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Thread: Why is a guitar tuned "EADG-BE"

  1. #1
    Registered User tucker97325's Avatar
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    Why is a guitar tuned "EADG-BE"

    I've been playing guitar for a while, but I've just recently started to learn more about music in general. Now that I'm paying more attention to scales and notes and such I realized that if not for that half step flatting of the first and second strings (B and high E) the guitar tuning would contain all the notes of the C Major scale except B. (EADGCF) Mere coincidence? I think not.

    I know I've heard stories about why the second string is tuned a half step flat, but I can't remember them. Does anyone here know why the guitar is usually tuned this way? (I know there are alternate tunings, I'm just curious about this one.)
    "It ain't what you play man! Its how you play it."
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  2. #2
    JazzNerd gersdal's Avatar
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    According to Ralph Denyer's Guitar Handbook the EADGBE "is a convention that has developed over the centuries. Custom and practise have shown that it provides an acceptable range, a convinient placing of the intervals, and a manageable choice of basic chord fingerings."

    EDIT:
    Corrected a typo
    Last edited by gersdal; 06-24-2005 at 04:38 AM.

  3. #3
    allrounder live's Avatar
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    Hi!
    @tucker97325:
    The 1st E-String ain't really tuned a half step down. you have a fourth from every string to the next without the step from G to B. The BtoE-step is just in the scheme again...
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    Last edited by live; 03-28-2011 at 12:34 AM.

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    Would a minor 9th between the 6th string and the 1st string sound all that pretty? To my ears it's the most dissonant interval out there. Full 6 string bar chords would be out the window.

  5. #5
    Registered User tucker97325's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gersdal
    According to Ralph Denyer's Guitar Handbook the EADGBE "is a convention that has developed over the centuries. Custom and practise have shown that it provides an acceptable range, a convinient placing of the intervals, and a manageable choice of basic chord fingerings."
    Ok, that basically makes sense, but doesn't explain why the second string is tuned down a half step.
    Quote Originally Posted by live
    The 1st E-String ain't really tuned a half step down. you have a fourth from every string to the next without the step from G to B. The BtoE-step is just in the scheme again...
    Well actually it is, because if all strings were tuned by the "scheme" the second string would be tuned to a C, and the first string to an F. So, in the current tuning, it is flat.
    Quote Originally Posted by silent-storm
    Would a minor 9th between the 6th string and the 1st string sound all that pretty? To my ears it's the most dissonant interval out there. Full 6 string bar chords would be out the window.
    Well, I'm not suggesting we try to change it, I like it the way it is (usually.) I was just curious as to WHY there was the "jog" in the tuning. You say Bar Chords? Ok, may be that's reason. I was actually hoping for some folkloric tale about how it came to be, but I guess not.
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  6. #6
    Mad Scientist forgottenking2's Avatar
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    I guess some guy way back in his lute playing days decided that it'd be cool to have an instrument where fingerings would be somewhat symetrical no matter what key you're in. So he went ahead and designed the vihuela with just four strings... and tuned his in 4ths... so he had D G C and F and he was happy but then a picky guy came along and said "Hey, how come the range is so limited compared to that of my 8 string lute?" So the guy went home all sad but he thought "hey maybe the guy was right" so he went home and added a 5th string and tuned it a 4th below his D... but as he tried to play an Em triad spaning all 5 strings he realized he had to use a very ackward fingering stretching up to the 4th fret with his pinky (which hadn't developped quite enough due to... um a birth deformity... yeah, that's why he stopped playing the lute ) so he was all depressed thinking his vihuela wasn't gonna work but then he had a breakthrough. Who said you HAD to tune your vihuela in 4ths anyway??? so he spent several weeks experimenting with different tunings and seing what ones would give him the ability to finger basic triads with only 3 fingers and he found that A D G B E was by far the easiest, and his goal of having an instrument with fingerings somewhat symetrical wasn't compromised too much... since there was symetry in the fingerings regardless of key.
    He finally started gigging with it and like this friend of his who was already a Lead Lutist for some famous band in the 1780s is like "Hey man that's a cool instrument... what if you added a low E?"... Then Korn came along and added the 7th string and the rest is history.

    Alright I know Korn weren't the first one playing onm 7 strings (it was actually some hot Jazz guitar player in the 50s) but none of this is historically acurate or based at all in reality (well maybe there is a liiitle bit of reality) but Tucker wanted a folkloric story so here it is
    "If God had wanted us to play the piano he would've given us 88 fingers"

  7. #7
    Metal Is My Middle Name Ragman's Avatar
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    no idea, i dont ask, i just play what feels right.
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  8. #8
    Registered User tucker97325's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by forgottenking2
    Alright I know Korn weren't the first one playing onm 7 strings (it was actually some hot Jazz guitar player in the 50s) but none of this is historically acurate or based at all in reality (well maybe there is a liiitle bit of reality) but Tucker wanted a folkloric story so here it is
    Yup, that's much closer to what I was hoping for.

    Thanks
    "It ain't what you play man! Its how you play it."
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  9. #9
    Detroit VidKid's Avatar
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    Here's a link that may be helpful. Also, explaination of 4ths and 3rd tunings.
    http://lilytears.com/arts/music/guit.../intro/std.htm


    VK
    Yesterday's dissonance is today's consonance, while today's atonal is tomorrow's consonance-Liebman

  10. #10
    Registered User tucker97325's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VidKid
    Here's a link that may be helpful. Also, explaination of 4ths and 3rd tunings.
    http://lilytears.com/arts/music/guit.../intro/std.htm


    VK
    Wow, that was a really interesting article. Thanks for the link. Have you tried either the tunings mentioned (all fourths or Thirds)? I think I might try the thirds tunig, just for kicks. Thanks again.
    "It ain't what you play man! Its how you play it."
    www.soundclick.com/kenvarieur

  11. #11
    Detroit VidKid's Avatar
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    No, never have experimented with those tunings, only G and D tunings for classical and slide. All 4ths tuning would seem more logical. Lets start a movement right now at IBM, demanding all textbook publishers and teachers to reform in favor of quartal tuning.

    VK
    Yesterday's dissonance is today's consonance, while today's atonal is tomorrow's consonance-Liebman

  12. #12
    Registered User tucker97325's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VidKid
    No, never have experimented with those tunings, only G and D tunings for classical and slide. All 4ths tuning would seem more logical. Lets start a movement right now at IBM, demanding all textbook publishers and teachers to reform in favor of quartal tuning.

    VK
    Although I agree I'd like to see at least SOME discussion of it, I'm afraid my revolutionary days are long over.
    "It ain't what you play man! Its how you play it."
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  13. #13
    Detroit VidKid's Avatar
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    I'll start the revolution monday by teaching all my beginning students quartal tuning. LOL

    Here's another link that you may find interesting. It explains the origin of the guitar, with some common alternate tunings, if you scroll down.
    http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Guitar

    VK
    Yesterday's dissonance is today's consonance, while today's atonal is tomorrow's consonance-Liebman

  14. #14
    Modally Challenged!!!! mattblack850's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tucker97325
    Ok, may be that's reason. I was actually hoping for some folkloric tale about how it came to be, but I guess not.

    Hey Tucker, Sell your Soul to the Devil and let us know what tuning he gives you!!!!!

  15. #15
    Registered User tucker97325's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattblack850
    Hey Tucker, Sell your Soul to the Devil and let us know what tuning he gives you!!!!!
    LOL, I sold my soul long ago, and all I got for it was a broke down VW bug and a baggie full of some sort of herb. Both of which disappeared sometime around 1969.
    "It ain't what you play man! Its how you play it."
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