Posted by: David Harley | July 22, 2021

New Album – Cold Iron

Yes, I know it’s not a good sales strategy to put out so many albums so close together, but I’m trying to get this stuff out there, and not really expecting to make my fortune at this time of my life.

All music by David A. Harley. The author of the 18th century lyric to ‘They Hang The Man’ is unknown, and the words to ‘Nowhere to Nowhere’ were written by Alison Pittaway. Piano on ‘London 1983’ by James Bolam. All vocals and other instruments by David A. Harley.

All rights reserved.

Here’s the album: Cold Iron

And here’s the track ‘For Phil Ochs’ which is in a way the foundation stone of the album:

Anyway, here are what would be the sleeve notes if I was releasing it as a physical album.

I suppose you could say that all songs are ‘social comment’ – I don’t care for the term ‘protest’ since I associate it with the 1960s phenomenon of well-fed pop singers whining about plastic people and how awful everything is – but I’ve always leaned towards songs that weren’t exclusively about ‘my girl friend left me’.. Still, I never felt I had to distinguish between ‘love songs’ – perhaps we should say songs about people and their relationships – and songs with a wider topical resonance. If a song demands to be written, I don’t take no notice because it’s in the ‘wrong’ genre or context.

Still, I had some difficulty in placing a couple of the songs in this collection because they’re ‘folkier’ – OK, acapella – than most of my output. So I finally went for an album of songs that fit together because they’re more about social comment and less about personal relationships (fictional and otherwise). That doesn’t, of course, mean they don’t fit into other contexts. Some have already been released on other albums, and others are likely to be in the future.

The album’s title comes from a poem by Kipling, though his conclusion in that poem, and indeed his politics in general, often diverge from my own convictions. On the other hand, I think he would have agreed with the relationship between iron as a foundation of weaponry and iron as a symbol or element of the supernatural.

Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.
“Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
“But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

And here’s the tracklist.

  1. London 1983 (Harley) 06:28
  2. They Hang The Man (Anonymous-Harley) 01:43
  3. Song of Chivalry II (Harley) 03:58
  4. Nowhere To Nowhere (Pittaway-Harley) 02:11
  5. Soldier (You Come, You Go) (Harley) 01:06
  6. Long Stand (Harley) 03:00
  7. Orpheus and his Loot (Harley) 01:51
  8. For Phil Ochs (Harley) 05:35
  9. Calvary (Soldier of Fortune) (Harley) 01:30
  10. Paper City (Harley) 05:25
  11. Hands of the Craftsman (Harley) 05:35
  12. Jerry Jingalo (Harley) 01:06
  13. Circle (Harley) 08:14
  14. Diane (Going Out) (Harley) 05:19
  15. Paper Tiger (Harley) 02:37

David Harley


Posted by: David Harley | July 16, 2021

Old White Lightning demo (revisited)


Ancient version remastered (somewhat). I don’t currently sing this one, but if I did these are probably the words I’d use.

I went down to see my lady
But someone spread the news all over town
I said ‘I don’t mind what you call me,
But won’t you keep your sweet voice down?’
Might have been old white lightning
Might have been old sloe gin
Might have been barley, or it might have been malt
But it’s really done me in

If I go back to see my lady
I know just where she’s at
She’s got an ice-pack for my aching head
And an ice-pick for my back
Might have been old Sal Stacey
Might have been Lucy-Lynne
Might have been Lisa, might have been Liz
But she really did me in

I think I’ll steer my feet to the river
Marking time to the thump in my head
I think I might just die of too much wine
And it’ll save you changing the bed
Might have been smack or cocaine
Petrol or paraffin
Might have been Bostik or North Sea gas
But I swear it’s done me in

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | July 12, 2021

New Album – Dinosaur Tracks

Hat tip to Ken Bechtel, who for some reason suggested that ‘Dinosaur Tracks’ would be a suitable title for a Harley album. Be that as it may, the album is now available on Bandcamp.

Dinosaur Tracks cover art

When I started to do many more of my own songs, back in the 1970s, much of my repertoire was blues-based, and my own songs reflected that bias, including most of the songs here. The performances here are mostly demo-quality, mostly taken from cassettes rather than studio performances, but the fingers and the voice were generally in better shape than they are nowadays. The guitar in particular is generally pretty decent on these tracks. And while I’m less blues-oriented nowadays, I think these songs fit quite nicely into the genre, and my opinion is, of course, quite unbiased.

These are all ‘live’ recordings with no overdubs except for the lead break on ‘Lady Luck’ and the slide on ‘This Guitar Just Plays The Blues’. All the songs are mine, and all the guitars and vocals are  me.

