Guitar tablature & notation transcribed by Dave Blackburn
This is a very detailed transcription of Joni's guitar part to
Song for Sharon although minor differences from verse to verse
may exist in her exact patterns. It was made by removing the
vocal from the track and slowing it way down so the guitar part
could be heard clearly.
Facebook Discussion on playing the song:
Sue Tierney: Guitarists ... I am practicing Song for Sharon for my next series of instructional videos and want to complain about this tuning ... it’s so unusual and for some reason doesn’t like to stay in tune ... DACEGA ... WTF .. and I play along with the album and I have to put a capo on fret one to play along with her ... anybody else have experience with this song they’d like to share? It’s a really great song with lots of perfect lines ... of course ... thanks for listening to me gripe ..
Sam Stone It’s probably the easiest song of hers to play, almost like a three-chord (shape) deal. But man, those last two strings never stay in tune! The pitches waver when Joni plays it too! Poor JM’s pitch sensitivity must have been off the charts whenever she played that 9 minute song! I play it in Eb without the capo. I’ll take any amount of extra string tension I can get with that song! Lol
Dave Blackburn Sue, do what Sam recommends and tune Eb to Bb. You'll notice Joni uses a lot of Phase 90 wobble on her two guitars on this one, which helps smear the pitch problems. She's also playing an electric with really low action and probably heavy gauge flatwound strings. With those things in place it sounds like this. To really dial it in, put a B string on the first string.
The goal is always to have each string as close as its intended pitch (tension) as possible. A whole or half step deviation usually works fine but beyond that it's trouble, as you're describing. For this particular song, a wound G string for the second and an unwound B string for your first would make each string no more than a half step away from its intended pitch, except the third, which would drop a whole step. This approach is not practical for live shows unless you setup multiple guitars (as I do) but for a video I would definitely do it.
Chris Coccaro I’ve got the Variax guitar computer set for EbBbDbFAbBb and play without the capo but because the tuning is virtual (guitar actually in standard) I don’t have any of the intonation issues due to string gauge. Dave’s solution to use a B string for the high E has merit.
Lindsay Jordan Moon A question from a non guitar player: would the loss-of-tuning problem exist with the VG8?
Dave No, all the tunings are created in software. The strings are always tuned to standard tuning and then manipulated once digitized. The VG8 was effectively a guitar controlled synthesizer that worked pretty well. Earlier attempts to make a guitar synthesizer go back to the early 70s, with varying degrees of success. The sticking point was always the tracking, as guitarists don't just trigger notes on or off like on a keyboard. As usual with technology, there's a trade-off. The VG (virtual guitar) allows for instant "retuning" and all kinds of sounds - even different sounds per string - but it really doesn't sound much like a guitar. With all digitized pitch alteration there is warbling and mistracking, so huge amounts of chorus (modulated delays) and reverb were usually added to smear over the problem.
Chris That said, if the guitar has intonation problems in standard tuning, those will transfer to the digitally transposed tunings also. Proper set up is important no matter what. It's clear that Joni needed to (and wisely chose to) embrace what the new technology could offer. The sounds on Taming the Tiger are brave indeed and that was not lost on reviewers at the time.
Dave Yes Chris, that makes sense. It is designed to react to pitch bends so I guess an out of tune string it would consider a pitch bend. Lindsay - so maybe it's more tricky than I proposed.