The Jose Gonzales ‘Heartbeats Tuning’

Whenever I play a gig in a Restaurant or Pub, there will always be two different types of people watching: the musicians and the non-musicians. Whenever there is a musician present, I will always get one of the following questions:

  • What guitar is that? (It is usually my Baby Taylor BT2e or sometimes my Fender CP-140)

Or usually…

  • What the hell is that tuning?

The tuning question always gets a strange response after I tell the person who asked it what it is. It starts with a little bit of confusion, followed by a moment of deep inner thought and meditation and finally a moment of enlightenment. Trust me, although random it’s the exact same every time. I do drag the story out to be more mystical than it seems, but there certainly is a mystery to this tuning.

The Heartbeats tuning, as I call it, goes as follows (starting from the Low E):

  • D A D F# B E

In my own unorthodox Music Theory Terms, it is a half Open D tuning mixed with half of Standard Tuning. It in turn provides this open and wide feel to it – as if every time it is strummed, it is asking a question.

The tuning itself holds a lot of purpose to me, first discovering it when I was 14 years old. A singing teacher I had at the time put me onto a video of Jose Gonzales performing a cover of Heartbeats. Just him, his guitar and a strange tuning.

The tone he had over the guitar and they way in which he played, it was simply magical. I studied that video at home for hours and hours on end, trying my hardest to figure out what the hell he was doing to get the sound he was. On figuring out the tuning, I was set to go. I threw that beautiful combination of notes into everything I was doing. It allowed me to finally write songs the way I wanted to. It got me into recording studios. By the end of the next month, I had my first song played on the Radio (I’ll Be Moving On).

The tuning opened (quite literally) so many doors for me and still continues to today. I’ve just finished production on one of my tracks that uses that tuning. I’ll be filming my first music video at the end of the month because of it.

This particular set of notes has done so much of me in my own life. And yet it isn’t mine own. It never will be anyones to posses. Not even Jose Gonzales can claim it for himself.

It is simply a tool to be used. So go ahead and use it.