1. Butterfly (Over The Hill)
2. Southside
3. Bootup Blues
4. Wearing Out My Shoes
5. Stranger In Uniform
6. Sylvie (Letting go)
7. This Guitar Just Plays The Blues
8. Scratch One Lover
9. Low In The Water
10. Soleares
11. Lady Luck
12. Drunk Last Night
13. Odd Job Man
14. Down To The River

Released July 12, 2021

David Harley
Posted by: David Harley | July 5, 2021

A Rainy Day Blues revisited


A Rainy Day Blues (Harley) – all rights reserved

Some days are like a melody
But I can’t seem to hold the key
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

So I spend my day trying to keep  myself amused
Sitting here picking at a rainy day blues
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

It seems the road to fortune never ends
You play God all week and golf at weekends
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

And if we quit the rat-race we could have a ball
But you know those big wheels grind so small
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

You say you love me but it seems sometimes
You stuff my mouth with kisses and my ears with lies
I don’t mind losing
I just wish I had a little more to lose

David A. Harley

Posted by: David Harley | June 27, 2021

Orpheus with his loot [demo]

Words & Music by David A. Harley (all rights reserved)

This will hopefully evolve into something a little more polished, but I think the words are about where they should be. Unlike the politicians who ‘inspired’ them.


I used to push pens in the City
I was paid to milk someone’s cash cow
I once served my time at a dollar a line
But that’s not the job I do now

The clown wants some words to divert you
And asks me to build him some jests
A wink and a nudge, to distract some harsh judge
But that’s not the job I do best

The emperor assumes that I love him
This bully, this man without shame
He believes that I’ll praise all the lies he portrays
From his seat on the gravy train

A friend of the Fancy, his nose to the trough
Makes his profits from public pain
I can buy with sweet notes my way onto the lifeboat
If I honour this grandson of Cain

The rats have abandoned this Ship of Fools
The saints have forgotten to pray
Orpheus counts loot that he earned licking boots
But this is my text for today
Yes, this is my text for today


Posted by: David Harley | June 23, 2021

New single – ‘How to say goodbye’

Here – or actually on Bandcamp – is a newly-recorded version of a song I’ve put up here and there before.

A track from off a forthcoming album, final title not yet set in stone. Releasing it now because I suppose I ought to release a single occasionally, and the guitar part here is actually the best I’ve managed for this song so far! The first verse is a recollection of the second time I took my daughter to nursery, and the first time I left her there on her own. I felt like a criminal!

Took you down to the High Road
Where I’d taken you once before
Kissed you and left you crying
There behind the nursery door

From the day our children are born
Until the day we die
We keep on learning to let go
And how to say goodbye

Took you down to the station
Waited with you for a train
A kiss and a wave from the platform
Saw you homeward bound again

Took you in from the car
Walked you down the aisle
Kissed you goodbye at the reception
Once more you left me, with a smile

Walk me down to the station
Time that I went home again
Blow me a kiss from the platform to warm
An old man’s heart on the train

Words & music, vocal & guitar by David A. Harley


Posted by: David Harley | February 12, 2021

‘One Step Away’ single release

Please forgive the absence of fanfares and fireworks, but ‘One Step Away (From The Blues)’ is now officially released, only three decades or so after it was first recorded for an album never released. Unlike the recent album ‘Tears of Morning‘ and the single ‘Moonflow VI’, it’s available on Amazon and Apple Music, among other sites such as Spotify, as well as Bandcamp.


  • Me on acoustic guitar, vocal and electric slide guitar
  • Don MacLeod on acoustic lead guitar
  • Bob Theil on 12-string acoustic guitar

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 25, 2020

Cut-Rate Rolling Stone [demo]

I wrote this in the early 70s (or possibly even late 60s), then mostly forgot about it till today. So only demo quality at this point, but I intend to come back to it.


Cut-Rate Rolling Stone

Words & Music © David Harley


I never could hold down a job more than a month or so
Mostly I’d get itchy feet, and down the road I’d go

But I never meant to live the kind of life I’ve known
I guess I was designed to be a cut-rate rolling stone

There never was a woman born who could ever tie me down
Some just quit trying, some just wore me down

Somehow I always found myself back on the road again
With a backpack full of dreams and just a roadmap for a friend

I’ve tried to put down roots in some places that I’ve been
Sometimes I thought that I’d found love but it was all a dream

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | November 22, 2020

Bottle (demo)



Words and music (c) David Harley


I called out softly through the darkness
Hoping someone might try the door
Hoping someone might have the key
But I don’t trust the daylight anymore

Someone knocked the bottle over
It happened once before
I suppose it might have been me
But I can’t trust the daylight anymore

I believe I’m getting stronger
Than I ever was before
But I won’t get up to look
Because I don’t believe in daylight anymore

David Harley

Posted by: David Harley | October 28, 2020

Nashville Tuning for Guitar – an Introduction

[Updated 8th November 2020 with some info on the terz guitar and added links on terz and on scale lengths for a range of stringed instruments.]

