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About Robbie Basho's style and musical philosophy:

Trying to describe the music of Robbie Basho with tabulature and tunings is only half of the truth. The main thing is the vision to find the essence of cultures and places: the hue of nature's colors to paint with guitar and voice. Robbie's early compositions were often rough-hewn, long-winding gems full of expression and romantic visions and rooted in the new folk scene of the late 50s/ early 60s (Washington, Berkeley...).(He talked about creating "Zen-Buddhist-Cowboysongs"....) Along with his studies of flamenco techniques, blues, classical music, bluegrass, Oriental, American Indian and Hindu textures (the entire universe is potential), and his experiments to find alternative tunings to express a wide range of emotions and colors, he became one of the pioneers, besides John Fahey, of the contemporary steel-string guitar and the most important forerunner of the later New Age movement. However, Robbie's music expresses more than contemplative beauty -it is dramatic art. With his simple philosophy "soul first -technique later", Robbie developed his own musical universe to marry the spirit and rhythms of Eastern philosophies with Western folk and classical approaches. His style was a study of various different playing techniques with very complex right-hand picking patterns (using the fingernails) and a great left-hand freedom, often working very linear up the neck.In his later years he claimed to use about 30 seperate tunings and various picking-styles. But his overriding interest was not to play a technical contest or sound exotic, but to broaden the dimensions of what we know as our own.



Robbie Basho's Esoteric Doctrine of Color & Mood for 12&6 string guitar

(published in the album notes of the first "The Seal of the Blue Lotus" issue)

basic chord chart

E purple grey 'blues',classic, normal  
Em black, dark-blue blues pathetique, soul black religious black rose, sombre-evil
C yellow, pristine white sunshine  
D green quiet pastoral Runnymede, Irish meadowlands
Dm dark green, violet-grey-black darkness, agony-death thin smoky silver
A red, sunset brave ochre wine & roses in some blues, the alternate grey-blue form
Am oakbrown, carmina dolorous solid sorrow mature  
F orange-white orange creamsicle,deep orange  
B burnished carmine brown-red    
Bm blood red bravado-danger batfang-romilar red fantasies

modal tunings chart

open G dark blue, purple-pink deep blues, mountain snows International Tuning: Tibet-India-Japan-Blues all purpose
open D forest green   closed D full , Joe Spence
Dm grey black-green midevil onyx projection, night heron green,
Buffy Saint Marie
Dm modal
frog minor
grey-black green anguish death  AC+DC
full sweetness
most solid model, tight boundaries
Tolley D light green spring twilight tone
fleeting west-sausilito
mint texture, western lullaby
utilizing the cocktail string
C sunyellow, gold, emeraldgreen majestic, grand symphonic                Krisna
B   experimental Irish Mystic-leading to japanese images
E black blues Fahey -Sullivan Blind Willy Johnson
Gm7 black wash Black Nirvana reverent Black Lotus Fugen Tuning
Mary Koth
Cm Holy Gold Pattonwhite auric reverence, The Grail Chord Chord for Orthodox Christian Mysticism of
Oriental origen


Some Robbie Basho guitar tunings (more soon):

(Robbie played many variations of the open C tuning. Note, that he tuned his 12string guitar between 3 and 6 half steps lower
(on his earlier records mostly 4-6, later-Windham Hill- 3-4) because of the use of medium strings and how the guitars and strings
"worked" best for the tunings. Every guitar works different for a tuning; little bit lower or higher...
He always tried to find the best pitch for a good sound of a tuning.)

Open C(standard) CGCGCE ..Song of the Stallion, The Lady, She is in Waiting,
Scottish Rites, Variations on Grieg,
Variations on Claire De Lune....
C-2 CGCGCD - Song of the Queen, Roses and Snow
( Hopi Tuning )
Cmodal CGCGCC  
  CGCGCF - Green River Suite
C-41 CGCGBC - Turkish
C-14 CGCGG#C - Japanese (Tassajara-Zen)
C-43 CGCGBD - Rocky Mountain
Cminor CGCGCD# - The Grail and the Lotus
C-55 CGCFA#D# - The Montreal
C-32 CGCGA#C - California Raga
C-23 CAGAGC - Navaho Tuning
C-34 CGCGA#D - All American Indian Tuning
CGCD#GA# - Hymn to Fugen
D48435 DF#DF#AD - Venus in Cancer
D39343 DFDFAC - Nightway
DGDGBDb - Cathedrals et Fleur de Lis
DADF#ADb - Babs


Some handwritten tablatures, from Maurizio Angeletti's beautiful book "American Guitar" and from "The Awakener Magazine" are here...
Today Robbie Basho ist often seen just as a 12 string guitar player, but most of his recorded work is played on a 6 string, an old Weymann, made in the late '20s in Philadelphia.



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