Standard tuning in guitar is at the heart of guitar playing & also known as E standard. The guitar is also the world’s most popular instrument, with its soul-stirring melodies and universal appeal. Eddie Van Halen once said “the guitar is the best thing in the world for everything that ails you.” Its universal appeal spans across different cultures and resonates with people from all walks of life.
Standard tuning (EADGBE) is a popular guitar tuning for guitars due to its balanced nature, versatility, & compatibility with various musical genres. It serves as the bedrock for chord progressions, scales, and melodies, allowing guitarists to tap into their creativity and expressiveness.
This guitar tuning guide explores the fundamentals, history, benefits, and practical applications. Gaining a deeper understanding of the origins and significance of standard tuning will provide insight into why it has become the cornerstone of playing guitar.
Open Strings & Standard Tuning
On a guitar, open strings are those that are played without any fingers pressing down on the frets. When a guitar string is plucked or strummed while not fretted, it is called an “open” because it is free to vibrate from the nut to the bridge.
In standard tuning, the open strings on a guitar are typically tuned to the following pitches from low to high: E, A, D, G, B, and high E. These pitches correspond to the notes of the musical alphabet.
Open strings are often used to play chords, melodies, and arpeggios, providing a bright and resonant sound. They also serve as a reference point for tuning the guitar, as each open string corresponds to a specific pitch. By combining open strings with fretted notes, guitarists can create a wide range of musical possibilities and expressiveness.
Remembering The Names Of The Strings
Remembering the names of the guitar string open notes can be made easier by using mnemonics or mnemonic devices.
Here’s a common mnemonic that can help you remember the open string names in standard tuning (from low to high):
“Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie.”
Each letter in this phrase represents the first letter of the string name:
“E” for the low E string
“A” for the A string
“D” for the D string
“G” for the G string
“B” for the B string
“E” for the high E string
The goal is to find a method that works best for you and enhances your learning and memorization process. Associating a phrase with the string names can help you remember the sequence more easily.
Regular practice and playing the guitar will reinforce the open string names in your memory over time. Feel free to create your own mnemonic or phrase if it helps you remember the open string names more effectively.
How To: Standard Guitar Tuning
Start with the thickest string, the low E string.
Pluck the open low E and compare its pitch to a reference note or tuner.
Adjust the tuning peg for the low E until it matches the reference pitch or reads as an E on the tuner.
Move on to the A string and repeat the process, comparing and adjusting until it matches the reference pitch or reads as an A on the tuner.
Proceed with the D, G, B, and high E strings, tuning each one to match the reference pitch or the corresponding note on the tuner.
Once all six strings are tuned, double-check and make minor adjustments if necessary.
Congratulations! Your guitar is now tuned to E standard.
Remember to pluck each string gently and allow it to ring clearly for accurate tuning. Use a reliable tuner or reference pitch to ensure the correct pitches.
Benefits of Standard Tuning
Using standard guitar tuning offers several benefits to guitarists. Here are some of the key advantages:
Standard tuning is an excellent foundation for learning and playing a variety of musical styles. It enables the use of simple chord shapes, scale patterns, and music theory. Mastering standard tuning allows you to access a vast repertoire of songs, making it easier to learn and play music of all genres.
Because standard tuning is the most commonly used tuning for guitars, there are numerous educational materials and resources available. Whether you prefer books, online tutorials, videos, or sheet music, there is a wide range of standard tuning learning materials available. This makes it easier to get good instruction and advance as a guitarist.
Standard tuning makes it easier to collaborate with other musicians. Standard tuning ensures that everyone is on the same page when playing with other guitarists or instrumentalists. It enables seamless collaboration with bassists, keyboardists, and other musicians who use standard notation or tablature. It also makes it easier to join bands, jam sessions, and play in ensembles by simplifying the process of sharing and transposing music.
The large catalog of songs written or arranged for standard tuning is a significant advantage. Numerous iconic songs from various genres, such as rock, pop, blues, folk, and country, are mostly performed in standard tuning. Learning and mastering standard tuning enables you to explore a vast library of songs for personal enjoyment as well as performance in front of an audience.
