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.

comments about Robbie

  • 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

    Doctrine Part1 Doctrine Part2

  • 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

    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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