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A Simple Guide to Tesseract Tuning [2021 Edition]

If you’re interested in Tesseract tuning and which alternate tunings this band uses in their music, you’ve come to the right post!

For context, I’ve played the guitar since 2003.

And although I don’t know all there is to know about the guitar, I thought I’d share what I found about Tesseract’s alternate tunings in this post!

Tesseract: Progressive Metal Masters

Tesseract started in the early 2000s as guitarist Alec Kahney’s project. The band has changed singers over the years. But the instrumentalists have remained the same.

Kahney is accompanied by another guitarist in the band, James Monteith. Along with them are bassist Amos Williams, drummer Jay Postones, and singer Daniel Tompkins.

Together, they’ve pushed the limits of the progressive metal genre. Their four albums and three EPs feature some pretty intricate pieces.

You can think of their style as a loose combination of Meshuggah-like djent and classic Dream Theater-inspired prog. However, they’re still u unique band with their distinct style.

What Tunings Does Tesseract Use?

With such an innovative style also usually comes weird tunings. In fact, Kahney claims that he hasn’t played in standard tuning since the early 2000s.

Of course, it’s also important to note that Tesseract’s axemen use 7-string guitars. In particular, we’re looking into long-scale instruments.

A regular 7-string will come with a scale of 25.5 inches. Their guitars have 27 or 26.5 inches. Also referred to as baritone guitars, these allow them to go into lower tunings without strings feeling like rubber.

With that said, there are a few tunings that they have used. These are:

  • Bb1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-F3-Bb3-Eb4
  • Ab1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-F3-Bb3-Eb4
  • A1-E2-A2-D3-E3-A3-D4

Now, you may feel like that there’s something weird going on here. If so, then you’re not wrong. This is nothing like your usual distribution of intervals.

So in order to further understand what’s going on, I’ll dig deeper into each of these separately. Although unusual on their own, these tunings are similar to one another.

Bb1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-F3-Bb3-Eb4

Another way to write this tuning would be G#-F-A#-D#-F-A#-D#. But Kahney himself uses flats here rather than sharps. Regardless, both forms of notation are correct.

Taking a look at the four bottom strings, you will notice some conventional traits. There is a power chord on the bottom three strings, and then the 4th interval over it. It’s the same as with the drop A tuning on a 7-string but one semitone higher.

But then there are the top three strings. This is where things get a little weird. You have F, Bb, and Eb. Two neighboring strings build perfect 4th intervals. However, F is only a major 2nd interval from the previous string, the Eb.

As Alec Kahney explains, this is very similar to the D-A-D-G-A-D tuning on a 6-string guitar. This one is also known as Celtic tuning. If you look closer, it builds a D suspended 4th chord.

However, there are two very obvious differences with Tesseract’s Bb1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-F3-Bb3-Eb4 tuning. First, it starts with the low Bb1 note. Nonetheless, it still has the same distribution of intervals. It’s just a full perfect 4th interval lower.

Second, you have an additional string on top of this. And it’s another perfect 4th interval. Imagine having the same D-A-D-G-A-D tuning but with a high G string on top.

Yeah, this is pretty wild. However, Tesseract finds great use for this. In particular, it allows them to easily finger those complex extended chords.

This has pretty much been their regular tuning. They’ve used it on most of their material. Although weird to most of us, it’s the standard tuning for them.

You can check them out using this tuning on this live rendition of “Juno” from the “Sonder” album.

Ab1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-F3-Bb3-Eb4

Another tuning that they use is Ab1-F2-Bb2-Eb3-F3-Bb3-Eb4. Now, this one might seem even more complicated. But taking a closer look, we can notice that it’s very similar to the previous one.

Actually, there’s just one difference here. You just take the bottom string and go one whole step down. That’s all there is to it.

Nonetheless, this can mean a world of difference. The low Ab1 string is, well, pretty low. And the F2 above it builds a major 6th interval. This is what makes it even weirder compared to the band’s regular tuning explained above.

Their song “Smile” is written in this tuning. Check it out below. 

A1-E2-A2-D3-E3-A3-D4

Another tuning that they’ve also used is A1-E2-A2-D3-E3-A3-D4. Once again, this tuning might look crazy at first glance. But if you understood the previously-mentioned tunings, I assure you that this one won’t be hard.

As you can see, this is the same tuning as their main one. However, all strings are one semitone lower. And that’s about it. The distribution of intervals is the same.

This tuning is prominent on their 2013 album Altered State. More specifically, The Nocturne is a great example of a song in which they use this tuning. You can check it out below.

Things to Bear in Mind If You Want to Play in Tesseract Tuning

Firstly, what I should mention here is that Tesseract’s material is pretty hard to play. And even if you do manage to pull it off, the theory behind it is pretty wild.

But as far as tunings go, you also need to bear in mind that these are pretty unconventional. For instance, the bottom three strings are one semitone higher than usual. On the other hand, the top four strings are lower than usual.

Thus, you will have a hard time finding a hybrid string set to facilitate this tuning. However, it’s still possible to pull off. Kahney and Monteith both use .10-.59 gauges and long-scale guitars. These strings are relatively light.

If you want the same feel but don’t have a long-scale 7-string guitar, I suggest using slightly heavier strings. You can try with .11-.64. Or, even better, .11-.58 which has lighter bottoms but heavier tops.  

Tesseract Tuning: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped clarify Tesseract tuning and which alternate tunings this band uses!

And if you’re interested in reading more about alternate tunings that other bands use, check out the following posts:

As usual, feel free to let me know of any questions you may have about this or another subject in the comments below!

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