Standard tuning facilitates transposing songs to different keys. Transposing is the process of changing the key of a song without changing the chord shapes or patterns. Because standard tuning uses consistent intervals between strings, the same chord and scale shapes can be applied to different keys by shifting them up or down the fretboard. This ability to effectively transpose broadens your musical repertoire and allows for greater flexibility when playing with other musicians or adapting songs to your vocal range.
For most guitarists, standard tuning has become the norm. It is widely used and recognized, making communication with other musicians, sharing musical ideas, and participating in guitar communities easier. Furthermore, many guitar lessons, tutorials, and instructional materials assume a basic understanding of standard tuning, which makes it easier to follow along and advance as a guitarist.
While alternate tunings can offer unique sounds and creative possibilities, standard tuning remains a foundational tool for guitarists due to its versatility, accessibility, and widespread use. It provides a solid platform for learning, collaboration, and expanding your musical horizons.
Tips To Keep Your Guitar Tuned
Proper String Stretching
When changing or installing strings, make sure to stretch them properly. Pull each string away from the fretboard gently after tuning it, allowing it to stretch and settle into its tension. Repeat this process for each string to reduce the likelihood of them slipping out of tune.
Lubricate Nut Slots
The nut, which is located at the top of the guitar neck, can cause strings to bind and go out of tune. Apply a small amount of graphite or guitar-specific nut lubricant to the nut slots. This reduces friction and allows the strings to glide more smoothly, making tuning easier.
Check the Tuning Pegs
Ensure that the guitar tuners or machine heads are tightened securely. Loose tuners can cause strings to slip and lose their tuning. Give each tuning peg a gentle turn to ensure they are tight but not overly so.
Stretching during Playing
Strings can gradually lose tuning while playing, especially if you use a lot of bending or vibrato techniques. To counteract this, incorporate some gentle string stretching into your playing sessions. To help maintain tension and keep the strings in tune, bend each string slightly upward or downward.
Temperature and Humidity Control
Temperature and humidity extremes can cause the wood and metal components of the guitar to expand and contract, resulting in tuning instability. Keep your guitar in a controlled environment, away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and excessive moisture. In areas where humidity levels fluctuate significantly, consider using a humidifier or dehumidifier.
Regular String Changes
Over time, guitar strings lose their elasticity and ability to hold tune effectively. It’s recommended to change your strings regularly, especially if you frequently play or perform. Fresh strings not only improve the tone but also tend to stay in tune better.
Fine-Tune with Tuning Pegs
When your guitar is slightly out of tune, use the tuners to make small adjustments. Large, abrupt turns should be avoided because they can result in overshooting the desired pitch. Instead, make small incremental adjustments and keep checking the tuning until it’s perfect.
Even with these tips, keep in mind that some natural tuning fluctuations are normal due to factors such as playing style and string elasticity. Regular maintenance and attention to detail will allow you to keep your guitar in tune for longer periods of time, resulting in a more enjoyable playing experience.
A Brief History of Standard Tuning On Guitar
Standard E tuning on the guitar has a rich history that evolved over centuries. Its origins can be traced back to the emergence of the modern guitar in the 16th and 17th centuries. Early guitarists experimented with various tunings, but there was no standardized system at the time.
As the classical guitar gained popularity in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, musicians like Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani contributed to the development of classical guitar music and techniques. Tunings similar to standard E began to emerge during this period, although there were still variations in string pitches.
The rise of the steel-string acoustic guitar in the late 19th century, along with the invention of the electric guitar in the early 20th century, solidified the use of standard E tuning. Steel-string guitars required higher tension, leading to a tuning where all strings were a whole step higher than the classical guitar. The electric guitar’s design and amplification further popularized standard E tuning, making it the most widely used and recognized tuning system for guitars across different genres.
In summary, standard E tuning on the guitar has evolved over time, influenced by the development of the classical guitar, the rise of steel-string acoustics, and the advent of electric guitars. Today, it serves as the foundation for guitar playing, providing a common reference point for musicians, ease of learning, and a vast repertoire of songs.
