of 31 for
|A||I||-||Nut||Nut||Zero & 5L+2s||325.0||19||31|
copyright 1994 - 2001 LucyScaleDevelopments.
A spreadsheet for guitars, and other fretting systems for user defined nut to bridge lengths can be used by downloading and running an Excel spreadsheet, which may be found from:
Download spreadsheet in .xls format
The old Yamaha acoustic in the photo at the start of this webpage was given to me by Steve Rumph (Cotton), who used to be the drummer for Steppenwolf. Cotton and I were born on the same day in 1946: I in Cheltenham England; he in Georgia USA. He writes wonderfully poetic lyrics in a country music style. Cotton had replaced the A (5th) string on it with the thinnest string E (1st)., and tuned it two octaves higher than usual. This way he could use conventional fingering and produce novel voicings.
The guitar had originally been white, yet when I got it had been stripped down to the bare wood. He had removed the finger plate, and left the brass nut for me. Whilst working with Steve Hammond and Rick Jones, years later, on a musical in Los Angeles, I woke one morning to find that Rick had decorated it with acrylic paint, during the night, to be as you see it today.
I have always used light-gauge strings on it, as although they can don't have the volume and low frequencies you hear with heavier strings, they make it much easier on your left hand to bend notes, as you play.
Guitar Picks (Plectrums in UK speak)
Fingerpicking requires careful nail manicuring. I have usually found it more convenient to use guitar picks. Having bought and tried every commercial type of pick over the past forty years, I have settled on a very cheap and versatile solution for everyday use. You cut them, with scissors, from plastic washing up liquid bottles. .Fairy Liquid (Uk brand) works well. A rough diamond shape, about 6 cm high and 4 cm wide, is perfect. Folded in half this lets you use the flexible doubled ends for strumming, and the stiff folded corners for single notes. To change from one style to the other rotate the folded diamond pick through 90 degrees, and choose any level of thick and stiffness by the angle of rotation and the position of the fold.
Alternative "Open" Tunings
Many guitarists have experimented with alternative "open" tunings, to make fingering easier. There is a second reason, which although less obvious, is even more valuable. Many songwriters and composers retune their instruments as a way of breaking out of the "hard-wired" patterns that their fingers use to move between notes and chords. (Same fingering: different notes.) You habitually know what note to expect when you play a particular position in conventional tuning. Changing the tuning can result in some pleasant and useful surprises.
Here are some of the more common
Alternative tunings said to have been used by Nick Drake
Notes 6-1 Fret Changes Notes Used ScaleCode
EADGBE 000000 GDEAB 4/0
BEBEBE: 779900 BE 1/0
CGCFCE: -4-2-2-210 FCG--E 5/34
BBDGBE: 720000 GD-EB 4/3
EADF#BE: 000-100 DAEBF# 4/0
EADEBE: 000-300 DAEB 3/0
GGDGBD: 3-200-2 GD--B 4/34
DADGBD: -2000-2 GDA-B 4/4
DADF#AD: -200-1-2-2 DA--F# 4/34
EADGAE: 0000-20 GDAE 3/0
AADEBE: 500-300 DAEB 3/0
CGCFGE: -4-2-2-2-40 FCG--E 5/45
There are other many ways that you can change the open tuning of guitars and basses. A table of many of these alternative, open and slack key guitar tunings can be found at: Alternative Open Guitar and Bass tunings
Download printable version of this page (Adobe .pdf)
Spreadsheet as html for 650 mm LucyTuned guitar
Download spreadsheet in .xls format