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#2443566 - 10/06/12 06:59 AM How standard is Standard?
Dannyalcatraz Offline
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Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 3195
Loc: Dallas/FW Metroplex, Texas
Virtually everybody starts off learning guitar in Standard tuning. However. as we progress, we learn about alternative tunings. Some even seem to prefer them.

Some artists are noted for favoring certain alternative tunings- Keith Richards (Open G), Robert Fripp (New Srandard Tuning), Bo Diddley (Violin Tuning), etc.- some, to the exclusion of all others.

And some of these tunings have gained enough traction that there are genres where they dominate- you can't talk about playing metal these days without discussing Drop C, Drop B, Drop A, C Standard and so forth.

Add in traditional tunings for other stringed instruments that are being brought to the guitar in countries not in North America or Europe and there's a flood.

Which brings me to my titular question: how standard is Standard these days?

My guess is that, were it not for pop music, Standard would just have a simple majority at this point. That there are more songs written in all the "alternative" tunings than in what we call Standard.

What do you think? (It's unlikely anyone has done a true survey, so just guestimate using your own experiences learning tunes.)
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#2443590 - 10/06/12 09:55 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
p90jr Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 11/21/07
Posts: 1985
The Why and When of Standard Guitar Tuning

Why are guitars tuned EADGBE—a series of perfect fourths and a single major third?

Good question, not least because for the past 1,000 years, most everyone seems to have agreed that the most naturally powerful and pleasing-to-the-ear interval is the mighty perfect fifth. All Western music is pretty much based on the hallowed circle of fifths. Stringed instruments such as the violin, cello and mandolin are tuned in fifths.

And yet there’s the guitar—an extremely popular instrument—tuned in a seemingly odd series of ascending perfect fourths and a single major third. From low to high, standard guitar tuning is EADGBE—three intervals of a fourth (low E to A, A to D and D to G), followed by a major third (G to B), followed by one more fourth (B to the high E).

This arrangement was not arrived at and agreed upon just to confuse everyone.

...


The Why and When of Standard Guitar Tuning

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#2443593 - 10/06/12 10:09 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: p90jr]
p90jr Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 11/21/07
Posts: 1985
It's ergonomics, practicality and convenience... and the influence of music that has been written for standard tuning guitar and piano. There's something natural that called for learning in that tuning.

Alternative tunings might offer convenience for something specific once you've mastered standard, but aren't as versatile. I play Stones songs in open G, and then have to solo in it, and it's a pain... just not as natural. I played trumpet as a child and picking up the guitar at 11 soloing was just pretty intuitive to transfer over between the two instruments, which have nothing in common.

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#2443614 - 10/06/12 12:52 PM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: p90jr]
Dannyalcatraz Offline
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Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 3195
Loc: Dallas/FW Metroplex, Texas
Nice article! Fripp found out about the difficulties of tuning in perfect fifths when he came up with NST. Originally, it WAS all perfect fifths. The problem was that he kept breaking the highest pitched string. Simply put, if he was set at starting NST at C, physics was preventing him from maintaining that perfect interval all the way up.


Edited by Dannyalcatraz (10/06/12 12:52 PM)
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Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.

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#2443647 - 10/06/12 06:36 PM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Larryz Offline
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Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 5544
Loc: Hwy 49, California
99% of the guys I play with use standard tuning at 440. I only play with one guy (a slide and finger style player) that uses alternate tunings. I have played with only one other player that drop tunes a 1/2 step. So I doubt the concept of guitar players using standard tuning would be determined by a simple majority (ie. 51%) even excluding pop.

I think slide players would tilt the scales 90% altered and the rest of guitar players would tilt the scales 90% standard IMHO.

Scotty Moore was using drop and altered tunings in the 50's on several of Elvis' songs so it's nothing new for R&R. I have heard beautiful music by alternate tuning players and support the concept especially for special songs of the night. Standard is the norm at just about any venue you show up to unless you are in your own tight band where altered tuning can be the norm. SRV is just one example where everything is played a 1/2 step down. It's still basically standard tuning as far as intervals go, much like using a capo.

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#2443648 - 10/06/12 06:59 PM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Larryz]
Dannyalcatraz Offline
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Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 3195
Loc: Dallas/FW Metroplex, Texas
Personally, in addition to the ones I listed above, I was always a fan of the sounds CSN & Y evoked, and a lot of my faves by them are in DADGAD, I've been told.
_________________________
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.

My FLMS- Murphy's Music in Irving, Tx

http://murphysmusictx.com/

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#2443845 - 10/08/12 07:39 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Winston Psmith Offline
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Registered: 02/15/10
Posts: 1955
Loc: Inside the Beltway
Originally Posted By: Dannyalcatraz
Nice article! Fripp found out about the difficulties of tuning in perfect fifths when he came up with NST. Originally, it WAS all perfect fifths. The problem was that he kept breaking the highest pitched string. Simply put, if he was set at starting NST at C, physics was preventing him from maintaining that perfect interval all the way up.


In the back pages of GP, there have been some recent ads for strings as light as .004, IIRC. It may be possible to get that first string tuned up to 'B', now.
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#2443848 - 10/08/12 07:50 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Winston Psmith]
Dannyalcatraz Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 3195
Loc: Dallas/FW Metroplex, Texas
Really? Smallest I've seen was 006!

I'll just call my buddy Bob and tell him he can realize his original...ahhhh...who am I kidding? Like I know Fripp!

Besides, he's taken all this time to learn & relearn tunes in the modified version of NST, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't care to start over again at this stage of his life...


