In August 2022, the Emerald Guitars Kevin Kastning Signature Series 25-string Double Contraguitar was completed. I liked it so much that it was immediately pressed into service in recording sessions within days of its arrival. I was quite taken with its voice and responsiveness. I experimented with different baritone and contra tunings and registers, and eventually decided on a double E contra tuning. I came to use and love this instrument so much that I knew I wanted a second one to use in different registers and tunings. In late autumn 2022, I began working with Emerald to design another similar instrument.
For this new instrument, I wanted different registers and tunings than what I had with the 25-string. Therefore, this instrument is in double D subcontra tunings. It also has wider necks than the 25 to accommodate the heavier strings required for subcontra tunings.
The 24-string arrived here in February 2023, and is spectacular. To Alistair Hay and everyone at Emerald Guitars Ireland: my sincere gratitude.
The tuning is subcontra D tuning, which is one octave and one whole step below concert E tuning. This is also one whole step below E bass tuning.
D subcontra tuning is very rich, and perhaps more resonant than E contra
tuning. I'm very drawn to these darker colors, and compose/perform differently
with them than in other higher-pitched tunings. My approach to each instrument
changes based on its tuning and register.
Currently, both sides of the 24 are in octaves. I've yet to devise intervallic tunings for it, but have already started work on this part of the project. I'll likely keep it in octaves for another few weeks so as to learn its voice in a subcontra tuning. Octave tunings are great for that. Once I feel that I know this new voice better, then I'll devise new non-octave-based tunings for both sides.
I started using subcontra tunings in 2022. I find that they provide new textures and colors that are otherwise inaccessible. This points me in new directions, and opens previously unknown territories. I greatly look forward to discovering and learning more about these directions and weaving this fabric into my approach.
I'll be incorporating this double subcontra in some upcoming album recording projects.
Since the 24 arrived, I've added four Keith D-tuners. This provides a total of eight (8) different tunings all at once. The magical thing about the Keith tuners is that you can preset them for two different pitches; it can be any two pitches. In other words, I might want to change my high E to a C# or D# tuning. I can set the tuner for those two pitches, and then move between them instantly by turning the tuner key about 1/4 turn. There are set stops in the tuner, so I can't go past them; each stop is perfectly in tune. Now I can instantly change tunings in a performance/recording situation. Prior to the Keith tuners, that was a hard impossibility.
With the new D subcontra register, new tunings devised specifically for that register, and the eight instantly-available tunings thanks to the Keith tuners, the 24 brings many new artistic possibilities and deep potential.
- Kevin Kastning
In the following photo, the two small silver and black dials on the side of the Keith tuners control the tuning presets.
As of 2.15.23, both necks are in D sub-contra tuning.
|D sub-contra tuning|