Standard Tuning

This site focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on open tunings. Standard tuning, (EADGBE low to high) is a super tuning, and some of the world's most accomplished musicians, from country to classical, play most of their repertoires in it. Except for the G to B string which is a third, the other four strings are all perfect fourths. Many players will tune lower keeping those same interval relationships.

As long as those intervals are kept it will sound okay regardless of the actual pitch, but tuning to Standard is best done using a pitch pipe, harmonica, piano, electronic or online tuner. Why? Over time it helps to train your ear to recognize true pitches of notes. The same can be said for all tunings.

The intervals make Standard very versatile and it lends itself especially well to “closed” chords …. those not having open/unfretted strings …. favoured by many jazz musicians. Chords played with this approach can have a particularly warm and appealing sound, because the notes blend more evenly with regard to their individual volume and sustain in relation to each other.

Another advantage to Standard as opposed to open tunings is that the keys most used for guitar music C, A, G, E, D, and F, are all available in first position without using a capo or retuning. As much as I love open tunings, I’m forced to admit, this is a huge advantage and one feature that has sent players back to this tuning. So it’s not without reason that Standard has become such.

Even slide guitar, although demanding some careful damping with the picking fingers, is not only doable, but also has its own unique sound when played in Standard, not just as a lead instrument, but for solo guitar as well. Listen to Kirk Lorange to hear what absolute mastery of slide in this tuning sounds like. Kirk composes and plays only in Standard and Open D.

Still more in considering Standard, when you like jamming with other players, it’s much simpler to work in the same key. There’s no figuring out as to which guitar you brought in which open tuning, or where to capo. But then if you put in the work to develop a system …. which is absolutely necessary if you plan to play with other guitarists …. It can work out smoothly in open tunings as well.

I have to be fair here again. (I’m hating this!) When you visit somewhere and they have a guitar and ask you to play, you don’t have to ask if you may retune their guitar, or think about which of the countless open tunings you play in you’re going to tune to. Bin there, done that. These are some advantages. But, like any tuning, Standard has its limitations.

Some music in open tunings has a special quality that cannot be duplicated in Standard.

With open tunings, unlike Standard, the “closed” chord approach would rarely be something sought after. One of the main reasons players tune open is to access those ringing, sonorous chords that are just not available in Standard tuning. At least not much beyond first position.

Chords with unusual voicings are common in open tunings all the way up and down the guitar neck, and give the player an opportunity and even a bit of an edge in developing a personal style.

So, what to choose? Try ‘em all! Eventually, you'll gravitate to whatever feels best to you. It's all good.