Sunday, August 14, 2022

Comment of the Moment: Why Neil Young Is Intentionally Out Of Tune

Kenny ”Nashville’s Secret Weapon” Vaughan



In the interview with Kenny ”Nashville’s Secret Weapon” Vaughan, he explains tunings and Neil Young's unique styles, which all prompted a rather interesting discussion by musicians and non-musicians.

So without further ado, here is the Comment of the Moment on Why Neil Young Is Intentionally Out Of Tune | Thoughts by Kenny Vaughan by Tomatron:

Yeah, Neil Young and Crazy Horse are not playing deliberately out of tune.

They’re almost always in tune. Early performances in D modal tuning (notably Down By The River) were out of tune, probably due to his utilizing an alternate tuning the guitar was not set up for. He’s definitely making sure everything is tuned up, and he is working hard to hit the notes with his voice.

I think what Kenny Vaughn is responding to is how expressive the performances can be.

One thing we love about the guitar is that notes can be bent up or down by bending the strings, manipulating the whammy bar, or flexing the neck. The infinite possibilities introduced by these techniques add up to a personalized sound that rings true for the listener. That is akin to what he was talking about with Miles Davis bending the trumpet note, but a different strategy from defining the instruments like he said the Velvets did.

Tuning an entire instrument up or down slightly is a technique that is effective for creating harmonic space (a great feature analog synth players use often), but I don’t hear that with the Horse.

Neil gets annoyed if things are out of tune.

Thanks Tomatron.  Not to be too trite here, but it really is just all one tune, right?!

Otis Gibbs & Kenny Vaughan


More on  Why Neil Young Is Intentionally Out Of Tune | Thoughts by Kenny Vaughan.


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  1. The term ‘out of tune’ wasn’t exactly the correct term, but I understood what he meant. When playing music with other people it’s established before they start what the specific parameters are. Meaning what key are they in, the tempo, and arrangement. In other words, they created an established playing field. Sometimes one or more musicians might play outside the field of play, creating something uniquely different from what was expected. It may or may not work within the structure of the song, but when it does work it can creat something truly magical. And I think this is what he was actually talking about.

    An interesting example of this would be two albums from Miles Davis. Kind of Blue & Bitches Brew. Kind of Blue is a breathtaking example of each musician playing creatively within a specific field. Bitches Brew on the other hand is the opposite, as each musician is playing creatively without ever entering the previously mentioned field. I hope that makes sense, but both albums are pushing boundaries, but in different ways.

    Peace 🙏


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