Related: The history of the electric guitar
Guitar alternate tunings offer unique sonic possibilities, chord voicings, and fingerings, allowing players to explore new sounds, expand their creativity, and approach the instrument from fresh perspectives. Here’s a few popular ones we’ve written about:
Guitar Strings & Alternative Tunings
When you use alternate tunings on your guitar, it affects the tension of the strings. Changing the pitch of the strings alters the amount of tightness or looseness in each string.
Lower tunings, where the pitch is lowered, can result in looser strings, while higher tunings can lead to tighter strings. The tension of the strings affects the playability, feel, and sound of the guitar.
Lower tension can make the strings feel slacker and might require thicker strings to maintain proper tension, while higher tension can make the strings feel tighter and may require lighter strings.
It’s important to consider string gauges, adjust the guitar’s setup if necessary, and find the right balance of tension for your desired alternate tuning to ensure optimal playability and tone.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most common guitar tuning?
Standard tuning (EADGBE) is the most common guitar tuning used by most guitarists. It allows for easy chord shapes, scale patterns, and a vast repertoire of songs across various genres. Learning and mastering standard tuning provides a solid foundation for playing the guitar, accessing educational resources, collaborating with other musicians, and expanding musical possibilities.
Is standard guitar tuning 440 or 442?
Standard guitar tuning is based on A440, which is the internationally accepted standard pitch reference for tuning musical instruments. However, there can be variations in tuning depending on personal preference or specific musical contexts. Some musicians may choose to tune slightly higher or lower than A440, but A440 is the commonly accepted standard for standard guitar tuning.
What is the easiest tuning to play in?
E Standard (E-A-D-G-B-E) is the easiest and most versatile tuning to start with. It provides a balanced layout of notes, chord shapes, scale patterns, educational resources, and a vast repertoire of songs to learn. It also provides a solid platform for exploring different tunings and musical styles in the future.
How to tune a 6 string without a tuner?
To tune a 6-string guitar without a tuner, simply use the low E string as the reference & follow these steps:
First, start by plucking the open low E string & tighten or loosen until you reach a comfortable tension.
Once the low E is at a good tension, press down on the 5th fret of the low E to produce the pitch of the A string.
Next, pluck the 5th fret of the low E & the open A string simultaneously.
Now adjust the tuning peg for the A string until it matches the pitch of the 5th fret on the low E.
Repeat this process for the remaining strings, using the 5th fret of the previous string to tune the next string, except for the B string.
For the B string, use the 4th fret of the G string as a reference pitch.
Double-check and make minor adjustments if necessary.
By using the low E string as a reference, you can tune the other strings relative to it. Your guitar won’t be tuned to perfect pitch but it will definitely be playable & realistically won’t matter if you’re just jamming out alone.
Why get a 7 string guitar?
A seven string guitar offers increased versatility and the potential for a broader range of musical expression.
It provides an extended range, expands chord options, and enhances soloing capabilities. It also allows for more room for melodic exploration and creates unique and intricate guitar parts.
Overall, a 7-string guitar offers increased versatility and the potential for a broader range of musical expression.
Why use drop C tuning?
Drop C tuning on a guitar offers several benefits, such as the ability to achieve a heavier and darker tone, create powerful chugging riffs and deep, crushing chords, and explore new fretboard patterns and shapes. It also provides a unique sonic character that can add depth and intensity to playing, making it a popular choice for guitarists seeking a heavier sound.
What are the 12 notes of guitar?
The 12 notes of the guitar, arranged in ascending order, form the chromatic scale: A, A#/B♭, B, C, C#/D♭, D, D#/E♭, E, F, F#/G♭, G, and G#/A♭. These notes represent all the distinct pitch classes within one octave. They are named using letters (A to G) and sharps (represented by a “#” symbol) or flats (represented by a “♭” symbol). The chromatic scale encompasses all possible notes in Western music and is the foundation for understanding scales, chords, and melodies on the guitar. By combining these 12 notes in various ways, guitarists can create a wide variety of musical sounds and expressions.