This is the extract from my instrumental piece ‘Quartet for One’ that will kick off the podcast and video incarnations of this article, if I get round to them. It’s an example of what Nashville tuning can sound like when used on a guitar played solo. Feel free to click on it: it will give you some idea of where I’m going in the first section of the article. N.B. Most music links are accompanied by a backup link on a different blog. No need to play the backup version as long as the first link works!



Recently, I’ve developed a late-flowering interest in Nashville tuning and other variations on standard guitar tuning requiring the use of unusual stringing options. It might actually be more correct to call it Nashville stringing, since a Nashville-strung or high-strung guitar can use a variety of tunings, but since the term Nashville stringing isn’t widely used, I’ll generally stick with the more common terminology.

Quartet For One sounds very different to the sound the same fingering would give you on a guitar in standard tuning. More often, I use Nashville tuning for extra colour as an overdub rather than as a solo or rhythm instrument, and I’ll give some examples of that later. But since I started using a Nashville-strung instrument in public occasionally, one or two people have asked for more information, so here it is.

Before I get into exactly what sort of tuning I’m talking about, here’s a very brief summary of how I got started with Nashville tuning. And no, it isn’t because I’m a fanatical country and western fan. (I’m not, though of course there are certainly country musicians I rate highly.)

In fact, I’ve been vaguely aware of this sort of tweaking since the 1970s or earlier, though I can only think of one guitarist I knew personally who was using it: that was Pat Orchard, who was using it for some songs when I knew him in the 1980s (and, it turns out, still does use it). I liked the sound, and thought I’d quite like to try that out at some point, but never got around to it.

Fast forward to 2018: by then, I was living in Cornwall. However, I spent a lot of time visiting my increasingly frail mother in Shropshire, and eventually it occurred to me to buy a travel guitar and maybe leave it with her so I could spend some time at music sessions up there while I was visiting, without needing to drag a full-size instrument with me all the time. So I bought a very nice little 3/4 size Baby Taylor, and, finding myself stuck in a hotel in Shropshire for a couple of days, decided to try restringing it à la Nashville. And I enjoyed it so much, the guitar went back to Cornwall with me, much to the surprise of my wife, who considered I had enough guitars already. (She was even more surprised when I confessed to buying a second travel guitar which I did leave in Shropshire. Nowadays that guitar is kept in High Strung tuning, described below.)

Standard Tuning

First of all, here’s what nowadays we call standard guitar tuning, though not all guitarists – or guitars, come to that – make use of it. Going from the lowest or 6th string to the highest or 1st string, the notes are E, A, D, G, B, E. We can distinguish between the low string E and the top string E, for example, using a form of something called Scientific Pitch Notation [], so the low string is E2 and the highest is E4. The whole set then becomes E2, A2, D3, G3, B3, and E4. So the higher the pitch, the higher the suffix number. Here’s what they sound like.



Of course, many guitarists (especially acoustic guitarists) use lots of other tunings. For instance, they may use open chord tunings like the Open D tuning, sometimes called Vestapol tuning, and widely used by singer/songwriters and blues players (especially bottleneck players). Here’s a version of the tune often called Vestapol and standard issue for blues and ragtime players. Folk guitarists often use modal tunings such as DADGAD, much used by people playing ‘Celtic’ music, as well as more eclectic musicians like Sara McQuaid (a highly-rated exponent and teacher of DADGAD).  Many of these tunings can also be used on a Nashville-strung guitar, though they’ll sound very different if they are: here, for instance, is a live version of my Song of Chivalry in which I used the Baby Taylor retuned to the Nashville-strung version of DADGAD. (This was during an interview with Ian Semple for Coast FM, if I remember rightly.)


Meanwhile, back at the plot…

High Third Tuning

Back in the 1950s, when the Everly Brothers were recording for Cadence Records, they did some sessions with Ray Edenton, who had the idea of changing the wound 3rd or G string on his acoustic with a very light gauge unwound string and tuning it an octave higher than standard (G4 instead of G3), leaving the other strings in standard gauge and tuning. This is called a re-entrant tuning – more about re-entrant tunings in a minute.