Edited by Dannyalcatraz (10/08/12 07:50 AM)
_________________________
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.

My FLMS- Murphy's Music in Irving, Tx

http://murphysmusictx.com/

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#2443868 - 10/08/12 08:57 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Sharkman Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 06/12/10
Posts: 303
I always suspected that guitarists who tune their guitars a half step lower do so because their guitar strings got a little slack, and they got used to playing a half step out of tune. Every guitarist I personally know uses standard tuning, because just about every piece of music not written by Keith Richards or Jimmy Page works best in standard tuning.

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#2443890 - 10/08/12 10:04 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Sharkman]
p90jr Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 11/21/07
Posts: 1985
The half-step lower thing is mainly for vocalists, to give them help at the top of their range a bit...

Then there's The Smiths, who drove me crazy trying o figure out their stuff on guitar and bass as a kid... it seemed there were open strings that weren't there...

and that's because when the band started Johnny Marr had a Gretsch that sounded bad and rattley, but he found that capo'ing it at the 2nd fret made it sound good, so he just used it that way, and the bassist tuned up to meet him for convenience ("ruined a lot of bass necks in the process..."). I guess when he got other guitars they just kept that going for the material they'd already gotten together.

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#2443905 - 10/08/12 10:41 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: p90jr]
Larryz Offline
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Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 5544
Loc: Hwy 49, California
I think the 1/2 step lower tuning has singers and guitar players using it for many reasons some of which are:

Many singers like to sing in Eb (Brian Setzer likes the key but knows the guitar well enough that he doesn't need to de-tune). As one gets older and his pipes are getting worn, they like to drop everything a half step down and make it easy to hit those higher notes.

SRV liked heavy guage strings (13's) so if you detune a half step down, it takes some of the tension off and makes it easier to bend those heavier strings. So you get nice heavy bass without having to work as hard when bending whole steps, and he was a great singer IMHO. I'll let the heavy metal guys tell you if they de-tune as I've heard they like the heavy guages too...

Then there are the capo-ites that tune 1/2 step down and capo on the 1st fret. They then can have the best of both worlds (ie. standard & 1/2 step down) by just taking the capo on and off. I've also seen guys with high action acoustics back in the folk music days do this just to lower the action on cheap acoustic guitars...LOL.



Edited by Larryz (10/08/12 10:42 AM)

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#2443916 - 10/08/12 10:59 AM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Larryz]
Dannyalcatraz Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 3195
Loc: Dallas/FW Metroplex, Texas
Quote:
I'll let the heavy metal guys tell you if they de-tune as I've heard they like the heavy guages too...


I spend a lot of time at Ultimate-guitar.com as well as here, and metalheads are the norm over there. LOTS of drop tuning- especially with heavier gauge strings- gets discussed over there. It's one of the reasons I started this thread.
_________________________
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.

My FLMS- Murphy's Music in Irving, Tx

http://murphysmusictx.com/

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#2443980 - 10/08/12 02:25 PM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Winston Psmith Offline
Platinum Member

Registered: 02/15/10
Posts: 1955
Loc: Inside the Beltway
Interesting observation, about the Metalheads & drop tunings. The 7-string guitars are intriguing, but the 8-strings!?! Maybe not for me.

There's a whole other take on open & alternate tunings in the Folk & Folk/Rock community. Listen to guys like Adrian Legg or Richard Thompson, for example, where you'll get alternate tunings combined with capoing, in some cases. You can make yourself nuts, trying to figure out some of those songs. Some of the 12-string players, like Leo Kottke, use alternate tunings, as well.

Getting back to the original question, "How Standard is Standard?", I'd say that Standard tuning is still holding its own in mainstream Pop music, whether we're talking Pop, Rock or Country. Standard is also still the most commonly taught tuning method, AFAIK - none of the teachers where I worked were starting their students off in DADGAD, Drop-D, Open G, or NST, and none of the lesson books we had, really addressed alternate tunings. There may have been one teacher, showing his students some Hendrix tunes in E flat, but nothing more adventurous than that.

I have heard rumors of some franchise operations, having their students tune the sixth string down to 'D', and then teaching them very rudimentary Rock tunes with one-finger barre chords, but I've never witnessed it. I imagine it could be a very successful, and profitable, approach, up to a point . . .
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#2443993 - 10/08/12 02:56 PM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Winston Psmith]
Dannyalcatraz Offline
MP Hall of Fame Member

Registered: 07/28/04
Posts: 3195
Loc: Dallas/FW Metroplex, Texas
AFAIK, the only people teaching an alternative tuning from Day 1 are the Guitar Craft instructors (NST).
_________________________
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap”.

My FLMS- Murphy's Music in Irving, Tx

http://murphysmusictx.com/

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#2444594 - 10/10/12 04:22 PM Re: How standard is Standard? [Re: Dannyalcatraz]
Lokair Offline
Senior Member

Registered: 04/12/08
Posts: 482
Loc: Braeburn PA
I may be the odd one here who sees alt tuning as a necessity.
I play guitar, bass and recently keys, and sing quite poorly. But I can tune down to B E A G F# b on guitar and bass and sing still poorly but with a bit of range. I keep two guitars tuned that way. I also tune to D G C F A# d , again for singing purposes. I also do a variety of drop tuning D A D G B e and also some really odd tuning as well as Standard . I like the challenge of learning a song in non standard tuning , I think at one point on bass I knew like 4 Iron Maiden tunes in like 3 different tunings.

The standard is about 75% of my playing so yea its standard for me.

Lok
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