Tuning in Fourths ~ ~ ~ some advice please

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Does anyone here use fourths tuning?

Or has tried it, or has any experience or perspective on this?

What are the pros and cons?

How do you go about restructuring chords?

How do you make the transition?
and is it even possible to use both fourths and standard tunings well if you have guitars in each and want to swap back and forth?

And the biggest question I guess is-
How do you go about restructuring your mind-set?

Anything else welcomed too…   cheers  :)

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  • carloscarlos Frets: 1673
    Not tried but thought about it for a looong time.

    Pros:
    - regular shapes and patterns for scales and arpeggios is probably the biggest. If you can play a pattern you can play the same anywhere no matter which string you 'start' from. Makes learning scales and arpeggios a breeze as everything's 'regular'.
    - 2 new open notes to include in chords or to sound as harmonics. Can open a few possibilities for voicings?

    Cons:
    - say goodbye to playing popular music without lots of work re-arranging chords to fit the new tuning. And even after that it's doubtful you can make things sound like the recorded versions since barre chords are going to be hard to fit (all strings are different notes).
    - you will probably need to start sight-reading as tabs will be off on the top two strings. Yes, you can shift to accommodate but it's a pain.

    For me the biggest thing about staying in std tuning was that all my guitar heroes play it, and they are all knowledgeable enough to have made informed decisions about this. Even Ben Monder who's about as bizarre-sounding as I can imagine uses std tuning.
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  • frankusfrankus Frets: 4707
    Stanley Jordan uses it. In Jazz there aren't that many barre chords so a 4 note cluster can be recycled all over the place.

    With the advent of electrification the guitar no longer needed all the strings to be used to fill the space so fragment chords took off - I think the mindset needs to change a little.

    My bass is tuned in 4ths ;)
    A sig-nat-eur? What am I meant to use this for ffs?! Is this thing recording?
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  • Ahh, we had a similar thread on some long forgotten music forum...

    @georgenadaintl covered most of what I recall from it. There were some links to a chap playing blues rock licks in standard 4ths, basically illustrating that you needn't lose everything you already know. But then if you want to play blues rock licks tuning in 4ths seems to be an arse about face way of doing it.

    Presumably you end up with abit of extra tension on the two thinnest strings? Might be an issue for some people. 
    Who invaded Spain in the eight century?
    The Moops.
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  • FazerFazer Frets: 455
    i tune in 4ths!

    i can write more later, but basically the cons are you cant do standard 5/6 string barrechords, and cant play the normal arrangements of other guitar players

    apart from that its all pros, and a few neutrals

    for 3/4 string chords you just need to learn 1 shape instead of 3
    for 5 strings chords its 1 shape instead of 2

    for a pentatonic scale you just learn 1 basic pattern, which wraps around the neck like a ribbon, instead of 5 variations
    the same would apply to 3/4 note scales and arpeggios - 1 basic pattern that repeats instead of multiple variations

    1 basic scale pattern to learn for major scale, and that covers all the modes, instead of 7 variations
    1 basic pattern to learn for harmonic minor, melodic minor, etc

    and the scales all clearly fit in with the chords shapes, its vastly simpler to visualise

    a neutral would be that i tend to use different chord shapes, some can be more awkward, some simpler.
    i tend to use more 'vertical' shapes that run root/3/5/7 than barre chords which tend to be root/5/7/3, so they sound 'nicer', like a piano chord, but can be harder to dampen the sound


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  • Thanks guys, I appreciate the input.

    @Fazer, I wasn't sure whether to choose wow or wisdom, that is totally "game changing" !

    Thanks for that, and I certainly look forward to whatever you can add to that later.

    @EricTheWeary, regarding string tension, I know Alex Hutchings uses 8 top to balance the tension.

    String tension calculator here for anyone interested.

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  • FazerFazer Frets: 455
    i started off tuning E-flat/A-flat/etc, keeping it b and e on the top 2, but playing with other instruments/keyboards etc its more hassle having to transpose.
    so these days i tune e/a/d/g/c/f - just swap the top 2 strings for lighter ones and no problems

    if you are playing original music, or are happy to write your own arrangements/variations for other people's guitar parts, then i say just go for it

    it opens up and simplifies/unifies the whole fretboard



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  • vizviz Frets: 5514
    Wow that's amazing. Never thought of doing that and am excited about giving it a go! Thanks @fazer and @chrismusic
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 401
    just tried this tonight and although it makes perfect sense i think iv played to long the other way to make the change ...i can see the advantages though..
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Hey @Barney, what do you think gets in the way of making a transition?
    Do you think it is possible to play in both tunings, or after a probatory period do you think you would have to settle on one or other?

    Have you tried it yet @viz ?  Write a bit about your experience here when you do, please.


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  • vizviz Frets: 5514
    Nope I was in Ireland. I'll give it a go tonight
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 401
    I think with me ...I know what my fingers sound like on certain notes ...tuning fourths confuses that....
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Thanks again guys.
    I'm wondering the same sought of thing too Barney, I think confusion will go with the territory, not sure I can handle simultaneous use of both tunings, I struggle enough with one, but you never know.
    Emerald Isle sounds good to me, welcome back viz.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    Thanks for the replies @Fazer, a couple of questions to raise with you, or anyone else who wants to contribute for that matter.

    How do you go about restructuring chords?
    Could you give some more detailed advice?
    Even a few examples and some fingerings if you could?
    It does look like a fairly fundamental re-think on the chordal front to me.

    How do you make the transition?
    and is it even possible to use both fourths and standard tunings well if you have guitars in each and want to swap back and forth?

    That is a big question for me, I think the challenge is a huge commitment, so I would appreciate anything you could offer on that topic.