You can hear what that tuning sounded like on the Everlys’ Bye Bye Love and Wake Up Little Suzie, where Ray augments the rhythm guitar part played, I think, by Don Everly. This tuning is usually called high third. It sounds pretty good for the acoustic strumming that you can hear on so many Everly Brothers recordings, because it gives a distinctive ‘sparkle’ to the sound. I don’t use high third myself: that’s because as someone who mostly plays solo nowadays, I almost invariably play finger-style, and that single re-entrant string can sound very strange for accompaniments where the guitar closely follows the melody. Actually, the same is to some extent true for Nashville and high strung guitars, but it’s more practical to compensate in those tunings, if you feel you have to.

Anyway, I gather that many of those ‘Nashville cats’ that the Loving Spoonful once sang about still make some use of Ray Edenton’s high third tuning.

What, I hear you asking, is a re-entrant tuning?

Standard guitar tuning is not re-entrant: as you go from the bottom string to the top, each string is tuned to a higher note than the one that precedes it. (Here it is again.)



The same normally applies to orchestral strings. This non-re-entrant pattern is often referred to as linear tuning. However, many other stringed instruments use a re-entrant tuning where the upward sequence is interrupted by one or more strings tuned higher than the string above. One example that you may well be familiar with is the ukulele ‘My Dog Has Fleas’ tuning.



This is most often encountered as ‘High G’ tuning (G4 C4 E4 A4).  If the tuning followed the same pattern of intervals as the top strings of a guitar in standard tuning, it would be the linear tuning G3 C4 E4 A4, and in fact this tuning is also used by some uke players. The exact pitch and tuning of ukuleles and related instruments varies according to the size and type of instrument as well as musical idiom and personal preference, but let’s not wander too far off the guitar fretboard. :)

Meanwhile, back in Nashville…

…Ray Edenton was experimenting with what we now call Nashville tuning, replacing the four lowest strings on a standard acoustic guitar (all the wound strings) with the octave strings from a 12-string set. A 12-string guitar is normally strung in six ‘courses’ with two strings to each course, with the strings in each course close enough together to allow the guitarist to use the same chord shapes as a six-string player but sounding both strings at the same time. The two highest strings are tuned in unison: that is, both strings in the first course are (in standard tuning) tuned to E4, and in the second course to B3. The other courses, however, are tuned in octaves. We can notate the whole set like this: E3/E2 A3/A2 D4/D3 G4/G3 B3/B3 E4/E4. And they sound more or less like this – it doesn’t sound quite natural because I don’t own a real 12-string, so this is a Variax imitating a Guild 12-string.



Sometimes the 3rd/G strings are also tuned in unison: this is mostly because the very high G4 string tends to break a lot. Though for comfort, 12-string guitarists may use an unwound G3 to replace the G4.

Oddly enough, 12-string guitar tuning is not normally considered re-entrant because the lower string on the courses tuned in octaves is tuned as normal, even though the octave strings are higher (well, duh!). The same applies to the lower strings on bouzouki, for instance.

However, the 12-string guitar is very relevant to our story. The basic Nashville tuning method is to tune a guitar with the same notes as standard tuning (EADGBE), except that the lowest four strings are actually an octave higher than standard tuning, just like the 12-string octave strings. You can represent the tuning as E3, A3, D4, G4, B3, E4. Here’s what they sound like.



Nashville tuning is sometimes called high strung tuning: I don’t call it that myself, because like many guitarists, I like to differentiate between Nashville and a similar tuning where only the lowest three strings are an octave higher than standard: when I talk about high strung tuning, that’s what I’m talking about: E3, A3, D4, G3, B3, E4. Here’s what that sounds like.



Although the Nashville and high strung tunings are re-entrant, the effect is less obtrusive than it is in High Third because the strings below the high third string are in sequence: that is, each string from the sixth upward is lower in pitch than the next one, until you get to the second string (in Nashville) or the third (in high-strung). So while you may not be playing the exact sequence of notes that you would be playing in standard guitar tuning, the interposing of notes that are actually an octave above what you’d expect is exactly what gives you the interesting and unexpected melody jumps, chords and harmonies that make Nashville and high-strung styles so attractive.

Of course, you don’t necessarily want to use one of these variant tunings as simple substitutes for a guitar in standard tuning. Though you can, and I often do that, to save me from having to carry umpteen guitars around for a three-song slot, but they work better for some songs than others. Sometimes, the re-entrant tuning results in some fascinating inversions of chords or harmonies. Sometimes you might find the effect discordant. Sometimes a high-strung guitar will be more suitable than a Nashville-strung instrument for following the melody of a particular song. And too many songs in succession played on an unusually high-pitched guitar might be wearying for some audiences.

