Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: John Fruscinate’s out-of-tune guitar

One of the biggest songs the Red Hot Chili Peppers ever released is “Scar Tissue” from the Californication album. If you’re a guitarist and you’ve tried to play it, you’ll notice that there’s something wonky with what John Frusciante plays. His guitar is actually out of tune. The B string was slightly off—slightly flat—which lends a special sonic quality to everything that he plays.

The technical term is “microtonal,” which describes the sounds that lie between the standard twelve notes of the Western chromatic scale.

This B-string’s out-of-tune-ness—which was a total accident, by the way, not done consciously and went completely unnoticed by everyone during the record session—somehow adds some extra expression to the song. So if you’re a guitarist and you want to get “Scar Tissue” right, loosen up that B-string just a tiny bit.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38158 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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