    Cheers,  Chris



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  • KebabkidKebabkid Frets: 1698
     www.cairoeast.co.uk - Madness Tribute band (Bass Player) and guitarist elsewhere
    Feedback - http://www.thefretboard.co.uk/discussion/57885/
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  • FazerFazer Frets: 455
    for simple 4 note chords (you already know some shapes from the bottom 4 strings) you can simply play them across any of the 3 sets of 4 strings - bottom 4 / middle 4 / top 4

    so you can simply move the shape across the neck for A Min, to D Min, to G Min, etc - and just raise the 3rd for A Maj / D Maj / G Maj

    more complicated chords may be hard to hold, and you may have to drop some notes, but the same applies to standard tuning too

    i'll try and make a diagram later of the scale shapes and you can see how to extract the chords from them

    i dont know what chords other people want to play, for me i've always made original music and been happy to rewrite any cover songs with my own chord arrangements.
    it is harder to strum though, well, its harder to mute the unwanted strings.

    image

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  • FazerFazer Frets: 455
    if you map out the major scale with the notes numbered you can easily pick out the notes you need to construct any chord.

    and once you have the shape/idea in your head it applies over the whole fretboard, regardless which set of strings you are on - you could play a 7/8/9/10-string guitar, you just move the shape around around and dont have to worry about that little kink messing them all up
    image

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  • FazerFazer Frets: 455
    you can play any inversions, skip across strings etc
    the only hurdle is being able to fit your fingers on them

    image

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Thanks @Fazer, colourful and great looking diagrams too, much appreciated.

    That still leaves me with the burning question though...

    How do you make the transition?

    and is it even possible to use both fourths and standard tunings well if you have guitars in each and want to swap back and forth?


    Oh, and thanks @Kebabkid, no I hadn't seen that article or the video interview, it's always nice to catch up with Alex.

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  • I tried it for a while, and I came across another problem with it: if you have anybody else in your band playing guitar, trying to explain riffs to them (and vice-versa) can be a right pain in the ass, especially when one of you has come up with something which is basically impossible to play in the other tuning.

    It can also be somewhat awkward when you forget where you are in a song, look over at their fretboard and then realise that your fingers are instinctively trying to copy what they're doing. Not that this happens to me a lot, of course...
    "Mains is ouchy if you get it up you" - Sporky
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1717
    Not great for Country  banjo rolls.
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  • BennyBenny Frets: 1
    Ant Law, a great guitarist on the London scene, tunes like this and has published a book on it: www.antlaw.co.uk
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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    edited October 2013
    Hey @Fazer, you're probably the only one here who can give me a bit of further guidance, if you will.

    I'm still wondering how you made the transition, did you just re-tune one day and decide never to go back?
    Or did you play a bit in both tunings?
    Can you get your head around playing in both even?

    Would you advise just taking the plunge?
    I can see using both being a bit confusing and maybe problematic, but I could easily be wrong.

    Thanks for your help so far, much appreciated 
    :)

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  • FazerFazer Frets: 455
    after being annoyed by that kink in the fretboard tuning for many years, i was lying in bed one night and thought 'why don't i just tune them all the same?', and then the next day i changed the tuning and that was it, never changed back.

    as for mixing the 2, well, lots of people change tunings for different songs etc, so i'm sure its possible.
    although maybe the different tunings relates more to playing chords for different songs/songwriting, as i cant imagine its going to be possible to have a whole fretboard mapped out in your mind for different tunings.

    if you are playing covers then i'm sure its easy enough to just have all the shapes and note positions memorised, so that you could easily play them in standard tuning, and theory or knowing what you are playing wouldnt really matter, because you are just going by memorised shapes.
    and maybe with some basic improv around simple shapes like 1st position pentatonic etc.

    and then you could use the 4ths tuning to explore the fretboard clearly, and the scale/chords connections.
    i think its great for jazz/metal/prog/folk if you are playing original music and/or are happy to rearrange any covers

    personally, the attraction of 4th tunings for me is its simplicity - simple scales, simple chords, always the same with no fretboard kink between the G and B/C.
    so for me, i dont mess with different tunings as it upsets my equilibrium and confuses me :)

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  • ChrisMusicChrisMusic Frets: 1118
    Thanks @Fazer, I appreciate your reply.  That is pretty much what I was thinking too.  Good advice.  Well summed up  :)

    It also ties in nicely to the point made by @digitalscream, that working in a band situation can mean difficulties explaining or transposing parts to others in normal standard tuning.

    That small difference of one semitone on the top two strings will I am sure create some awful dis-harmonies if you forget which tuning you are playing in, or accidentally drop into the wrong fingerings, especially on improvising.  Blame it on the "jazz notes" maybe, but not a good place to go me-thinks.
    Most open tunings seem not only much more song and pattern specific, but also more forgiving harmonically IIRC.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Ant Law @Benny, did you get the book and have you tried it yet?  Thanks for the link, if you hit his site it plays great music, so I left it on in the background.  Nice one  :)

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  • this is the best string tension calculator I have seen

    http://vinic.free.fr/strings/?l=0

     

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  • I use different tunings on some guitars for several reasons:

    To enable voicings, e.g. modal stuff like DADGAD,

    To confuse me into not playing the same old stuff

    to suit the instrument (e.g. A# F C G on my tenor, with lighter unwound strings - no longer sounds shrill - but still the same intervals)

     

    My 8 string was tuned GBEADGBE, since I didn't plan to do power chords on the bottom 3 strings, duplicating the relationship between the top 3 seemed useful - easier to find patterns. Now it is tuned GADADGAD, works well for me

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