And here are examples of a range of guitars all playing (more or less) the same tune. It’s the intro to a song I call ‘Tears of Morning’ – full version (in standard tuning) here.

  • a standard-tuned guitar



  • a 12-string guitar



  • a high-strung guitar



  • and a Nashville-strung guitar



In a minute, I’ll go through some more examples of what you can do with Nashville tuning for specific effects.

But where do you get suitable strings?

Well, you don’t have to get a 12-string set and throw away the ones you don’t need. Though if you have one or more standard acoustics, you can probably find a use for the others. For instance, an ‘extra light’ 12-string set of Martin 80/20 is basically the ‘extra light’ six-string set with a set of six additional strings that are fine for Nashville stringing. Though the octave string for the 3rd (G) course is a .010″. Bearing in mind the string-snapping issue I mentioned earlier, you might want to invest in a .009″ instead, at any rate if you’re planning to use it on a full-size guitar. D’Addario offers a phosphor bronze set (EJ38H) specifically for Nashville tuning with a .009″ 3rd string (the full set is .010″, .014″, .009″, .012″, .018″, .027″). The packet I have in front of me describes the D’Addario set as being for High Strung/Nashville Tuning. The company is, in this case, using the term High Strung as a synonym for Nashville, not as a different tuning: there is no wound 3rd string supplied. Martin’s similar high tuning set MSPHT10 is even lighter: .010″, .012″, .008″, .013″, .017″, .025″. D’Addario’s electric set EXL150H is .010″, .014″, .009″, .012″, .018″, .026″.

Other string sets are available, but I haven’t researched this in depth: I don’t have an infinite number of guitars or an infinite bank account, so I’ve focused on sets that work OK for me. :) Of course, you could also mix and match individual strings, as long as they’re a suitable gauge.

It’s worth noting that using a ¾ guitar like the Baby Taylor for Nashville tuning means that the strings are less likely to break, though the reduced scale of the instrument and tension of the string may make it harder to keep the instrument in tune. Robert Cassard has recorded videos using a Martin Backpacker, making the point that because its very small body lacks bass response, it gives extra sparkle in its higher notes. (The video I’ve just linked to also includes some nice examples of the use of Nashville or high-strung guitars on well-known recordings.)

If you like the idea of a Nashville-strung electric guitar, something like a Squier Mini Strat might be the way to go. Reverend make a Billy Corgan Terz – essentially an electric equivalent of the terz, a short-scale classic guitar (530-560mm, as opposed to the 650-660mm of a standard classic guitar: this puts it in the same scale range as a 3/4 guitar). The shorter scale allows a standard string set to be tuned three frets higher than normal, so it would probably be quite comfortable with the much lighter strings used in a Nashville set.

By the way, if you are aiming to use an electric guitar (or an acoustic with a magnetic pickup), you’ll may want to use a 6th string (the only wound string in this tuning) with a nickel-plated wrap rather than bronze, because bronze strings sound lovely acoustically (well, to my ear), but will sound underpowered through a magnetic pickup. And if you want to do this with nylon strings, all I can say is “Good luck!” There are a couple of suggestions for trying to do that here, but I have no plans to try them myself. Another possibility might be to restring a guilele/guitalele, and I might try that sometime, but it’s not a priority for me: I like my guilele the way it is.

Finally, what can you do with a Nashville tuned guitar?

One obvious use is to double up with a standard-tuned guitar for a 12-string effect, though it might be more interesting to keep the two guitars separate in the mix. An effect I’m rather fond of introduces a lead part that comes over as something like a bouzouki. Here are a couple of examples using a song of mine called Two is a Silence.

Two is a Silence – extract from a recording using acoustic guitar with overdubbed bouzoukis



Two is a silence – a brief extract using just a Nashville-strung guitar.



With fingerpicked chords, a Nashville-strung guitar can sound rather like an autoharp, or even suggest an ethereal keyboard effect. This is how I used it on my song Wrekin (The Marches Line). (Full version here.)



Careful double-stopping and/or fingering may sound rather like a mountain (Appalachian) dulcimer. For both these examples I used an open D tuning.

Dulcimer 1



Dulcimer 2



Add some digital effects or manipulation of the stereo image, and who knows what you might come up with? I suspect that some of you will be far more adventurous than I am. :)

David Harley

Additional links:


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