#44: Strings and Fingers

The Question

Aaron says:
2005-08-02 22:00:47

As a student of the guitar, I have come to learn that the standard tuning of a guitar is in the pattern EADGBE, going from the lowest pitched string to the highest. Of course, alternate tunings are also used (such as DADGBE, or drop-D), but why is this one so dominant in the modern musical world?

The Answer

Are you truly a student of a guitar? Mine teaches me nothing. Only that 6 months of practice allows me to play as well as Mike D if he had only 2 fingers on both hands, and they were really fat.

The EADGBE tuning (known as Standard Tuning or Spanish Tuning) is the most common for a couple of reasons:

1. It allows for ease of playing common chords. If you tune the guitar differently, you can focus on a specific set of chords, but this tuning allows for the most flexibility (in terms of fingering). Or, in other words, you can play the greatest number of chords with the least pain with this tuning.

2. With the exception of the 4th –> 5th string transition, all transitions are equal in length. This allows for intelligent translation of written music to fingering. The exception noted above has evolved into place for reason #1 – it allows for easier playing of chords. Some chords are near impossible if you tune your guitar to be completely even.

3. In the words of Sean Connery in “Highlander” – ‘It’s tradition’.

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